"A Sense of Himself"
by Darkfrozenmind


a Kaoru (of Dir En Grey) fanfiction
no copyright infringement intended.

For Razzy-sama, Yuan-nee, NM-chan and Kako-chan.

Note: This chapter contains Kaoru+Die. This is a transition chapter - there will be instances that will hint of the story's advance in time frame (ie. a few months on...etc.)  Special thanks to Razzy and her muses; for the omake over email; my muses get great inspiration form that; it helped me a lot writing this chapter, since I think I over-froze my brain with Tempra ^___^;;


*****

Chapter 5: No other choice but breathe you in

*****
 


His head didn't hurt as much as it did when he first woke up. He didn't feel so ugly as when he first looked at himself in the mirror that the nurse gave him. He was Kaoru, but there were so many changes it was confusing, it was frightening, that he had to comprehend that he had been in a car accident in the first place, all he could remember was that he was going home.  He felt like shattered glass being glued slowly but surely, even if most of the pieces were there, there were shards missing, and the cracks made it impossible to go back.

All elements pointing to where he was going...it was weird being told he never made it there.

He sighed in the dark, each breath made the metal plate move a little, a tickle in his cheek, a pain to his bones where the plate was screwed. Had it been morning he would have requested to walk around, exercise his legs or something. He wanted to sit up, but he was so tired and his limbs still hurt. Maybe from lack of exercise, maybe from trauma; who knows?

His parents had gone home for the night, and even his friends. Only *he* was left with him. Kaoru's eyes gently shifted and rested on Die's back. Die was lying on the couch, his back to Kaoru.

The patient wondered whether Die was awake or not...he could see the broad shoulders move with each breath. he hesitated, but then, curiosity won over fear - was there even a reason to be afraid of him - he seemed to be so kind to him...even as he noticed how aloof the redhead was to his other friends, Kaoru basked in the knowledge that Die was kind to him.


He mustered his strength, so he could put some form of energy and push his voice out, loud enough for Die  to hear him.


*****

Die's eyes were open, brown orbs staring at the blue upholstery of the couch he was lying in, there wasn't any distinction between black or blue; the darkness always covered it up with a cloak of black, it was all there but then again it wasn't. His tears, dried into straight stains on his cheeks and after all that they've been through, Die was amazed that he was tired, but not exhausted. He breathed in slow, making sure that the sighs he made, stayed inside. 

He wouldn't want to wake Kaoru.  Was he awake?  Was he dreaming?  If he was what was Kaoru dreaming about?  Die fought the urge to look behind him, it hurt to look at Kaoru.

His mind wandered over to his and Hakuei's conversation earlier that afternoon, it was surreal. Die didn't want to validate what Hakuei asked him, and was grateful that the blonde didn't push the issue when he went back to Kaoru's hospital room.  Die only prayed that Hakuei wouldn't muse over it with Toshiya. Die refused to acknowledge the relevance of Hakuei's question, how it almost rattled him senseless. The most important thing right now, was that Kaoru needed to gain enough strength to get out of there; maybe after that's over he'd think about it.

Did he love Kaoru? More than a friend? More than a brother?

That issue could wait.

Kaoru didn't even remember him at this point.

Die pouted seriously, closing his eyes and willing himself to sleep, his first attempt since the accident. 

But then he heard that voice...
 

*****
 

"Die?  are you awake?" 

It was a low whisper, a silent call to this stranger, though deep inside, Kaoru felt that Die was *his* stranger, his alone.  A certain possession about the way Die looked at him, spoke to him.  Conveying in not so many words that Kaoru pretty much had him on the palm of his hand.  The more the patient thought about that, the more confused he became, if Die knew him so well, if Die was intertwined with who he was...why, why couldn't he remember? 

Why did it hurt so much, that he couldn't remember?

It was a whisper; sleepy but pleasant...

"Kaoru? I'm awake, are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm okay...I-I just wanted to say sorry..."

"For what?"

