NARRATOR: "It seems as if time has decided to slow down for the express purpose of annoying the hell out of me. Class feels like it drags on for ages. I suspect that my being consumed with worry probably has something to do with it. Blessedly the bell rings and I dash out of class, drawing a few raised eyebrows, I'm sure. I have spent the majority of the day fretting as unobtrusively as I could. Even though the nurse thinks that Emi is perfectly okay, I want to see for myself."

NARRATOR: "It doesn't take long to get to the girls' dormitory and make my way to Emi's room. Standing outside her door, I suddenly pause. What if she's resting? I'd hate to wake her up, especially if she's still feeling ill. Then again, if she sleeps all day then it could throw off her sleeping schedule. But rest is important if you're ill, isn't it? I can't decide what to do, so I settle for standing outside the door looking like an idiot. Then I hear Emi's voice from behind the door."

EMI: "Thanks for your concern, but I really am okay."

NARRATOR: "Is she talking to me?"

EMI: "I'll see you at practice tomorrow!"

NARRATOR: "Guess not. Still, clearly she's not asleep, so I can knock without worry. So why this clenched feeling in my gut? I wasn't nervous about dropping by the other day, so why today? Granted, I still haven't really had time to figure out this newfound interest in Emi's well-being. I don't have a lot of experience in the matter, of course, but certainly this seems to go beyond feelings of mere friendship. But could I take that step? Could I even bring myself to risk what I have right now? I mean it's enough to be friends with her, isn't it?"

NARRATOR: "Either way, shouldn't I just open the door and see how she's doing? That's why I came here... right? What if she's not dressed yet? The image that flashes through my mind causes my heart to skip a beat, literally. I should probably not ever think those thoughts again. Not if I want to avoid a heart attack. I suddenly realize I'm still standing in the hallway looking like an idiot. Emi still seems to be in the middle of a conversation, but I knock anyway. Hopefully she won't mind the interruption."

EMI: "You worry too mu— Come in! The door's unlocked."

NARRATOR: "So it is. I open the door and step in, which is about where my thought process comes to a grinding halt."

Emi sleepy face

NARRATOR: "Emi is sitting up in bed, her hair tousled from a day spent asleep. I think this is the first time I've seen her without those familiar beads in her hair. Her gym shirt and bloomers, obviously hastily pulled on before I came in, are creased and folded from less than proper storage."

Emi sleepy legs

NARRATOR: "Her legs lay bare on the sheets. I've never seen Emi without prosthetics before. Yet here she is, slender legs terminating in stumps just below her knees. But as odd as the sight is, I find myself more captivated by everything north of the waist."

Emi sleepy

NARRATOR: "It seems that Emi had finished her conversation with whoever was on the phone with her, and is now watching my reaction closely out of her one open eye as she wipes sleep from the other. Her expression, far from being embarrassed, is rather one of a surprisingly wide yawn. One perhaps appropriate from such a small mouth. A grin that for a brief moment seems almost flirtatious tugs at the corner of her mouth as she takes the sight of me in. I can do nothing but remain in a state fluctuating between fear, confusion, and not a little bit of lust. Emi hastily sweeps her hair out of her eyes, fixing it back into place before addressing me."

EMI: "You seem a bit caught off guard, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "A wave of laughter erupts from her, and I find myself grinning and rubbing the back of my head ruefully."

HISAO: "Sorry, I've just..."

NARRATOR: "Never seen someone so disheveled look so attractive. Never seen you without your legs on. Never seen you look so..."

HISAO: "Um, sorry."

NARRATOR: "Emi giggles again and moves to sit up a little straighter. I'm caught up in the movements of her shirt, very nearly losing myself."

EMI: "I was wondering what your reaction would be. The nurse called and told me you were going to drop by, you see. And I know you haven't seen me... well, you know. Without legs."

NARRATOR: "I respond in a tone of casual surprise."

HISAO: "Oh, you don't have them on? I didn't notice."

NARRATOR: "This is almost the truth. I very nearly didn't. I'm not trying to be suave or anything, mind you. Somehow I think Emi would get offended by that. Instead, she sticks her tongue out at me and chucks a pillow at my head."

EMI: "Ass."

NARRATOR: "I deftly catch the pillow and take careful aim before throwing. Emi laughs and rolls to one side, dodging my shot, the shifting of her shirt distracting me enough so that the next thrown pillow hits me right between the eyes."

HISAO: "Oof!"

