NB: this story contains spoilers regarding the first, 'best' ending of Kana: Little Sister. Please don't proceed unless you've completed this ending to the game.
'New Blooms', part 2. This story follows 'Needing, Wanting'.
"Kana. Wake up, Kana."
"Mmph?" Kana groans reluctantly. "B... Bro? What...?"
"We fell asleep," I tell her, urgently. "You'd better get back to your room before Mom comes to wake you up for school!"
"What... what time is it?" she mumbles, still not opening her eyes.
"It's quarter to four."
"Plenty of time, then..." She stretches lazily and cuddles closer against me under the covers, bringing her hands up to rest lightly on my chest. The warmth of her body next to mine is sheer bliss. For a moment, I let my eyes sink closed. Imagining what it would be like to wake up with Kana like this, every morning... "Just a little longer, Bro," Kana says, sleepily. She's always been a slow riser.
I reach up and turn on the lamp, tilting the shade so it shines directly on Kana's face. She grimaces and pulls the covers over her face, but I'm not going to let her get away that easily. Sliding my arms around her, I start tickling her relentlessly.
"Bro... Bro!" She squeals and giggles, feebly raising her arms to bat at me. "Bro, stop it! Stop it! I'm awake!"
"Then you'd better get to bed," I suggest. It's strange almost backwards having to wake her up just so she can go back to bed. But even though both our bedroom doors are locked, it'd be a bit hard to explain what was going on if Mom came knocking to wake Kana up, and Kana wasn't there.
Kana looks at me, drowsiness washing back in over the momentary wakefulness. She pushes clumsily at the lamp shade, turning it against the wall. A diffuse glow fills my room as she slides out from underneath the covers, her slender figure contoured by the soft light. Her skin is pale and smooth, unmarked except for the long red scar that traces along her left side, as if outlining the curve of her rib cage.
I forget it's there, sometimes. It's been months since the transplant operation. The matching scar on my right side the one that mirrors hers doesn't ache anymore, though it still feels strange to the touch. Numb and tingly at the same time. Kana likes watching my face as she traces it with her fingertips. Hers doesn't feel strange at all, or so she claims.
"See you for breakfast," I mumble, as she bends down to pick up her pyjamas. Naked, she pads across to the door and unlocks it, clutching her clothes to her breast. "Kana? Aren't you forgetting something?"
She turns to look at me, puzzled. "I've got my pyjamas, Bro, and I didn't bring anything else with Oh." She smiles ruefully and darts back across the room to pick up one of the small screwdrivers we use to lock (and unlock) each other's doors. All the bedroom doors have privacy locks on them: lockable from the inside, but no keyhole on the outside just a narrow slot that you can turn with a screwdriver.
Thankfully, Mom and Dad have never felt the need to do so.
Kana leans over the bed to kiss me, her hair falling down around us. Our own private space.
"I love you, Bro," she whispers.
"I love you too, Kana."
A few moments later, she's gone, with only her lingering fragrance to indicate she was ever here. Her fragrance, and the heat from her body. Reaching up, I turn off the lamp and shift over to Kana's side of the bed. I curl up alone, huddled in Kana's fading warmth.
For a moment, when I open my eyes, I'm not sure where I am. This room isn't white. These sheets aren't harsh and antiseptic. And, and...
It's the half-light before dawn. I'm in my bed at home, and Kana's here with me. Her violet eyes are quietly taking me in; there's a gentle smile on her face. Her hand is resting on my side, idly tracing the faded silvery scar that makes me hers.
"Good morning, Taka," she says, softly.
"Hey," I respond, smiling. "How long have you been awake?"
"A while now," she says. "I didn't want to wake you up, so I just watched you sleep."
"Comforting, more than anything," she says. "We're so helpless when we're asleep. And yet here you are, trusting me with it."
"Shouldn't I trust you?" I ask. "I love you."
"Are they the same thing?" she wonders, almost to herself. "The ones we love can still hurt us. Probably even more than other people."
I slide my hand up the curve of her hip. Her transplant scar isn't even raised anymore to my touch, it feels like the barest seam in the smoothness of her skin. Practically imaginary. I know exactly where it is, though. I know its length and its arc. She catches her breath slightly as I caress it.
"It only tingles when you touch it," she breathes. "As if my body knows where this gift came from. As if it's calling to you."
"See?" I ask, moving forward and leaning my head against hers. "Sometimes scars make us stronger."
Her eyes meet mine, bare inches apart. "So you'd still trust me, even if I hurt you or let you down?"
