It had been two days since Beel had disappeared, and Oga hadn't said a single word yet.
Furuichi had been surprised at this reaction, but not because Oga was left an unresponsive mess– that had happened before. The Miki incident hadn't been so long ago, after all. He hadn't seen him like that since they were kids though, shocked speechless at the improbable event of being defeated in a fight. The mere idea was inconceivable to him. Even when Furuichi was fully aware of the extent of Oga's strength, he was always amazed when someone kept standing after receiving just one of his hits. And of course, much more so amazed when someone actually struck back, just like Miki did that day. And as much as Oga tried to deny it, it had happened a few times in the past as well; always leaving Oga so bewildered he couldn't attend to his own injuries.
But well, that was why Furuichi was there, just in case he needed to bandage Oga's head and stop the bleeding from his nose as he stared blindly around, like the idiot he was.
This time, however, was different from any other Furuichi had personally witnessed.
Oga wasn't dumbstruck, lost in his thoughts as he replayed the fight in his head long enough for him to snap out of it, swearing to exact revenge as soon as possible. Oga wasn't acting petty, throwing a tantrum like a child that had been denied candy, rolling around on the floor out of sheer frustration. Oga wasn't bothering Furuichi, like he did sometimes when his opponent was nowhere to be found, and unable to do anything else with himself he would invade his house, setting camp in his room and playing video games, demanding cake and attention and for Furuichi to stop ignoring him, spending the night in his place till the sun rose and Oga went off to fight again.
Oga was somber, unmoving; indifferent to everyone else save the troubled thoughts inside his head. When perturbed, he answered with nothing but grunts and single words, staring anywhere but their eyes, not facing any of them. He was uncaring to Kunieda's concerns, unresponsive towards Hilda's reprimands, accusing him of being a disappointment, of being weak, wasn't he a better parent than this?
He was supposed to be the strongest but he had let them walk away with Beel, not even managing to leave a single scratch on their faces. They left him half dead –and Furuichi remembered his own throat constricting when Oga lessened his breathing– not even capable of voicing his protests when they presented the ultimatum to Beel. His father was so weak he would die for sure if the fight continued. Stay and watch him die, or go with them and allow him to live. Beel had looked back just once, watching his father struggling to breathe as he choked with his own blood, and he severed the contract. Furuichi had yelled for him to come back, unable to follow as he cradled Oga's head in his lap to keep him alive. But Beel disappeared inside a portal and never looked back.
It had been two days since then. Oga was confined to his own bed, still recovering from the damage and bandaged all over. Lamia was constantly at his side to check on his wounds, and every member of the gang had dropped by to visit at least once, but Oga had yet to say any words that could structure a whole sentence together.
Or so he had been told. Furuichi had not been witness to any of the mentioned events, because he had been unable to visit until now. That day at the battlefield his chest wound had reopened, if only slightly, and his parents (who were understandably still worried about his well-being after he showed up one morning with dried blood all over his body), had insisted on visiting the hospital again. They knew nothing of little demons that could heal wounds in a matter of seconds with creatures as squishy as jello, and after constant observation and even psychiatric consulting he had deemed as hardly necessary, Furuichi had finally been discharged after two days.
Lamia had greeted him as soon as he had knocked at Oga's door, ushering him outside to catch him up with all that had happened until then.
"I think he's still in shock" she had said with a worried frown on her face "He refuses to move around and he's hardly eating anything. And even though he's under muumuu treatment, he's not healing as fast as he should!"
Furuichi had simply nodded at the statement, not daring to allow his worry to show through his face. Lamia was stressed enough as it was. He patted her head, promising to do something about the insensitive idiot, and went inside Oga's room alone.
He was exactly as Lamia had described, unresponsive and listless, not even turning around to greet Furuichi as he approached the bed. Clearly the situation had been worse than Furuichi had anticipated, but he was still not sure if he could do something about it. This was unlike all the other loses Furuichi had helped him go through.
Because he was not sure what exactly the problem was.
When Oga didn't respond, Furuichi sat at the corner of the bed and took to patiently staring at his face instead, willing to see how long Oga could go without acknowledging his presence.
Furuichi caught Oga's eye twitching and he smirked. The record was a measly three minutes. Well, Oga had always hated being stared at.
"Don't do that. It's creepy"
"Then don't ignore someone who has come to check on an injured person, stupid"
Oga huffed indignantly, finally meeting his eyes "Idiot"
It wasn't much, but it was progress.
"So" Furuichi started "Lamia has told me how you have set yourself to ignore everyone who has come to visit"
No point of beating around the bush with Oga, he didn't work like that. If he wanted to find out what was keeping him to that bed blunt questions were better.
But no one said that Oga himself wouldn't beat around the bush "I have no idea what you're talking about"
Honestly, this idiot.
"I thought you would be happy" Furuichi continued "Back when we were little, you complained all the time that I was the only kid who brought your homework home when you got sick"
Oga grimaced at the statement. Whether because of the sudden memory lane trip or a wound on his side, Furuichi didn't know.
"What are you talking about?"
Furuichi sighed. As far as he knew, there had been no injuries on the head, right?
"Your friends are worried about you, Oga" Furuichi held his gaze as he spoke "It's been two days and you're still lazing around on this bed. The Oga I know would be running around by now, training his ass off to prepare for the next fight and get revenge"
No choice, he was going to have to push some buttons to get some sort of assertive response. And sure enough, Oga had straightened up as soon as the insinuation that he was a pussy had left Furuichi's mouth.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean!?"