NARRATOR: "I retaliate, of course. And once I've retaliated twice, well, a war was bound to break out sooner or later. And really, when Emi appears to have far better aim than me, well... It was just a matter of time before I'd have to resort to a suicidal charge."

HISAO: "Gotcha!"

EMI: "Eep!"

NARRATOR: "And once the charge was accomplished, well, of course I'd have to wrestle the pillows away from her. And with that kind of struggle, of course we'd wind up in this sort of position.

Emi bed legs

NARRATOR: "And so I find myself staring down at her from my position atop her. She's grinning, eyes sparkling with amusement, maybe a little sweaty now from our tussle. Her chest is heaving up and down, sucking in air."

NARRATOR: "The small bit of my brain that is not currently enraptured by the sight and the smell of her observes that she must still be ill, because her stamina's not what it should be. We stay that way for a while. I'm not sure how long, because everything seems to go fuzzy. Everything that isn't her, anyway. Her eyes meet mine, and deep inside them I almost catch a glimpse of... what, fear? Longing? Hope?"

HISAO: "Emi...?"

Emi bed unsure

NARRATOR: "A cough suddenly convulses her, and I'm almost stumbling in my haste to get off, to apologize for everything."

HISAO: "Sorry, I shouldn't have..."

Emi bed happy

EMI: "It's fine, it's fine."

NARRATOR: "She gives me a reassuring pat on the shoulder."

Emi bed normal

EMI: "So... what brings you here?"

NARRATOR: "She's still breathing hard, and that causes her voice to shake slightly."

HISAO: "Well, before I was so rudely assaulted by pillows, I came to see how you were doing."

Emi bed frown

NARRATOR: "This earns me another shove, and I very nearly fall off her bed. Emi's eyes sparkle again, and I wonder how I never noticed how attractive they are before."

Emi bed smile

EMI: "Consumed with worry, were you?"

NARRATOR: "Her tone is mocking, haughty. Teasing. She throws her arm across her forehead dramatically, grin still apparent from underneath."

EMI: "Couldn't bear the thought of me laying deathly ill?"

NARRATOR: "As we both recover from our brief wrestling match, Emi appears to fall back on teasing me."

HISAO: "Well, I wouldn't say consumed with worry, but after you didn't show up this morning like a total wuss..."

NARRATOR: "Emi pouts, crossing her arms petulantly and sticking her lower lip out."

EMI: "It's not my fault. Nurse wouldn't allow it."

HISAO: "Sure he wouldn't. I completely believe you."

NARRATOR: "Emi sticks her tongue out again."

EMI: "You're such a jerk, Hisao."

HISAO: "So how was your day then, eh? Did you enjoy slacking off?"

EMI: "Not really, the phone woke me up pretty early on."

HISAO: "The phone?"

EMI: "Yeah, the captain of the team called to make sure I was doing okay. Also to let me know it was okay to skip practice."

NARRATOR: "Good, at least she wasn't alone all day. Someone checked up on her. Although I can't help but think that it should have been me."

HISAO: "Oh, that's good. He really keeps an eye on you, huh?"

NARRATOR: "Emi shrugs."

EMI: "It's his job. Part of being the captain means you know where your team members are when they're not in school. Still, I guess it was nice of him to call, huh?"

HISAO: "Yep. Sure was."

NARRATOR: "Emi yawns and shimmies down into a more comfortable position."

EMI: "So how was your day?"

HISAO: "Kind of uneventful, you know? I went ahead and ran by myself, and talked with the nurse about how you were doing..."

NARRATOR: "I meander through the day's events, none of which are particularly engrossing. That's when I'm distracted by an arm finding its way across my waist. It seems that Emi fell asleep while I was talking so I draw her blanket to cover us. She's rolled over on to her side, and now one leg is thrown over my legs, effectively trapping me."

Emi sleep unsure

HISAO: "Hey."

NARRATOR: "It seems a shame to wake her, but I have things to do. I gently shake her, but in response she only tightens her arm's grip on me and sighs a little. My resistance to this position crumbles rather quickly. The feeling of her body breathing steadily is both calming and incredibly stimulating at the same time. My breathing cannot decide if it wants to relax or speed up. Relaxation wins, and I find myself putting an arm around Emi."

Emi sleep normal

HISAO: "I think I'm in love."

NARRATOR: "The words slip out and hang in the air unnoticed."

