[!fic]Just a bit of speculation about what may have gone down the night that Erika put Kimiko in the hospital. I wanted to come to terms mostly with how Kimiko seemed okay with Erika having broken her nose in [718].

AN: The default language for this fanfic is Japanese. As such, I will not bracket the things they say, so don't get on my case about it, plzkthx.[!fic]

Kimiko's eyes fluttered open. She inhaled a small noseful of hospital smell before gasping in mild pain. Oh, yeah, she remembered, Erika hit me. Must've knocked me out, too. She resisted the urge to touch her bandaged nose.

She inclined her head a bit to get a look around. Before she got very far, she noticed Erika sitting in a chair at the foot of the hospital bed. Has she been there all night?

Erika's legs were tucked up to her chest such that her feet rested on the chair, and she had wrapped her arms above her knees, and buried her chin behind her arms. At first glance, Kimiko thought Erika was sleeping in that uncomfortable position. But then Kimiko saw Erika's worried eyes staring right back at her.

Kimiko smiled as much as she could without feeling pain from her nose. "Hi." Her voice was a little thick, but Kimiko took it for granted. She had been knocked out, after all.

Presumably, Erika couldn't handle her guilt anymore. She took a keen interest in the bathroom doorknob, but was soon distracted by a dust mote on the floor.

Kimiko dropped her head back down on the pillow and rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Erika! You're making me feel guilty. Stop moping long enough to at least say, 'Hi,' to me." She groped around for the controls to the bed. She found them and raised the bed so that she could sit comfortably and face Erika. She folded her hands in her lap, not really knowing what to do with them.

Erika continued trying to find the pattern in the floor tiles for a few more moments before muttering, "I'm sorry."

Kimiko sighed and appraised Erika apologetically. "Erika, you were drunk. Your engagement was called off only a week ago, so you were in a bad mood already. Don't take it so seriously." She shrugged the apology off. "It's just a broken nose anyway. Besides, some guys think crooked noses are cute." She smiled again. This time, she smiled a little too much and pain lanced through her face. "Ow!" she cried, wincing.

Erika's eyes darted back to Kimiko. This time she wore an injured scowl. "Drunk or not drunk, I shouldn't've hit my best friend." She let her feet drop to the floor and rested her elbows on her thighs. She looked back to the floor tiles.

Kimiko grimaced. She tried to act unaffected by Erika's words, but eventually she gave up. "Erika stop," she admonished her friend. "You're acting just the way you were acting last night. All of this moping around of yours will only make things worse." She looked out the window and saw the sun disappear behind a patch of cumulus. "The more you let yourself feel sad, the harder it will be for you to be happy." She turned back to Erika with renewed passion. "That's why I'm trying to be happy, Erika. I'm trying to save you from--"

"Dammit! I'm not like you, Kimiko!" Erika had stood up by this point. Her back was arched and her hands were balled into fists at her sides. "I can't just brush these things off, and I'm sick and tired of you trying to make me! If saving me means turning me into someone I'm not, then forget it!"

Kimiko sat up in her bed and pleaded with Erika. "I'm not saying you should brush these things off completely. I'm saying that you can't let them get you down like this!"

Erika lunged forward and leaned over the foot of Kimiko's hospital bed. "I broke your nose, Kimiko! And even though you refuse to admit it, I know that it hurts you!" Tears rolled down Erika's cheeks. Her voice softened, and her face became forlorn. "You aren't even willing to forgive me. I can't forget this until you've forgiven me, Kimiko. If you want to help me, please, just tell me everything's okay." With that, she hung her head.

Tears streamed down Kimiko's cheeks as she watched Erika cry. Eventually, she settled herself back down onto the inclined hospital bed. She noticed that through all of this, her hands had stayed in the same place. Since she still didn't know what to do with them, she kept them folded in her lap. She looked back at Erika, who hadn't moved. Finally, she screwed up her courage and threw down her pride. "I forgive you."

Erika slowly raised her head. There was now a smile on her face as she blinked through the last of her tears. Kimiko smiled too when she saw this. Now she knew what to do with her hands. She held them out and beckoned for Erika to come over for a hug. Erika practically bounded over the bed and fell into Kimiko's arms.

Kimiko felt a sudden urge to apologize and despite the irony, she did. Erika was quick to forgive her. Presently, they drew away from each other. Erika composed herself and sat on the side of the bed, facing Kimiko.

"So we're still friends?" asked Kimiko.

Erika nodded. "Sure, why not?"

Kimiko grinned. Her grin faded, and her nose twitched once or twice. Then she giggled.

"What," Erika asked, confusion playing across her face.

Kimiko stopped giggling long enough to say, "my nose itches."

Erika chuckled. "Do you want me to scratch it for you?" She asked sardonically.

"No!" And Kimiko let out a laugh.

