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Recovery

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Shinkai opens his eyes slowly. He swallows hard. His throat is tight. They warned him that the tube down his throat might cause some irritation.

Makoto and Ryoj are sitting in his room and he turns his head and his eyes widen to see Ogawa curled upon on a fold-out bed on the other side of the room. She looks exhausted, dark hair tousled and falling about her pale face. His last memory of her was before the hospital doors had closed, her little face worried and stark … smiling slightly as he had pointed confidently at her .. wordlessly telling her that he was going to back to her – for her.

"Why is she here?" he croaks as Ryoji comes to his side and holds a glass of water with a straw in it for Shinkai to drink, his weathered face unusually gentle.

"Just take a few swallows … don't drink too much," his father orders him.

"She waited for you the whole time," Makoto tells him, his dark eyes bright with the liveliness of youth. Sleeping in uncomfortable chairs doesn't dampen his spirits in the slightest.

"You're just here because you want to miss school," he tells his younger brother. "Wait till I'm on my feet again, I'm going to kick you," he promises and Makoto grins cheekily.

"How long has she been asleep?" Shinkai wants to know.

"She just fell asleep," Ryoji tells him. "She's been worried. We all have."

When Ogawa wakes up from her exhausted slumber, she realises that Shinkai has been watching her from across the room, his dark eyes unmoving from her sleeping face.

"That's a little bit creepy. Watching me while I sleep," she mutters beneath her breath, sitting upright, self-consciously raising a hand to her mouth to make sure she wasn't drooling in her sleep.

"I'm recovering from surgery. It's not nice to call me creepy," Shinkai points out, looking a little offended.

"Where is your father and Ryoji?"

"Gone to get something to eat. Makoto was hungry again and my dad needed a break."

"Makoto is always hungry," Ogawa said with a smile on her pale lips.

"He's like you," Shinkai teases her and she smiles despite herself.

"You'd better not kick me like you kick him."

"I wouldn't dare," he assures her solemnly and she rises to her feet and reaches up her hands to tidy her hair.

"No – don't …" he says suddenly.

She looks confused. "What?"

"Leave it like that."

"Why?" she demands. "It's a mess …" she comes to sit beside his bed and stills as he reaches out a hand to touch her hair lightly.

"I like it messy … makes you more … approachable … less fierce." His words make her scowl and he laughs at the instant reaction he's inadvertently provoked.

"I’m not fierce!" she tells him … fiercely.

"You didn't need to come," he tells her even though his eyes are warm as they linger on her face. "Dad says you've been here for ages."

"I wasn't going to leave you to face this alone …"

"Dad and Makoto said that you were there that night at the hospital… the night of the accident."

She nodded wordlessly, flinching slightly at the memory.

"They told me you didn't want to see anyone … I didn't feel like I belonged … I didn't want to barge in .. if you were in pain."

"Or crying like a baby," he says with a crooked smile.

"If this doesn't work …" she whispers, her dark eyes shining with unshed tears.

He reaches out a hand and grips hers tightly. "It will work," he says in a low voice. "And this was my decision … I would never blame you. Never," he assures her.

She leans towards him, touching her fingertips lightly against his jaw. He would draw her closer, rest his cheek against hers and feel the softness of her slender body against his …

But at that moment, the door opens and the room is filled with the sound of Makoto's chatter and his father's concerned mutterings for his health.

But Ogawa doesn't move from beside the bed and her hand rests in his, her eyes not moving from his face. She's never been one for gentle words and sweet assurances, but Shinkai doesn't care about any of that.

She's here and that's all that matters.