"...not remembering...anything that my parents told me about you...I think everytime I don't I offend you...I'm sorry"

Die pouted in the dark, gently he got up and walked quietly to the hospital bed.  Kaoru could feel and hear Die move towards him, his heartbeat quickened and he held his breath, Die stopped at Kaoru's feet, and even through the darkness Kaoru could make out that Die was smiling sadly.

"Kao, it's okay, don't think about it, please, just concentrate on getting better."

It hurt to say those words, make Kaoru think that it didn't matter at all, when it was all that mattered to him. Kaoru wanted to do what Die said, but there was that nagging thought - that - somehow he had to remember.  It was an ordeal in itself.  He nodded and mumbled a low but sincere "Hai"  his tone was hesitant, but he didn't want to bother the man more than he already did.  Kaoru moved his shoulders, willing to get under the blanket more.  

Tokyo was cold to its residents that night.

Die noticed, and he moved slowly, making his actions obvious and not quick for fear of scaring, alarming Kaoru.

"I'll adjust your blanket, is that okay?"

"H-Hai if it isn't too much trouble..."

"Of course not Kaoru."

Die gently took the cloth in his hands and  pulled gently until the blanket reached Kaoru's shoulders, leaning closer, he tucked them gently on both Kaoru's side, Die didn't notice that Kaoru's face was next to his, not until he felt Kaoru's breath against his cheek...he smelled of medicine and that odor of wounds and isopropyl alcohol, but to him it was Kaoru, he slowly got up, making the most of the nearness, making every second count when he was this close to Kaoru.

Kaoru felt like he was out of breath, this stranger so close, his scent, his presence, his nearness...was calming...that of all that's happened...the accident, the amnesia, the boredom...this moment was the only one that made sense, the only one that felt absolutely reasonable.  When Die pulled away, he only wished his mind was clear enough to single out the words, to tell Die...anything to say - that it mattered.  Whatever was there at that time.  Whatever the warm feeling that washed out the sadness from him, when Die was that near.

Kaoru wasn't scared.  He wasn't looking for anybody, it's as if , anyone he could ever want to see was there beside him.  It was strange - for him.  It wasn't his nature to consider anything as emotional as that, but he had the pieces missing - he had an excuse to break free from his reputation...of what he remembered of himself.

Words didn't exist to be spoken, rather they existed to be meant.

Die looked Kaoru over, his image in shade and light, a seemingly picturesque chiaroscuro.  He debated with himself for a minute, watching Kaoru, as the patient tried to sleep with his head tilted on the side, trying to get comfort from the orthopedic pillow that the hospital provided.  Die knew that Kaoru liked his pillows fluffy and soft, he gently touched Kaoru's shoulder.

Kaoru opened his eyes.

"I'll give you my pillow, it's softer than this one."

Without really waiting for an answer, Die turned around and took his pillow from the couch.  Slowly helping Kaoru as he swiftly took the offensive pillow and replaced it with his own.  As he was laying Kaoru down, his friend's shoulder against his chest his arm over Kaoru's torso , he felt a blush creep, never had they been this close...not since their starving days.  

Little did he know that Kaoru's cheeks were flushed as well.  Kaoru tried rationalizing the feeling he got deep inside, so familiar, the way he held him, the way his body seemed to be in perfect mold with this stranger...no he wasn't a stranger anymore...Kaoru told himself.

/His name is Die.  He's not a stranger./

How had Die know that he loved his pillows fluffy?  How did he even decipher his unease?  It was flattering, it was calming.

Letting his hands brush over Kaoru's forehead, Die had successfully laid Kaoru in a comfortable position.  He looked at him one more time before turning to go back to the couch.

"Thank you."

"Huh?  Kaoru?"

"Thank you."

"Don' thank me...please...we-we used to take care of each other Kaoru...this is all natural to me."

"Really?  We did?"

"Yeah.  BUT don't think about it right now it's not that important."  Die hoped that Kaoru din't notice how his voice broke at the end of his statement...covering it quickly with a low chuckle.

"That's good...I mean...b-because it feels natural."

The redhead smiled.  It meant the world to hear him say that.  But it was painful still, he wanted Kaoru to remember, like he used to...every detail, every syllable, every moment a clear picture in his head...like it all used to be. 

