The date of Kagura's surgery was coming up. She knew she wasn't in any danger. The procedure was safe. However, everyone else's comments did not ease her nerves any. In fact, they were making it worse. A lot worse. Kagura couldn't blame Chiyo. She was young, after all. She knew very well that Kagura was going to be alright, but she couldn't help but be nervous for the athlete. The thought of one of her friends going under the knife, even for such a simple surgery, was terrifying to the young genius. Osaka was not much better. Osaka had gotten into the nasty habit of thinking up every possible situation that something bad could happen during the surgery, some too far-fetched to even consider, but some having just enough possibility to make Kagura squirm. Osaka theorized the doctor's operating on the wrong leg, on the wrong ligament, even doing the wrong procedure all together. She mused about the doctor's forgetting what they should have been doing, and even leaving the operating room, accidentally leaving Kagura on the table, forgetting all about her. Kagura knew that none of this would actually happen, but sometimes, she did wonder what would happen if the doctors accidentally screwed up. Yomi did nothing to ease these fears of doctor error, as Kagura had once overheard her talking to Sakaki about stories in which patients woke up during their surgeries, able to feel everything that was happening, but unable to do anything about it. Of course, Tomo came up with preposterous ideas, just like Osaka, only with the intent to scare the athlete, but her ideas were so outlandish that Kagura learned to tune them out. She had also gotten into the nasty habit of asking Kagura which possessions she could have if she died during the operation. However, Kagura learned that if she mentioned going to the hospital, Tomo would back off considerably. She figured that Tomo, like her, had a certain disdain for hospitals.
Sakaki, on the other hand, had never once said a word about the surgery. She didn't even ask when it was going to happen. Kagura wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Kagura knew that Sakaki was worried about her. But she thought that the tall girl would at least be curious about the details of the surgery. Then again, Kagura did notice Sakaki acting a little strange lately. She always seemed to be right at Kagura's side, always there when she needed to reach something or go and get something. Kagura wasn't walking home from school anymore, but as the final bell rang one day, she stopped Sakaki on the way out.
"Mind if we chat for a minute?"
The two made their way outside slowly, to where Kagura was going to get picked up.
"Look, we probably don't have time for the whole conversation now, so do you wanna meet at my house at say, 7ish? I'll tell my parents that you're helping me get caught up in my classes. They'll be thrilled that I'm actually trying my schoolwork."
"Sure, I can meet you then."
A car pulled up and the horn honked, signaling to Kagura that her ride was there.
"I'll catch you later, Sakaki!"
Kagura gingerly got into the car, taking great care not to bump her leg or get it caught on an edge. She finally managed her way inside, settling into the seat. She waved to Sakaki as she drove towards her house. Sakaki waved back, although it was rather absentmindedly. She stared off into space, just wondering what Kagura wanted to talk to her about.
7 o'clock finally rolled around, and Sakaki stood on Kagura's step, ready to knock on the door. As soon as she reached out to knock, the door opened itself, revealing a casually dressed Kagura, complete in a t shirt and sweatpants, with the large brace on the outside of the pants. Her crutches were nowhere to be seen. Without a word, Kagura reached out and grabbed Sakaki's hand, pulling her inside. The athlete limped towards the stairs, then proceeded to hop up them, one by one, out of breath by the time she reached the top. Sakaki was right behind her, ready to catch her if she had made a mistake and tripped. Kagura reached back and retook Sakaki's hand, leading her down the short hallway to where her room was. It was a small, messy room, with sports clothes strewn about, games and controllers scattered all around, magazines with pictures of bikes and sports equipment littering the ground. At least the desk was clean and the bed was made.
"Sorry it's such a mess. I haven't gotten around to cleaning much."
"Don't worry about it."
"Funny you should say that. I should be telling you that." Kagura said. "Here, sit."
Kagura was already on the bed, leg stretched out onto the desk chair. Sakaki sat down on the bed next to Kagura.
"Hmm?" Sakaki had been too busy staring around the room to fully grasp Kagura's question.
"You've been acting so...I don't know, weird lately. You must be worried about something."
"Yeah, right. Seriously, are you scared about the surgery? Because it's a really safe procedure..." Kagura started, only to be interrupted.
"I know that."
"Then what are you so freaked out about?"
Sakaki bit her lip, going slightly red. She did not look at Kagura as she spoke.
"I...I can't be there. With...with you."
"Sakaki, if you're afraid of hospitals, you don't have to go. I understand completely."
"No, that's not it..."
"Then what do you mean? Are you busy that day? Because you don't have to wait for me right out of surgery. I'll probably be too drugged up to recognize you!"
Sakaki shook her head. "No, that's not it either."
Kagura was stumped. If she wasn't afraid, and if she wasn't busy, then what was the problem? Her quizzical look made Sakaki continue.
"I can't...can't be there. To help."
It hit Kagura like a tidal wave. How protective Sakaki had become since the accident. How she never left her side, how she got everything for her, how she always asked permission to go anywhere with anyone else. It made perfect sense. Sakaki was worried sick about the girl, and her way of dealing with it was to make sure that nothing worse happened to Kagura. Kagura thought it was sweet of her to act this way, but she also didn't want Sakaki to be afraid.
"Sakaki, the doctors are going to take good care of me. You don't have to be afraid."
"No buts. The surgery will be okay."
Sakaki nodded, her qualms still present. The faint sound of a door opening and closing reached the room, and people could be heard moving around downstairs. Kagura whipped around, facing the door.
"Shit. They're not supposed to be home yet..." Kagura said under her breath, but Sakaki still heard. She assumed Kagura was talking about her parents. Speaking of which, Sakaki had never met Kagura's parents. She never saw them when she went to Kagura's house, and they never went to Kagura's sporting events, mostly because they both worked late.
"Sakaki, I need you to stay here for a bit. Alright?" Kagura addressed the girl. She just nodded. Kagura left the room, leaving a puzzled Sakaki sitting alone on the bed. She heard talking, then a door open and close again, along with the sounds of a car engine turning on. Sakaki heard Kagura managing her way up the stairs, a dull thud each time she hopped up one. Kagura reappeared in the doorway, making her way back to the bed.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. I just needed them to go get me some fresh ice packs and wraps. Mine are starting to get bad."
"Why can't I meet them?"
"Oh, you can meet them eventually. They just said I couldn't have people over tonight, so technically you're not supposed to be here at all." Kagura paused and took Sakaki's hand. "But I'm glad you are."
Sakaki smiled, then asked Kagura, "So...are we going to do homework?"
"Not a chance." Kagura laughed. "But I think you're gonna have to leave...I don't want to get into trouble, and I don't want your first impression on my folks to be a bad one, you know?"
Sakaki nodded in agreement. She got up and reached a hand out to Kagura to help her off the bed. Kagura pushed it aside, laughing some more. "Sakaki, you do realize I can still do things for myself, right? You don't have to baby me." Sakaki went red-faced, embarrassed by her actions. They made their way down the stairs to the front door. Before Sakaki could leave, Kagura tugged on her hand, getting her attention. She motioned for Sakaki to lean down, and they shared a quick, sweet kiss.
"You don't have to protect me, Sakaki. I can take care of myself. But..." Kagura became a little flustered, a slight pink appearing on the bridge of her nose, "thanks for doing it anyways."
Sakaki looked down at the athlete, blushing herself. "Of course."
Kagura grinned. "Now get on out of here, before my parents catch us!"
Sakaki smiled and waved as she left the house, feeling a little better.