Fear is the Heart of Love

Chapter 7

A vague sense of hearing…

A yell…a fleet of footsteps then hearing someone slump next to me…a familiar presence and smell…


Opening my eyes the smallest sliver, all I see is a blurry light. I feel the blood caught in my throat and the pain stabbing me so hard in the abdomen, it feels like someone shot me then stuck a red-hot stick in the wound. I’m surprised I’m not dead yet.

But this isn’t how I’m supposed to die…Strabo just doesn’t suddenly kill you like this…I had a year….’

Though it just intensified the pain, I forced my eyes to crack open just a little more. The light clears and I notice the form next to me.

Takano is on his hands and knees, visibly trembling and eyes unbelievably wide. He’s paler than me, staring at my lifeless and bloody figure on the floor. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.

I try to talk, make a sound, anything to let him know I’m still alive, even barely. But I only come up with a weak cough, thick and wet. It sounds more like I’m choking because of the liquid in my throat, and I hear a few drops of blood hit the ground beneath my mouth. This startles him out of his shock and he pads closer.

“Ritsu…Ritsu, it’s okay. I’m going to call for help, but I need you to lay on your side so you don’t choke to death,” His voice is laced with more than just fear and dismay. My eyes slide over his face, taking in the last image I’ll probably ever see.

He places his hands on my side, trying to push me back. But I make another choking sound, this one louder, because he pressed directly into the area where the pain is most. He apparently understands this, so he maneuvers his hands to different positions. One hand on my hip and another on my shoulder, he pushes me from laying on my stomach to laying on my right side. I can’t move at all, and I’m starting to feel myself slipping away again. My vision blurring, I make one last sound, this one weaker than the rest.

Is this really the last time I’ll see the light of day? The last time I’ll see Takano? Was this really how I’m supposed die; in front of the man I love and he’ll possibly never know why?

I never saw my family for one last time. Mom, Dad, and An-chan…everybody. I’ll never work again, live again, love again. Masamune will never know I loved him. Never know I’ve always loved him, I just didn’t want to admit it. And I’ll never know what it’s like to truly be loved and cherished by someone else.

I’m vaguely aware of the tears sliding down my cheeks. They slipped from underneath my nearly closed eyelids, the droplets laughing at my pain as they slid down my bloodied and limp face. Takano sees my tears and places a hand on my cold cheek.

“Don’t cry Ritsu. You’re going to live. You’re going to make it and you’ll live. Just stay with me,” He quickly stands up and hurries over to the phone in the living room. He dials the emergency number and starts talking into the receiver desperately. I can’t comprehend what he’s saying because my brain is too fogged over. As the seconds pass, I feel my eyes slide close again and my breathing slow. I guess this is it; what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve prepared for. So why am I so hesitant on letting go?

I suddenly hear his smooth, low voice next to me. I hear the last words before I entirely slip away.

“Please don’t die, Ritsu. Don’t leave me again.”

Dull pain, more of an ache. Buzzing in my head, voices bouncing around. Beeping somewhere in the distance. A soft warmth covering me, but not familiar. The stale smells of cleaner and linen.

I’m aware that I’m breathing and my heart is pumping. I hear distant voices and beeps around me. I peel my lips open, taking in a deep breath. I’m….alive?

I’ve never felt more relieved in my life. I have enough strength to open my eyes. All I see is a white ceiling and lights. Then I skim my eyes over to the right and see a window. Two oak trees hang low outside, their leaves whispering against the glass. I look up a little and see a machine that is too familiar; a heart monitor. I’m in the hospital.

I turn my head left, my eyes following the movement. They land on the man sitting in a chair next to my bed. His elbows are on his knees and he’s bent forward, his face in his hands. I recognize the man as Takano.

I can’t pull my eyes away as I watch him. I see a droplet of water suddenly appear and glide down his wrist, disappearing underneath his sleeve. Takano is crying. He’s crying.

I blink away the sudden moisture that forms in my eyes. It is the most heart-breaking scene I’ve ever witnessed. And I’m the cause of it. I awkwardly clear my throat and his head shoots up. I see the water trails left behind on his cheeks, but he is quick to wipe them away. He sees me and his eyes widen.

“Ritsu,” He whispers in surprise. He jolts up, standing directly next to my bed. I look up at him and I’m suddenly pulled up into a tight embrace. I feel him trembling slightly and a rattling breath of air passes my ear.

“Ritsu,” He repeats this one sadder. I pull my arms up weakly to wrap around his back and I give my own shuttering sigh. I feel him pull away slightly to press his lips to mine, his hands on either side of my face. We just stay like this. I don’t care if anyone sees us, I’m just glad that he’s holding me, that he’s kissing me, that I’m alive. We’re in our own world, just us and no one else. This is the kind of world I’ve been seeking. Happy and peaceful; no pain or suffering. A world with Masamune and Masamune alone.

We only break apart when we hear someone else enter the room and clear their throat. It’s the doctor I know by the way he’s dressed.