"You're a part of me, Kana. Losing you... would be like losing myself."
Her smile is fragile and strained. "That's not an answer..."
"I love you. That won't change, no matter what we go through. Hurt, scars, separation nothing's been able to keep us apart. I'm not going to give up on you."
She kisses me gently. Her lips are salty, and wet, and wonderful.
"Uhm... mmm... Bro!"
Kana and I hastily break off the kiss and pull apart as we hear Mom walking into the living room. Fortunately, we're standing in the kitchen, pressed against the wall right next to the doorway, so there's no chance that she saw us. Flushing pink, Kana takes a step back and picks up her tea with a trembling hand.
"So you're finally up, Taka," Mom says as she comes in. "Did Kana leave you any breakfast, or did she eat your share too?"
"I'm not that greedy!" Kana protests, faintly. She's been a bit self-conscious about her weight for the past few months. Doctor Kashima is still fine-tuning Kana's medication, and one of the side-effects has been an increase in Kana's appetite. Sometimes it seems to me as if Kana will eat anything in sight.
Still, it's not as if she's suddenly become fat or anything. She's still Kana. If anything, she looks healthier now that she's put on a bit of weight.
"I'm fine," I say to Mom. "I can always grab something at university if I'm hungry still."
"Yes," Mom says, looking at the clock. "Kana, isn't it time you were going? You'll be late."
"Yep!" Kana straightens up, setting her cup down on the bench. "Where did I put my jacket?"
"It's on the couch," Mom says, with a patient sigh.
"Thanks, Mom. I'm going now! See you, Bro!"
"I'll come see you off," I tell her, trailing behind her as she dashes out into the living room to find her jacket.
It's on the couch, just as Mom said. Kana pulls it on awkwardly, fastening the buttons and smoothing out her plaid skirt. Squinting down, she fusses with her scarf, making sure it's sitting right. After a moment, she leans over to scoop up her satchel, and heads out into the hallway.
"I'll come meet you after school, Kana," I tell her, as she kicks off her house slippers and stuffs them into the rack. She reaches out and grabs my forearm for balance as she quickly wedges her shoes on.
She looks up at me, teetering slightly on one foot. A smile crosses her face.
"We can go out for a while," I suggest, and she nods happily. Both her shoes are on now, and she straightens up, looking at me with a hesitant, longing expression.
Stepping forward, I kiss her, and she melts against me willingly.
"We can have something at the cafe," I say, as she reluctantly draws back. "Coffee, cocoa, hot milk whatever you want. And cake, cookies, or a sundae. Or all three! I'm sure you could easily eat your way through all that..."
Her eyes crease, and she looks at me anxiously, hunching her shoulders. I'm only teasing, of course, but she's not used to this side of me and doesn't always realise.
"I'm just kidding, Kana." I ruffle her hair affectionately. "Go on. Have a good day at school. And think about what you'd like to eat!"
"Okay." She smiles again. "I love you, Bro."
Kana opens the door, letting the morning sunlight in to wash over her. She waves, and giggles, then turns and runs away. I watch her go, her skirt flying with her rapid pace, satchel swinging from her hand. Kana, my imouto-chan. She's cute. She's very, very cute.
Kana's at the kitchen sink with a glass of water, taking her immunosuppressants. It's such a practised routine with her. She presses two pills out of the foil into her palm, then places them precisely at the back of her tongue. With a mouthful of water and a slight backwards jerk of her head, she swallows. She has to take them every morning, before breakfast. She'll have to take them for the rest of her li
No, that's not quite true. She'll only have to take them for as long as my kidney keeps working for her. Transplants, love, life... Nothing lasts forever. And there will come a time when the transplant will fail. I don't want to think about it. It's a long way off. Decades, hopefully.
But it's real. Kana's time will come again.
Kana puts her pills away and turns back to the stove, where breakfast is almost ready. Since Mom isn't here, Kana and I have split the work between us. I ended up in charge of the rice and omelette, while Kana's still busy with the miso soup. She grilled some fish earlier, and the smell is making my mouth water.
I'm sitting at the table in my usual seat, with a pair of chopsticks in my hand. I'm going to practise with them as much as I can. The vocational therapists warned me that I'd have to relearn a lot of old skills. It makes me wonder why they didn't teach me this at the hospital. It seems like an oversight.
The chopsticks move back and forth against each other. I prod the table with them, and try to pick up the fork that Kana's set out for me. My hand doesn't shake quite so much if I concentrate on what I'm doing.