"Hai (he whispered), go to sleep Kaoru, rest well so we can all get out of here ASAP"

Die thought he caught a chuckle from Kaoru.  He breathed in, and then looked at Kaoru again...he had his eyes closed, and even with the blanket his thin body shivered in slumber.  It was as if Die was acting on instinct, no thought or rationale involved, he turned completely, leaning and whispering...

"K-kaoru?"

"mhmmm?"  the patient's eyes closed.

"C-can I hold you...I won't harm you, I-I just want to hold you..."

Tokyo was cold.  Kaoru didn't open his eyes, but his heart beat faster....hold him?  B-but he barely knew him...consenting would...but he's not a stranger...a small voice inside him said...he's Die...it's as if the voice inside him wasn't giving any other reason.  This man was Die - that was reason enough to trust him.

Kaoru acted cool, and with eyes still closed, he nodded.

"It's okay, Die."

Die was torn between smiling from ear to ear or being nonchalant about it as well...he opted for smiling.  Taking a final step and sitting on Kaoru's bed,  he took Kaoru in his arms, resting Kaoru's shoulders - one in his palm and the other against his waist, his other hand securing Kaoru's chin in his soft palm....god it felt good...it was comforting...secure...slowly he leaned closer, the side of Die's chin touching Kaoru's temple, the shaven hair tickling him a bit. 

Kaoru felt lulled by the warmth, the soft touches, by Die himself.  Behind his closed eyes, he felt sleep take over...

"domo..." Kaoru whispered.

Die closed his eyes and pushed his chin closer to Kaoru's temple, his answer.  Closing his own eyes, and all the fear and anxiety were forgotten there and then, this was all that mattered to him.

"shhh, just sleep Kaoru."

As he felt Kaoru's breathing fall into a rhythmic pattern, Die  softly kissed Kaoru's temple.

Kaoru was everything to him, they hadn't been this close since *that* night when Kaoru got back from the hospital, recuperating from Pneumonia, years ago.

...when did you stop loving him as a friend...

Hakuei's voice came back to him in the darkness...he didn't want to think...but his thoughts were rebellious...his emotions radical...holding Kaoru, the answer was obvious.

/Always./

A confession spilt in the shadows...

/Sleep well, Kao...I love you./

It didn't matter if Kaoru felt it or not, he opened his eyes, lips moving, and he kissed Kaoru's forehead, then his temple.

"I love you."

His confession fell without Kaoru to catch it.  Die knew it was better that way.

*****

It was too busy in Toshiya's apartment.  Too noisy, 90% of DEG's staff in his living room, their manager, Hitomi, Kyo and Shinya were there as well.  Toshiya had volunteered his place as a workstation for DEG's press release on Kaoru, it was time to let the fans know that Kaoru had been in an accident BUT now he was fine; and that the band will be on an unexpected and extensive break as Kaoru recuperates.

The staff were busy faxing news papers, magazines and newsrooms of the official statement, and Hitomi, Toshiya, Kyo and Shinya were all busy doing phone interviews on morning shows and radio stations.  their only policy was that no one was to accept a face-to-face interview or public appearance.

It was something close to fun, but everyone just wanted to be somewhere near Kaoru.

Toshiya was ina nd out of the kitchen or instructing a staff or two to go and eat or have coffee.  He was just grateful that his lover was used to this kind of commotion.  So used to it that Hakuei bailed early for his own band commitments, promising Toshiya that he would visit Kaoru for them since they were all busy.

Everyone was grateful.

It was a slow grind, even odder without their leader, but they all knew it mattered a lot to Kaoru, and in more ways than one it mattered to the three of them as well.

*****

It was around 7:30 AM when Hakuei arrived at the hospital, he figured that things at the studio might get hectic so it would be better to come and see Kaoru before the daily buzz began.  He brought with him a few items of food and beverage for Die and Kaoru's parents.  Breathing in softly, he looked at the door solemnly before taking the knob and knocking as he let himself in, his gesture was considerate and quiet.  

Good thing.

