She thought, perhaps, that Akihiko and Mitsuru may have looked down on her for never visiting him in the hospital. They never said a thing about it, but she could see the way they would sometimes glance at her out of the corner of their eyes when they left to see him (at least every Sunday without fail, observing the anniversary of his survival week by week), their mouths tightening at the corners.
She didn't blame them for it; they had loved him as well as she had, and for much longer. Shinjiro had opened himself to so few people, of course they would wonder at it if the last of them didn't seem properly concerned that he'd been in a coma for months. She'd realized early on that they somehow couldn't sense why there was no reason for her to join them. She didn't need to sit pale-faced beside her lover's bed, holding his hand and begging him to return to her. He had never left her side.
His presence grew more distant in the light of day, but during the Midnight Hour, while climbing the almost endless-feeling heights of Tartarus, he was so close by her side that now and then between fights she'd found herself reaching out to take his hand. Every night she heard him, celebrating their victories or hissing at their close calls, paying close attention to how they all fared as they climbed the tower even if he could no longer fight by their side.
Even at the end--and she knew that it had been her ending, even if it was taking her awhile to fall--he had been there. One voice among the myriad, but no less special, no less precious to her, for that. She hoped... no, she was sure that she would have had the strength to do what must be done in any case, but he was the one who'd made it easiest to meet her fate with her back straight and her eyes clear. She refused to see him dead, even if preventing that meant that she'd never see him alive again.
Nights had changed after that. He no longer came to her, so she went to him instead, standing at the end of his hospital bed and watching him as he dreamed.
He didn't seem to realize she was there, as unaware of her presence as Mitsuru and Akihiko and the others had been to his. But that was alright; of course he wouldn't realize she was there when he was sleeping, always sleeping. He couldn't have been resting well enough before when his spirit spent his nights climbing Tartarus, so she thought that he must be trying to catch up with the rest which he'd missed so he'd heal in time to see her once more. But even if there was no reason for his sleep beyond being tired, she would understand that.
She was tired too, and it was getting worse every moment that she stayed alive.
She could feel herself slipping away, the many voices of herself within her mind growing silent day by day. Messiah had been the first to fade away, it's job completed almost as soon as it had appeared from her soul, or maybe just beginning as it faded into its place as part of the seal. Kikuri-Hime had followed soon after, her absence a wrenching pain after she'd been manifest within Minako for so long. But she had brushed against Minako's soul like a caress on her way to the seal, and there had been a smile in her voice as she'd whispered within Minako's mind, "Don't sorrow, we'll be one again soon enough. But there's no reason for me to tarry when none of you will need my healing again."
One by one they'd all slipped away from her. With each one who left it grew harder to keep her eyes open even just for the length of her school hours, but that hardly seemed an issue when each extra moment of sleep meant a little more time that her spirit got to stand beside Shinjiro before the end. Now, so close to that final day, only Sandalphon remained nestled within her heart.
He at least, shining proof of her devotion to Shinjiro, seemed in no hurry to leave. She wished that she could keep him within her for all the time she had left, but as it grew shorter and Shinjiro showed no signs of waking she realized that she had a better use for her final persona.
He wasn't only hers, after all, not like so many of her other faces. He belonged to both of them, their bond made metal and flesh and holy song. Even if Shinjiro couldn't take him as a persona, shouldn't she at least be able to share that energy?
She'd always held herself apart from him during her nightly visits in the past, trying not to disturb him so he would hopefully heal more quickly, but on her next visit after coming to that decision she sat down on the bed beside him and took his hand in hers. She could feel that bond between them, that brightly shining link that had grown between them so quickly in spite of his best efforts to hold himself apart, but she wasn't sure how to use it for her intended purposes. Wasn't sure it could even be done, though she'd do her best to find a way. Trying her best at seemingly impossible things had always worked out well for her before.
Then Sandalphon himself stepped in. "This way, child," he murmured, nudging her mind onto the path it needed to follow. In a moment he began to dissolve within her, his being, the part of her that he gave shape, dissipating until there was nothing left of it but the brilliant energy which he'd been formed of. Energy that would not be going to form the seal against Nyx, but she tried to push that out of her mind. She was giving every other shred of herself to the seal, right down to the smallest scrap. Surely just holding back this one bit wouldn't be enough to weaken anything, or it couldn't be that strong of a seal to begin with.
Even as the energy that had been Sandalphon began to flow out of her and into Shinjiro she could feel Death begin to enter the spaces he left. With her last persona gone from her there would be nothing left to hold him back, just the void within her ready to be filled. There hadn't been much time left for her to begin with, but she knew that by doing this she was shearing the last of it away.
She didn't mind. Death fit comfortably within her, a presence that she had known since she was very young. She was happy to welcome him back, and would gladly let him in a little sooner if it meant Shinjiro would open his eyes for her one last time.
As Shinjiro began to twitch, his eyelids fluttering, Minako found herself beaming in spite of everything, and if tears stung the corners of her eyes they were far from unhappy ones. "It's time to wake up," she told him, smoothing her thumb across the back of his hand just above an IV needle, "I have to go soon."