"Exactly what I'm saying! Are you so scared you might lose that you refuse to leave this bed? Is that it!?"
"Are you an idiot!? Why the fuck should I be scared!?"
"Because you're not doing anything, are you!? Everyone else is working their asses off looking for Beel and you're just hiding here like a coward!"
"I am NOT–"
Even when being grabbed by his collar and having his face so close to Oga's he could the fading bruises on his jaw, Furuichi didn't look away. He knew Oga wouldn't hurt him even if he was that angry. Well, maybe hit him a little, but never hurt him.
The response had been good however, if violent. Oga wasn't so lost that he didn't react anymore when his pride was injured. He saw it in his eyes; the thought of retaliation was present and he clearly couldn't wait to face Fuji again. But something else was stopping him. The problem was somewhere else.
Oga huffed in disbelief and let go, mumbling something about Furuichi only needing to ask if he wanted to be beat up so badly. He crossed his arms and looked outside the window. He lay on his back, and Furuichi could tell he was retreating into a silent funk again.
Maybe the problem was Beel himself. Oga needed a distraction, something to keep him from his –dare he say it? Guilt? Furuichi would never claim to completely understand the inner workings of Oga's mind, but he liked to believe that he knew how it worked a little better than the others. Oga was proud, and so the loss of Baby Beel because of his own weakness could be enough to shock him to the state he was now. Kunieda had told him that he had had a similar reaction when Hilda had been kidnapped, and he began running around again when the prospect of training came up to better himself. Perhaps some good news were in order, then. Or a motivation of sorts.
"You know, they told me at the hospital that my chest wound finally healed"
Oga's fingers flexed slightly to indicate that he was listening and Furuichi went on "Apparently, I didn't get enough rest the first time they were stitched, so the wound didn't heal enough for me to start running around again"
Or so he had told the doctors. There was no need to relate the story of how he had actually got hurt again from the stress of carrying off Oga's body.
"And I was thinking… it's been over a week now, so I think I can use the tissues again. If we asked Alaindelon, I'm sure he could get us inside the company's headquarters and–"
Oga had straightened up again. His knuckles were white from gripping the sheets so hard, his face eerily blank with a dark something wandering in his eyes that Furuichi couldn't quite tell what it was, and this time he was a little afraid.
Oga wasn't angry, he was livid.
"This is none of your business, Furuichi"
No insults. No mocking. Not even a dismissal. That was an order.
Oga had never talked to him like that before.
"…Did you seriously just say that?"
He was upset enough that it pushed aside his uneasiness.
"How is this not any of my business?!"
He was promptly ignored. Of course Oga would choose this moment of all moments to finally get off from the bed. He went to the other side of the room where Kunieda had left a basket with fruit, and reached for an apple resting at the top.
"Are you serious, Oga?!"
Furuichi's temper flared and he stood up. Oga took a violent bite from the apple and turned his back from him.
"It's been nearly a YEAR since Beel came around, nevermind the fact that you brought him into MY house as soon as you found him, and now you're telling me that it's none of my business!?"
Oga spit out a seed as response.
"Just a week ago I had my soul RIPPED out of my ribcage by a demon and you're telling me it's none of–"
Furuichi's reflexes were too slow for Oga's speed. He didn't even see him move and he was suddenly pinned to the floor by his shoulders, Oga's weight easily crushing him down and it was a wonder he didn't hit his head. Oga was so close he could see his nostrils flare, and for a moment Furuichi thought he was actually going to hit him in the face when he felt something warm on his face.
Furuichi couldn't see Oga's eyes, hidden behind black bangs, but his voice was strange.
"Just shut the fuck up"
Almost like it was quivering.
"Don't say something like that"
His shoulders were really starting to hurt.
"Are you telling me to go around pretending something didn't actually happen, Oga?"
He bent his head so low that his hair brushed Furuichi's neck, frustrated and trembling and struggling with something in his throat, and why couldn't he just get the words out?
And when Oga finally met his gaze, Furuichi was so surprised he couldn't believe he hadn't noticed until now what was the problem. That strange something in Oga's eyes was discernible now.
Something warm dripped to his face and Furuichi finally understood. Oga's pride hadn't been injured like he had thought. He really was afraid.
And he was crying.
"Baby Beel is gone… because of me. Because I wasn't strong enough"
Furuichi had never seen him cry. Not even that time when he had broken his leg when he was eight and the pain was so unbearable he yelled until he passed out. Misaki had told him he had, once, when Furuichi had fallen off the stairs in one of Oga's fights. But he didn't believe her. Oga simply didn't do that.
But then again Furuichi had never been foolish enough to claim to understand Oga.
"I thought I had lost you before"
It was strange how his chest hurt all of a sudden even though there was no pressure there.
"I can't go through that again"
He felt his throat constricting and suddenly he couldn't help it anymore.
"I'm not strong enough"
He fought back all the words that couldn't give justice to his own feelings and swallowed his own tears, because Furuichi refused to cry.
Because the king of Ishiyama was feeling lost, he was afraid of losing everyone and everything after seeing death from so close, and this time Furuichi had to be strong for them both.
"I said I would always stand beside you, didn't I?
And for the first time since they were 9 years old, Oga and Furuichi slept in the same bed, and none of them never said anything afterwards when Furuichi woke up embraced in Oga's arms.