The only image that greeted him was that of Die holding Kaoru as the patient slept, Die himself seemed to be sleeping, his cheek resting against Kaoru's temple.  Kaoru's parents weren't there yet, and Hakuei figured that they had full faith in Die.

The blonde didn't want to disturb, the two and he just quietly put the bags on the table near the couch.  As he was making his way out, he heard a whisper, a soft voice cast in his direction.

"Hakuei..."

It was Kaoru, and as he  gently moved Die shifted, and leaned on the headboard of the hospital bed, though still asleep.

Hakuei put his index finger over his lips and gave a friendly wink at Kaoru, soundlessly mouthing that he'd be back later, gesturing for the patient to go back to sleep.  Eyes wandering to Dies' peaceful slumber, almost three nights of no sleep, and Die had finally found rest.

Of course that was beside Kaoru.  Hakuei smiled; he was right; for what it's worth.

Kaoru was still looking at him, eyes void of defenses, they were soft and it looked to Hakuei like he was well rested; with an assuring nod and a friendly wave, he was out the door; catching a glimpse of Kaoru smile and relax once again in Die's arms - closing his eyes; as if on reflex Die tightened his hold, eyes closed and with the look of absolute serenity on his face.

briskly walking to the elevator his mobile phone bleeped. The name that registered was Toshiya, and that was athe only ingredient he needed for a smile.

"Love."

"Haku-chan, thank god!"

"Toshiya?  What's wrong?"

"I called your studio, Gisho said you weren't there, and you left early this morning and I got nervous i thought something happened to you...I've been calling your mobile for 15 minutes...god, I'm glad you're alright..."

"Toshiya, I love you."

"I love you too, Hakuei."

"I'm at the hospital, thought I'd visit Kaoru first.  I'm sorry but there mustn't have been any signal in the room."

"That's okay, I'm okay now, that you're safe and I heard your voice."

"Angel."

"That's me!  You get an A+ for that lovely adjective."

Hakuei couldn't help but smile as he waited for the lift.

"Hakuei..."

"Yes, love?"

"How's Kaoru?"

"He's doing okay, Die's here and they were both resting when I came by..."

"Is Kaoru Okay?"

"Toshiya...of course.  He's okay, he's with Die and you know as well as I do that Die will take good care of him; besides Kaoru's parents might come in soon."

"Kaoru and Die...sounds right doesn't it Hakuei?"

"Toshiya...it sounds perfect."

"Both of them are stupid you know...they keep running around in circles..."

"Love."

"Yes Hakuei?"

"Things will work itself out."

"Hai."

"I love you, Toshiya.  I love you so much."

"I love you so much *more*"

Hakuei chuckled, at Toshiya's answer, like a kid competing for the spelling bee.

"Still busy over there?"

"Ha~~i"

"It'll end soon, you'd best get back, and if that finishes early - call me - and I'll pick you up we can visit Kaoru."

"MMMM~okay! I love you!  BAI!"

And the call ended, both people at the end of each line smiling.  Hakuei put the phone back in his coat pocket, just in time, the lift was finally there.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Where had the days gone, it seemed to him that they were minutes, Shinya hadn't really realized it until he went to check on Kaoru's fanmail the day before and was faced with almost 50 bags of letters, cards and gifts...close to two months worth of mail.  He adjusted the shirt he wore and got his new coat.

The drive was quiet, he had gotten a new car, and had prioritized a couple of things since the band went on an official yet unexpected holiday.  A part of him was raring to go back to work; the official rehearsals with Kaoru in there, and not just guest-ings on TV or recording certain parts individually - it was lonely in that aspect and yet the other half was still wanting more of this free time.

Shinya had a goodnight's sleep.  Yesterday, Kaoru had successfully played "Taiyo No Aou" and he could decipher almost all his compositions, he'd been determined since the day the doctor gave hm the go signal to go and re-orient himself with the guitar.  And Kaoru had not failed in that aspect.  He often complained to Shinya that he wanted to get out of that hospital, live without the smell of antiseptics...he missed his cigarettes...but the doctors insisted he stay confined, for the monitoring, and transfusions...Kaoru had also moved floors, and was now located at the physical therapy quarters.  Walking was another thing he had to re-learn.  

