I woke up with my arm pressed uncomfortably against the rough carpet. I took in a deep breath and looked around my room drowsily, squinting to shield my eyes against the sun that shined in through the curtains.
Aren't curtains supposed to keep the sun out? My groggy state of mind couldn't keep up well, and it didn't help that my limbs were stiff from sleeping on my side on the floor. I heaved myself up and dragged myself over to my bed and crawled in it. A quick glance at my alarm clock told me it was eight forty five.
"Too early." I muttered to myself. I grabbed my pillow and hugged it tightly, drifting back into sleep. The only thing that kept me from falling back asleep was my right cheek, which felt raw and uncomfortable. I rubbed my hand across my cheek.
I shot out of my bed with a gasp. "N!"
I looked around my room wildly, searching for him as if I could have possibly missed him the first time. He wasn't anywhere in my room. I felt a pang of disappointment as I thought of the possibility that he could have left last night. After all, it wasn't a very good welcome back.
I ran to my door and pulled it open.
It was unlocked. I had locked it last night.
N was somewhere in my house. He had to be. If he was to leave, wouldn't he have taken the window like the way he came in so my mother wouldn't see him?
I looked at the clock again: eight forty eight. My mom was already at work, so there was no risk of her catching him. I combed my fingers through my hair, stopping when I felt something dislodge. I pulled my hand back quickly and caught the object as it started to part from my hair.
It was a little white azalea. The stem was bent and split in multiple places, but all the petals were intact. I grabbed the lock of my hair that it fell out of and noticed that it was a little curly. N must have woven the flower into my hair after I had fallen asleep.
I didn't know how to feel. Was it right to feel happy about this? My hand drifted to my cheek as I replayed what he did. I know it wasn't his fault, but the nagging feeling didn't go away. Accident or not, he had slapped the hell out of me. I twirled it around and walked over to my desk. I gently placed it on top of my sketchpad and looked at myself in the mirror. I pursued my lips and inspected the damage. Horror shot through me as I saw how red my cheek was. It had also swollen slightly, but not by a lot. I sighed and went to look for him.
I looked in the room and the bathroom upstairs before heading downstairs. I was desperate to find him. I had just passed the kitchen on my way to the laundry room when I heard the sound of glass tapping against the counter. I stopped and took a step back, peering in.
I sighed in relief.
N was standing by the counter using my coffee maker. I found myself staring at him, totally interested in what he was doing. After all the crazy, terrifying, and unnatural situations we had gone through, it was a bit funny to see him doing something as normal as making coffee. It was just a little weird that he was in my kitchen.
He was leaning down with his face inches from the pot, his face totally engrossed as the coffee dripped down. He looked like he was trying to solve a complex equation.
I couldn't help it. I started to laugh, blowing my cover. He shot up straight and whipped his head towards me in alarm. He stared at me for a second before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, clenching his fists.
My breath caught and I cursed myself. I had to remember to walk on eggshells with N, at least until I fully understood the extent of his unstableness.
Before I could make a move, he opened his eyes and gave me a nervous smile.
"Hey." He murmured, sticking his hands in his pockets. He was hunched over slightly. "Did you sleep well?"
yeah." I managed to answer, looking down. The awkward tension made me extremely uneasy. I gathered up my courage and walked over to the counter, plopping down in the chair.
"You can make coffee?" I asked, honestly surprised. I hadn't expected him to be able to make coffee, I couldn't even do it.
He turned around on his heels and rocked back and forth. "It's something I learned while I was away." He said, beginning to make his way towards the cabinets.
N flipped open cupboards until he found a mug. He then went over to my fridge and took out creamer. I watched with an odd expression on my face. It was strange how he could be so familiar in my kitchen.
"I can't even make coffee." I blurted out.
The corner of his lips curled into a smile as he was tipping the pot into his mug. "I can teach you sometime."
I squirmed in my seat. He sat across from me and started to drink his coffee, his eyes on everything but me. The fact that he didn't offer me any struck me as an interesting attribute. Since he was raised as a king, it would make sense that he didn't have the knowledge that offering something was considered polite. He had servants that did that for him.
"What now?" I asked him shakily. "Where are you going after this?"
He put the mug on the table and looked down, flexing his jaw. "I don't have anywhere to go." He murmured.
It was like being hit with a ton of bricks. He doesn't have anywhere to go? Where has he been all this time? He's obviously been well kept and healthy. Surely he hasn't been homeless? If he has, then why wouldn't he have come to me sooner?
Why come to me at all?
My heart was fluttering at the possibility that maybe N wanted to see me. That he wanted to be with me.
No, he said he had nowhere to go. I must be his only option.
No matter what the reason, he was still here. I suddenly felt responsible for this mess of a man, and the very thought of it made me feel sick. I'm only nineteen, I still live at home, and I can't just let him stay here. He's a guy- an older, very attractive guy at that. My mom would lock me in the basement before I could even ask her if he could stay with us.
I looked up at N and realized that he was staring at me.
I reigned in my thoughts and stared back. His eyes were always expressive, making him easy to read. He was the complete opposite of me. He was broken, awkward, and maybe even a little crazy, but he was still the kindest and most innocent person I have ever met. I've been stupid to even think that he'd be interested in me, the rude, self-conscious girl that is about to kick him out of her house.
I blinked. I can't do that to him. Just like what I said to myself the night before, I'm not going to let him down.
I gave him the best smile I could muster. "Would you like to stay here?" I suggested weakly against my better judgment. Inside, I was screaming at myself. I know it's a stupid decision, but at the moment, I wanted nothing more than to put his needs before mine. I wanted to make him happy.