“Onodera-san, you’re awake! I was starting to get worried because you’ve been asleep for nearly four days. But I’m not surprised with all the shock your body went through. You’re lucky you survived with that much damage.”

“D-Damage?” I’m aware that Takano is holding my hand, staring at the floor as we talk.

“You had major internal bleeding of your spleen and the left side of your stomach. We had to remove half your spleen because the damage was too great and give you a blood transfusion. You lost a lot of blood and most of it was pooled in your lower abdomen. You’re a lucky man, Onodera-san.”

Lucky? Lucky that I have Strabovirus, and that might of caused this incident? Will this happen again?

But I just forced a sad smile and replied, “Thank you. You saved my life.”

“I didn’t. The young man next to you did. If he hadn’t found you or been just a few minutes later, you wouldn’t be here now.”

I looked back up at Takano, but his expression was unreadable as his hair covered his eyes. I looked back down to see the doctor leaving the room and I was left in the awkward atmosphere. We just stayed like that in silence, him holding my hand and looking away from me, as I waited for him to say something.

Finally, he said, “Do you know why you had internal bleeding?”

My breath hitched and my blood ran cold. Does he know? I decided to play innocent.

“I-I honestly don’t know. Maybe too much stress at work….?”

“They told me why. It was a possible side effect of medication. But they didn’t tell me why you were taking medication.”

I suddenly remembered the warning I got from Dr. Yukue a long time ago when he prescribed the Strabo meds to me. He had told me the side effects and internal bleeding was a major one. He had told me to be careful and to watch myself. If I had any pain suddenly appear or I was puking blood, I was to go straight to the hospital. I guess I forgot about it because I was going to die anyways, so why did it matter?

“So, why are you?” He finally looked at me, straight in the eyes. I saw sadness, fear, and disappointment in his eyes. He was disappointed that I had lied to him, not told him I was sick. My heart was in a block of ice as I stared at him. His amber eyes bore into my own green ones and I was lost for words. What should I say?

I can’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him. Both of our hearts would break and I wouldn’t be the only one in pain anymore. I didn’t even know how he would react if I told him. Would he leave me? Would he be in too much despair to be around me, so I would be left alone? I had stayed up countless nights, staring at the wall, wondering these things. Would he not love me anymore, because he was going to lose me anyways? I couldn’t bare the loss. It just wasn’t fair. Why? Why me? Why not let me be happy for once?

But he deserved to know. He had saved my life. If he left me, it didn’t matter. What would I have lost? I was going to die in a year, so I would gain or lose nothing. I love him, love him more than anything. And he said he loved me more than anything, so shouldn’t he still love me even if he knew? But I knew I couldn’t wait until the day I died. He had to know sometime. If you were dying, would you tell the one you loved?

I realized it was the right thing to do. It had to be. Then we could cope together, and I wouldn’t be alone anymore. He would follow me into the dark. He would help me, cry with me, love with me. I realized I had been alone this entire time because it was my fault. I didn’t want to tell him because I was being selfish. I didn’t want to be hurt, but imagine the hurt he was going through, not knowing. What if Takano was dying? I would want to know, of course. And I realized my fear was the heart of my love.

“Because I have Strabovirus,” it slipped out before I could stop it. But he just looked confused. Of course he wouldn’t know what it was, it was rare.

“I have Strabovirus. It’s a rare and incurable disease. An incurable disease that will kill me,” I sounded so relaxed, so monotone as I said it. His eyes widened when he heard it was incurable. But I heard him gasp shortly when I said it will kill me. He just stared at me and I just stared at him. He had gripped the bed railing so tight, his knuckles were white and his hands shook. For what seemed like hours, neither of us said anything. We just let it all soak in. I broke the gaze and brought my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around my legs to instead stare at them. I heard him take a deep breath. I barely heard him as he whispered.

“How long?”

I knew what he meant but I couldn’t answer him yet. A few drops of tears plopped onto the blanket around my knees and I shakily sighed. I tried to swallow, but a lump was in my throat.

“A…..A year.”

“…Why didn’t you tell me?”

I shrunk back a little. I felt incredibly small and weak. I felt the pain and despair. Did he feel the same? I whispered so quietly, I didn’t think he heard me.

“…Because….I love you.”


“Because I love you,” I said it louder, looking up as I did. The tears flowed freely now; down my cheeks then my jaw and throat, plopping onto the blankets. I noticed tears beading at the corners of Takano’s eyes, and this caused me to start sobbing. I sobbed slowly, breathing heavily as I did. I brought my hands up to mouth and wept.

“Because I love you! I didn’t tell you because I couldn’t hurt you anymore because I love you! I love you, I love you, I love you!” I was a wreck. I was breaking down right in front of Takano, wailing out what’s been trapped in me for a long time. I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore. I’m sure he was dying in the inside, desperate to scream and cry too. But he just stood there shocked, watching me collapse. He reached out to me and pulled me into a hug. He held me again as I cried and wailed in his ear, clutching his shirt. I felt déjà vu wash over me as I clung to him like a baby monkey, keening.

I only heard one sob escape his mouth, but it was a sound I would always remember.

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