Emi sleep weep

NARRATOR: "At least I hope they've gone unnoticed. Emi whimpers weakly through her dream, and her grip suddenly tightens again. For the first time since I've known her, I see tears running down Emi's face. It feels like my heart is about to break. I instinctively tighten my own grip and stroke her hair in what I hope is a soothing manner. Words of comfort, meaningless in this situation, spring to mind. Maybe I should wake her. Are you supposed to wake people having nightmares? I can't for the life of me remember. The decision is taken from me as Emi suddenly jerks awake with a cry."

Emi sleep cry

EMI: "Dad!"

NARRATOR: "This is... more than I think I want to hear without her knowing. I quickly sit upright and gently shake her shoulder to stir her."

HISAO: "Hey, you okay?"

NARRATOR: "What a silly question."

EMI: "Huh? What? Hisao?"

NARRATOR: "She shakes her head as if to clear it and quickly wipes her eyes."

HISAO: "You had a nightmare. I think."

NARRATOR: "Emi shudders again and glances up at me a little cautiously, as if unsure whether or not she's actually up."

EMI: "Y-yeah, I guess so."

HISAO: "You wanna talk about it?"

EMI: "Hmm?"

NARRATOR: "A speedy internal debate seems to be going on in her head, which resolves itself with a shrug."

EMI: "Nah, I don't really remember much of it."

NARRATOR: "I'm pretty sure she's lying to me, but somehow I don't think I should press the issue. Emi shudders again and turns toward me, looking a little sheepish."

EMI: "Sorry for falling asleep on you like that."

NARRATOR: "I keep my voice as soothing as I can."

HISAO: "Hey, don't worry about it. You've been ill."

EMI: "Yeah, I guess that cold medicine's just made me a little drowsy."

HISAO: "I guess so."

NARRATOR: "Emi does not strike me as the sort of person who'd fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Rin, maybe. But Emi's far too energetic. Emi gives a half-smile at my response, and then just like that she's back to her old self."

EMI: "Well, prepare yourself for tomorrow morning Hisao! We'll have to go twice as hard to make up for today!"

HISAO: "But I went running this morning!"

EMI: "No excuse!"

HISAO: "Oh fine, I'll be ready for you!"

NARRATOR: "Emi nods, satisfied."

EMI: "Good."

NARRATOR: "I take this as my cue to exit."

HISAO: "Well, I'd better get going. Especially if I want to get enough sleep for tomorrow."

NARRATOR: "I hop off the bed and head for the door."

EMI: "Hey, Hisao..."

HISAO: "Hmm?"

NARRATOR: "I pivot neatly on my heel and face Emi. She opens her mouth to say something, and then in another first, I see her falter slightly. She closes her mouth and opens it again."

EMI: "...Thanks. For dropping by, I mean. You're kind of the first visitor I've ever had who wasn't Rin."

NARRATOR: "Now that's surprising. I would figure that Emi'd have people dropping by all the time. She's certainly popular enough, or so I thought. Always talking to people in the hallways. Emi hesitates again."

EMI: "And thanks for staying around after I... well."

NARRATOR: "A look of pain flits across her face."

EMI: "You know. It helped."

NARRATOR: "She brightens back up and waves cheerily at me."

EMI: "See you tomorrow!"

HISAO: "Yeah, see you later."

NARRATOR: "I'm just about to exit the door when something makes me turn around again."

HISAO: "Hey, Emi."

EMI: "Hmm?"

HISAO: "Anytime you need to talk, let me know, okay?"

NARRATOR: "Emi seems taken aback by this offer. Her grin gets even wider."

EMI: "Sure thing, Hisao. See you in the morning!"

NARRATOR: "I exit Emi's room with my head in a whirl. Should I have even left? Was she really okay? I want to turn around and march back down the hallway, open the door and tell her..."

NARRATOR: "Tell her I love her, tell her I think she's beautiful, tell her that I'll be there when she needs me. I want to stay with her, to hold her close as she falls back to sleep. How many nights has she woken up like that? Only to find that nobody's there. I want to be that person she can be with when that happens. It's a silly thought, I know. We don't know each other that well, do we? The whole idea, while exhilarating, also makes me feel worry. Worry, perhaps, that I'd overstep my bounds."

NARRATOR: "And now to add to my troubles, it seems as if Emi herself already has an interest in someone else. This track captain of hers who seems so interested in her well-being. True, I've only seen the two of them together a few times, but that doesn't change the fact that they seem better suited to one another. There's really nothing to be done about that. I need to take my mind off of this whole situation."

NARRATOR: "I've got homework to do. Maybe that will distract me."

Next Scene: The First Morning After