His face lit up. He jumped up and gave me a hug, well, one of his hugs. I clenched my teeth as his fingers jabbed into my back, thanking god that he didn't have long nails. He retracted his fingers and lifted his hand, brushing a lock of hair out of my face.
It would have normally been a touching gesture, but the second he made contact with my skin, I flinched. I immediately went back to the moment he slapped me, and it was an automatic response to recoil away from him.
The look of rejection on his face was heart wrenching. I fought back the urge to comfort him, feeling ridiculous. He had slapped me. I wasn't about to comfort him, not for all the money in the world. My dignity was worth more than that.
"Your cheek is red." He stated quietly, clasping his hands together.
"Yeah." I muttered, looking away. I pushed myself out of the chair and stood in front of him, trying to hide the blush that was creeping to my cheeks. I scoffed at myself. My cheek was red anyway.
"Why?" He asked. I barely caught the edge to his voice.
I was trying to avoid this subject. A part of me wanted to tell him what had happened, but I also didn't want to cause him any grief. It wasn't his fault, he was having a breakdown. He wasn't in his right mind at the time. I didn't want to make any excuses, but I couldn't help it. Ever since he had broken down in my bedroom, I've had this unavoidable need to protect him.
"It's nothing." I mumbled, turning away. His hand shot to my shoulder.
"Why is it red?" He demanded, his voice shaky.
I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and clenched my teeth stubbornly. "It's nothing."I repeated, getting pissed.
"It was me, wasn't it?" He growled.
"No." I said quickly. I cursed myself. It was way too quick.
A sharp, ragged intake of breath was all I heard. I stood there with my eyes raised to the ceiling, fighting back tears and the urge to run away.
He sank slowly to his knees and buried his face into his hands. "I'm so sorry." He whispered.
I kneeled down next to him and put my hand on his back, "Don't be. It wasn't your fault."
"Yes it was." He whispered. "I'm just like Ghetsis. He was right."
"Don't say that." I snapped. "You are nothing like he was."
"You're wrong." He said quietly. "I've always told myself that I'd never turn into my father."
"You're not your father." I said fiercely. "N, you're one of the sweetest people I've met."
He stared past me, his eyes glazed as if he was remembering something. "I never understood how someone could bring such pain to the ones they love." He carried on as if he didn't hear me. "I'm out of control. I should have just
" He shook his head.
I decided to ask the question that's been nagging me. "N, did you ever have these breakdowns before that day at the castle?" I asked gently.
He shook his head. "No." His gaze flickered to me. "Before that day, I was still in blissful ignorance of Ghetsis's plans. I looked past everything he used to do to me because I knew that it was the best way to continue my mission. But when you beat both of us, and he admitted to using me the whole time, I felt dead, like I had nothing left to live for. Everything he had done to me had been for nothing. I forgave him countless times for nothing. My whole life was for nothing."
He hesitated. I grabbed his hand, pain rocking me to my core. He squeezed my hand gently, and continued, as if I had given him the motivation.
"The only reason I was born was for Ghetsis. The monster that beat me, tormented me, isolated me, humiliated me
he was the only reason I existed. Touko, remember the day I left?"
I nodded. I wasn't going to admit it, but I thought about it every day.
"I took a step towards the edge of the room. You freaked out and pulled me back. You thought I was going to kill myself, and I told you I wasn't." He pulled my hands to his face. "I lied, Touko. I was going to step off the edge."
I started to cry. He was really going to do it. If I hadn't panicked and pulled him back, he wouldn't be here right now. Since he had my hands, I pushed my face into his leg to muffle my loud cries.
"If you were going to kill yourself, and I stopped you," I cried into his leg, "then why didn't you do it after you had left?"
He let go of my hands and started to stroke my hair awkwardly. I suppressed the urge to laugh. He was mimicking the very action I had done last night.
"Before, I thought that there was no one who cared about me. You showed me that there was something left to live for, that there was someone who actually wanted me to carry on." He breathed. "For the first time in my life, I felt loved. It was such a
great feeling. I knew I couldn't do it, I had to go looking for more."
"I didn't find it." He whispered. "Don't get me wrong, I encountered many people that loved each other. But never once did I find what I was actually looking for
for someone that actually would show that affection towards me. That's why I came back, Touko. You're the only person that's given me that."
I felt incredible. N didn't come back because I was his only option, he came back because he knew I cared about him. He craved my company. Tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks.
"The first breakdown was the night I left." He said as if he remembered my original question. "They never happened before that day because I was able to put all those memories behind me. But then I realized that I was put through all that torture for nothing
they all came back so quickly. It was the worst experience of my life."
"How often do they happen?" I asked, wiping away my tears. They were stinging my cheek.
"Not as much as they used to." He whispered, "But they are quite frequent."
I closed my eyes. Would I be able to handle this?
N put his hand on my knee, as if he sensed my thoughts. "If you don't want to deal with me, I understand. I wouldn't want to keep me, either."
My eyes shot open and I looked at him with fierce determination, "No. You're staying with me, N." I snapped, shocking even myself. "I'll have you any way. I don't care how broken you are."
I threw my arms around him and buried my face into his neck. He froze for a few seconds, but he gradually returned the hug, and for once, I didn't mind his painful attempt at affection.
"Thank you." He murmured.
"Of course." I choked.
I kept my face out of his view as I cried silently. I wasn't about to let him know how I was destined to fail him.
I owe him that much.