Erika smiled and turned to look at the window at the sun coming out from behind the cumulus cloud. "Why did you let me drink so much last night?"

Kimiko smirked as she gave her wry reply; "I'm not your mother, you know."
Kimiko allowed herself to laugh in a more comfortable way. Too often when flirting with a cute boy, she was too self-conscious, but with Hitoshi there was the opportunity to banter without fear or worry.

"No really. I need to get to bed. And you're not invited." For a moment, Hitoshi's face stilled with an expression Kimiko couldn't place. "Erika doesn't like sharing her toys, you know."

As expected, Hitoshi laughed appreciatively, "Of course I know. We'd just have to make sure Erika never found out." But then the wink came from a face much more sober than usual. The thought occurred to Kimiko he might be serious. But he couldn't be! He was loyal and faithful to Erika, wasn't he? And Kimiko had compared herself to her friend often enough to know there was no measure by which anyone would prefer a scrawny girl like her to Erika's bold charms. What had been a game started by Erika between her two shy friends had to stop.

But the seed had been laid. It festered. Days would go by and Kimiko daren't flirt with Hitoshi anymore. And she spent far more time watching him, caught between hoping to spot him in a more obvious indiscretion and fear it might be true.

Plus there was another secret she was afraid to share even with herself. What if it were possible? What if she won the attention and admiration instead of one that seemed to have more than her fair share?

This night found Kimiko particularly low. It was exactly two years since the disasterous end with Akihiro and Kimiko really didn't want to spend another evening by herself. And into her booth at NIA slide the persistent Hitoshi. Even his smirk pried an unwilling smile from Kimiko. "You weren't invited." "Not every action needs an invitation on paper. Sometimes an empty seat is invitation enough." "Erika doesn't like sharing." "I'm not sharing this booth with Erika. We needn't let her know."

And Kimiko let it happen. She allowed his charm to brighten her evening. And she was laughing so hard tears were flowing.

In all of the inchoate dreams she never anticipated Hitoshi's kiss to arrive while she was crying with laughter. A laughter that died with a fatal suddeness. Hitoshi's face flickered immediately: disappointment, regret, horror, fear. It was a rapid progress that Kimiko only identified after reviewing the scene a million times a night for the next week. "You can't tell Erika!" There was no doubt he was pleading now.

"What happened to 'We needn't let her know'?" Kimiko knew her face was cold and her voice must sound harsh. But a line had been crossed. Kimiko knew it. She felt some guilt, but Erika had to know.

But Erika didn't want to know. And when Kimiko attempted to explain, somehow the words didn't come out right. A new seed was planted and Kimiko could see that something was wrong between Erika and Hitoshi just as things between the girlfriends had been damaged. And things festered.

Then came the day Hitoshi ended things with Erika. Kimiko didn't witness the conversation, but she saw the aftermath. Erika made public scenes. And was cruel to all, even undeserving fans. Perhaps especially to fans. If Hitoshi's love was so shallow, theirs must be too. And her fair-weather friends were quick to desert the former Idoru. Kimiko saw Erika drown her troubles and noone seemed willing to help her, warn her, or stop her.

There was no doubt in Kimiko's heart that she bore considerable blame. She never should have encouraged him in that way. Hitoshi was naturally shy. Other women didn't come on to him like that. He naturally mistook Kimiko's flirtation. She had no end of excuses for him.

But in the end, he was the one that stepped over the line. It gave her small, cold satisfaction.

But noone else was willing to tolerate Erika so it had to be Kimiko. Erika said cruel things, and fouled her shoes more than once, but was usually too drunk to resist the smaller woman when she declared it was the end of the night.

Then Kimiko started receiving help. The Sonoda's returned from whatever had kept them occupied during Erika's darkest days. Kimiko resented how they felt they could ignore Erika before know but her friend was willing to overlook their absense.

"Erika, dear. You really must understand. His love was unworthy of yours." Of course, Meimi's words never calmed Erika down.

"If he was so unworthy, why didn't you say something sooner?" The retort burned as those eyes flashed.

Kimiko answered despite her intentions. "I told you."

Erika twisted so quickly, it was obvious she wasn't very drunk. She lost that edge after too many beers. Her words didn't slur, but her movements did. "I was supposed to believe that?" Well, Erika could be irrational with or without alcohol. Logic was never her strong suit. Kimiko could hear the sneer.

"That's right. He hit on me. I told you and you ignored it."

Righteously indignant, the former Idoru scoffed. "Hitoshi didn't have it in him. He couldn't talk straight to a girl. I'm supposed to believe he suddenly discovered charm?" And the anger flared up again. "He couldn't, but you could. You led him on, didn't you? Or were you just jealous, offered yourself? Or you could have made it all up."

Bitterly, Kimiko responded in kind, "I didn't make him leave you. He suddenly discovered he could live without you."

And Kimiko saw the fist but couldn't even blink before it hit.

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