Bad rehearsals are like getting caught in the rain--takes forever to get them out of your clothes, your hair. At least it's not actually raining. Nana's lighter sputters for the third time and she tucks it away with a sigh, then tosses the spit-damp cigarette in the direction of a trash can. Might not be raining, but it's so cold she can see her breath, and it's late enough that the people out are all in a hurry to the bars, firsts crammed in their pockets as they call out to each other. A group of salarymen spills out from a restaurant, laughing into the chill. One of them shouts a greeting, so Nana dips him a wink. His friends pound him on the shoulder.
"Buy you a drink?" the man calls. For a second, Nana considers it. He's pretty young, got an okay smile.
"Gotta go home," she answers, and walks on.
Home's a good thought. Nana buys a tea for the walk and sips it without giving it a chance to cool off. The burn on her tongue is still better than the cold. If her tongue falls out, maybe the band will stop complaining about her lyrics. The warmth emanating from the cup, though, that makes her think of Hachi. She's probably curled up with some ridiculous manga series and bawling her eyes out over ramen. After Hachi updates her on the latest plot twist, she'll remember to ask about Nana's day, and she'll make absurd sounds of dismay when she hears about the rehearsal. The night will end with them curled up in their icebox of an apartment, pretending to watch television on the ceiling. Nana quickens her pace, weaving through pockets of people, draining her tea dry.
Same shitty apartment building, but the 707 on the door makes her smile. Nana's fingertips are numb as she fumbles with the doorknob, cursing when she drops her keys. "I'm home!" she calls as the door swings open at last. Nana shuts the door to keep their tiny bit of heat indoors, then unlaces her boots. "Hachi?"
"In here," comes Hachi's voice, muffled-sounding.
"Good reading?" Nana asks, padding into the bedroom. Just as predicted, Hachi is wrapped up in blankets, surrounded by manga. Hachi's eyes and nose are red, and there's a box of tissues on a pillow. "Damn, must be really good reading this week."
"Aiko is pregnant, but she doesn't know if the father is--" Hachi breaks off into a fit of coughing, which lasts long enough that Nana sits next to her on the bed, rubbing her back.
"You're sick," Nana says, and suppresses a sigh. It doesn't seem right to complain about her day when Hachi is clearly having a worse one.
"I was hoping it would go away before you came back," Hachi sniffles, pitiful. "Then I fell asleep and I feel like my head is a balloon."
Before Hachi can begin wailing about life's injustices, Nana presses a hand to Hachi's forehead. "Definitely sick," Nana says, then makes an irritated gesture to suppress a moan from Hachi. "Stop that. You'll just make it worse. Have you had any water since you fell asleep? Anything to drink at all?" Hachi shakes her head, wide-eyed. "I'm making you tea and then I'm making you soup. Stay where you are and--I don't know, blow your nose."
"Thank you," Hachi murmurs, much to Nana's embarrassment. She's not that great at taking care of people.
As Nana leaves the bedroom to put on the water for boiling, Hachi trails behind her like the puppy Nana named her for. "You're supposed to be in bed," Nana mutters, but makes no further protest when Hachi sits down and blows her nose with a trumpeting sound.
Nana fills a pot with water and turns on the stove, then assesses the food situation. They've got plenty of tea, since Nana's done her share of doctoring a strained voice, but their soup selection is dismal. Nana's pretty sure that homemade soup is better for a cold, but Hachi looks like she's going to fall over any minute. Canned soup it is, which means another pot on the stove. The kitchen is starting to warm up, and the light makes the place look downright cheerful. Tokyo's always been more of a goal for Nana, a future destination, but this little corner of it is starting to seem like a home.
The rush of water is enough of a rhythm to get her song stuck in her head. "And I wonder when you're a big star, will you miss the earth," Nana sings under her breath.
Apparently it's not quietly enough, because Hachi perks up and asks, "Is that a new one?"
She stares at the pot of water, willing it to boil, willing the flush from her cheeks. "It's just messin' around. Doesn't really fit with the band's sound." And here she is echoing the words from today's rehearsal, and she's pissed all over again. She's got a hundred songs written in her head that will never make it onto an album, but some of them are good enough to be on one.
"Maybe you'll go solo someday. I'd buy your CD," Hachi says, then starts coughing again. By the time she's done, her face is scrunched up in misery and Nana's wincing in sympathy. If she ever needed proof that Hachi has no idea how to take care of herself, here it is.
"You're gonna drink this all," Nana commands, pouring hot water into a cracked mug and dropping in a tea bag. "If you don't, you'll die in your sleep."
"Mean," Hachi complains, but takes the mug. "Sing me another song. A happy one, one nobody knows."
"I don't do free shows," Nana teases, then tastes the soup. It's a little under-salted for her taste, but Hachi probably can't taste anything anyway.
"Not even if I'm dying?"
"Leave me your money and I'll sing at your funeral."
"Right, you don't have any money," Nana says, but relents when Hachi starts coughing again. She fishes a spoon out of a drawer, pours the soup into a bowl, and sets it in front of Hachi. "Eat."
While Hachi spoons up her soup, Nana finishes off the remainder in the pot, figuring it can't hurt to take preventative measures against the cold she's undoubtedly going to get anyway. She and Ren used to pass sickness back and forth when they shared a place. The instant Hachi finishes her meal, Nana drags her back to bed by her shirt. That reminds her of Ren, too, so Nana shoves Hachi into bed with unnecessary force.
"I might not be good at this, but I know that you have to sleep." Nana leans over, index finger extended in mock menace. "Or else I'll kill you myself!"
Hachi squeaks, pulling the covers over her head. "You're a terrible nurse!"
Nana laughs at that and, heart lightening, pecks Hachi on the forehead. Since the bed is the only warm spot in the apartment, Nana climbs into bed herself, picking up a volume of manga. She doesn't know what Hachi sees in this kind of crap, but this particular manga-ka draws her characters in kickass outfits. Nana's flipped through pretty much the whole volume before she hears the snores emanating from the covers.
"Idiot," Nana says, and smiles. Hachi's cheeks have more color in them already.
"Sing me another song. A happy one, one nobody knows."
It doesn't count as a free show if the singer is the only one awake, right?
"I'm okay if you get me at a good angle," Nana sings, tucking the covers under Hachi's chin. "And you're okay in the right sort of light." Hachi's eyelashes flutter, but she doesn't wake. "And we don't look like pages from a magazine, but that's all right, that's all right."
And somehow, it is.