"What do you want to do today?" Kana asks, stirring the pot gently.
"I have to walk for at least an hour. Two, preferably, but I don't think I'm up to that."
"Do you want to come to the library with me? I have some books I need to return, and I want to see if there are any new travel guides."
"Sure. That sounds good."
"It's settled, then. And this is done." She switches off the stove and ladles the soup into two bowls. Smiling, she brings them over to the table. I dish out the rice. She sits across from me, and it's even more like we're a couple than it was last night.
We chat over breakfast about last night's dinner, about my rehab, about Osaka, about today's excursion. We don't talk about the future, though. We only talk about the moment we're in.
I guess it's easier that way.
"Nno... No! No, please, I No!"
Kana's indistinct cries startle me out of my sleep. She's shoving at me, trying to keep something away from her. Her face is twisted with grief and fear. She looks so young. So vulnerable.
"Kana." I touch her shoulder, gently. "Kana, wake up. What is it? Kana!"
Her eyes flare open, wide and staring. She looks at me blankly for a moment, without recognition, then curls up, clutching her left side and sobbing quietly.
My fingers brush her side, along her ribs, and she flinches. Her entire body is trembling.
"Kana." I gently gather her against me, ignoring her attempts to push me away. I wrap my arms tight around her and hold her close. She sobs and she sniffles, shoving her face against my chest. Her nose is running; her tears are flowing, and her face is pressed up so tight against me that she can hardly breathe. But she doesn't let go. And I don't either.
I don't understand, but I won't let her go.
Kana's been having trouble adjusting to her new life. A couple of weeks ago, she woke up tearing at her forearms, clawing at the marks of the dialysis tubes on her skin. She'd felt them there again, draining the blood out of her, processing it, and pumping it back inside. Draining the life and the joy out of her.
I held her. What could I have said? How could I possibly have understood? I've never had to undergo dialysis, but it was a constant, ugly necessity for Kana. A regularly scheduled ordeal that she had no choice but to endure. I never saw her complain, but I did see the deadness in her eyes when she talked about it.
And it still haunts her, even now months since she last needed it. How can I erase the effect it's had on her mind and heart? How can I make it better?
I can't. I couldn't. All I could do was hold her. And that's all I can do now.
Kana. I bend down and kiss her hair, softly. Her sobs are quieter now, gradually subsiding. But she's still holding onto me, desperately.
"Bro..." she mumbles, her voice muffled.
"Bro." She turns her head and rests her damp cheek against my chest. "Bro, I... I'm going to live, aren't I?"
I blink. "Of course you are. You're better now. You're healthy."
She shudders in my arms. "I had a dream. I dreamed that... that the doctors came to me while I was sleeping and told me that they'd made a mistake. I wasn't supposed to get your kidney. It was supposed to go to someone else. They... they wanted it back. They tore at my clothes and..." She clutches me hard, her nails digging painfully into my skin. "And they started cutting me open..." she whimpers. "They started... cutting... into me..."
"Kana." The tightness of my embrace must be almost painful to her, but she doesn't make the slightest protest. She lies there in my arms as the tears choke themselves out of her. "Kana, I think my kidney was always meant to be yours."
She lifts her head and squints up at me. "Bro?"
The two of us have always completed each other. Kana had two kidneys that didn't work. I had two that did. It made perfect sense. I could even things out. I could give something back to the little sister who meant so much to me.
"It's yours now, Kana," I say, reassuringly. "It will always be yours."
"I..." She lowers her head again, and sighs quietly. Peacefully. "Somehow, Bro... that helps. It..." She yawns, breaking off, and I smile. I stroke her hair, and she snuggles up next to me.
"Good night, Kana."
"Good night... Bro."
"Chopstick therapy?" Kana laughs.
"Well, I didn't even think that I wouldn't be able to use them properly until I picked them up. They should have told me that, don't you think? Instead of just teaching me how to use a spoon and a fork again..."
"Maybe chopsticks are the advanced part of the course," Kana suggests, sighing quietly as I kiss my way down the side of her body. "You... you can ask them tomorrow. Ahh..."
Kana's scar. I kiss it. I trace it with my lips and tongue.
"I'll be... with you," she pants, her body rising and falling beneath me. "I'll always... be with you."
Wounds heal. Time moves on. And every moment I spend with Kana my love is precious. We'll never be perfect. There will always be shadows and ghosts hanging around us. We can't escape them.
But we'll be together. I think that might be enough.
A familiar face shows up in Promise Me.