"It's risky; very, very risky. But I don't know if we have any other choice."
Solomon and I were in Julia's office. Solomon looked haggard. With Shizuru down, he had been handling the war against the Searrs by himself entirely. Despite the jealousy I felt over the bond he had developed with Shizuru, I had found it impossible to resist growing fond of him. In the short time I had known him, he had been unfailingly kind and gentle, and if not for his intervention, the other HiMEs - myself included - would have long fallen into the Searrs hands.
"You have my assent, Dr. Silverstein. Kuga-san?"
They both looked at me. Over the last two days, Shizuru's condition had worsened. Julia's proposal was to transfuse some of my blood into Shizuru's bloodstream, with the hope of transferring the antigens I had against my own Lycanthropic poison. If Shizuru's body developed its own antibodies, she would heal. If it didn't, my blood would only poison her further, and she would die.
I closed my eyes. How many times, I thought in silent anguish, would I have to be the one to bring Shizuru to the brink of death, if not beyond?
But Julia was right. As it was, Shizuru was dying. For the third time.
"Alright, Dr. Silverstein. But only on one condition." This time, I looked straight at Solomon. "If Shizuru dies, you'll have to kill me."
After a long pause, Solomon nodded.
"Very well, Kuga-san. I promise."
I nodded at him gratefully. "Thank you, Solomon..."
Twice, I'd killed the woman I loved.
Twice, she'd died in my arms.
And twice, she'd come back.
This time, if she didn't, I didn't want to be left behind.
Not again. Never again.
The three days that followed were the most harrowing in my life. Immediately after the transfusion, Shizuru's vital signs plummeted. It took all of Julia's skill to simply keep her alive. Solomon came as often as he could; I practically lived on the chair next to Shizuru's bed.
"You should try to get some rest, Kuga-san."
I looked up and simply shook my head. Worry and exhaustion made it difficult for me to speak properly.
"It was hard for her to stay away, you know. It was a choice she had to make, day after day after day. It almost cost her her soul... trying to live without you."
My voice trembled. "She didn't have to."
Solomon spoke gently. "She didn't know. She wasn't sure, and she was afraid of losing control again. What are you afraid of, Kuga-san?"
I whispered. "Of her. Of how much I love her. Of how much I don't deserve her."
Solomon chuckled sadly. "Love isn't deserved, Kuga-san. It's freely given. And that, I suppose, is what makes accepting it so difficult." He stood quietly for a few more moments, then draped a blanket around my shoulders.
"Good night, Kuga-san."
"Good night, Solomon."
After he left, I stared at Shizuru's sleeping form and counted the years I had lost with her - years lost to fear and anger and denial. I reached out to brush away the hair covering her face, and found my fingers tracing the outline of her lips instead. I hesitated. Then very slowly, I leaned forward...and kissed her. Was that how she had felt when she had kissed me that night? That feeling of indescribable tenderness, that feeling of loving someone so intensely that it caused one's chest to ache? I leaned my forehead against hers and whispered her name. "Shizuru..." Then moving swiftly and quietly so as not to disturb her, I slipped next to her under the covers and held her body close to mine. Then I slept.