But now he was fine, and if not for his confinement, Kaoru felt dandy.

And Shinya, Kyo, Toshiya and Die could hold a ten second conversation without Die lashing at them...that was something good, better than before...better

He had started piecing together his role as leader, and was asserting his dominance by the day...all of them were ecstatic at the comeback, though they often jerked around that it'd be good if Kaoru would "forget" the strictness.

Kaoru was successful in his recuperation; and the only thing that he seemed to have failed at was with regards to Die, he couldn't remember him still, even if Shinya and Kyo often came by with pictures and and articles, personal mementos to remind him, Kaoru couldn't remember but it lessened the pain on Die's side because even though Kaoru could not remember, he believed what  the pictures told him and what Shinya and Kyo were saying.

Shinya parked his car at the basement parking, their usual slots.  He had to smile inwardly, if one was a keen observer one would have found the common denominator of all that's transpired the past months.  To Shinya, starting from day one...Die had been on Kaoru's side, whenever they would visit, he'd keep his distance from them - maybe because he was still uneasy with the fact that Kaoru remembered them and not him - but Die would still linger in the background, keep a terse eye if ever Kaoru needed anything, was tired or uneasy - Die was there.

If they visited early they would catch Kaoru sleeping in Die's arms, while the other man watched TV.  Shinya often wondered if Kaoru had attached himself to Die as a friend or as something more...Kaoru had zero memories of Die; to Shinya it was easy to fall in love without the weight of history and memory.

He wondered if Kaoru saw Die as his nurse or friend...or maybe even something more.

"You seem to be thinking of something amusing."

Shinya started at the voice, he gripped the wheel of his car and looked up abruptly.  It was Toshiya and Hakuei looking at him and smiling.  He smiled back and got out of the car.

"Nah, I was just musing over the fact that Kaoru's better."

"Yeah isn't it great!"  Toshiya chirped.

"It's nice he's getting to know Die all over again, right?"

It was Hakuei's statement and both Shinya and Toshiya looked at him.

"Kaoru's comfortable with Die already."  Toshiya mused.

"I think Kaoru's seeing Die ina whole new light..." Shinya observed.

"Eh?"  Toshiya wanted Shinya to continue.

"I mean, without remembering 14 years of memories, he's getting to now Die for the very first time...without that much weight, I am forced to believe that Kaoru's attracted to him...without realizing it...I don't know i might be making a wild guess..."

"I don't think that your guess is far fetched Shinya."  said Hakuei.

Toshiya's voice chimed in, it was flat but not sad, it was unemotional; but not spiteful.

"Kaoru's always been attracted to Die, even before the accident."

"What?" Shinya asked.

"Just an observation, and I'd like to stake claim on the accuracy of my observation...Kaoru had Die in this pedestal, and...he's a jerk for not following what's in his heart before...they're both stupid...they keep running around in circles ignoring the strength of their attraction for each; hiding behind the reason that they're best friends when there's just so much more in there..."

Hakuei held Toshiya close.

"That must have been hard for you at that time Toshiya..."

"No, Shinya, even before I got involved with Kaoru, I knew the score...but I was just young at that time....plus well if it weren't for that I would have never found Hakuei..."

The bassist glanced at the vocalist, nudging him.

Hakuei blushed, /thank god you found me./

He kissed Toshiya's cheek.

"Sw~eet."  Shinya teased, and got bapped for it cheerily by Hakuei.

After a few more steps it dawned on them that they were finally in front of Kaoru's room, Shinya was the one who opened it, just in time to see Kaoru sitting on the bed, signing a bunch of documents Die beside him, Kyo was speaking happily to Kaoru's parents.

Shinya cleared his throat.

And everyone's attention fell on them.  Kyo was the first to declare the good news.

"Shinya!  Kaoru's goin' hoooome!"

It was a logical reaction, and Shinya knew he jumped at one point, while Toshiya embraced Hakuei, Shinya could make out smiles from Kaoru; and even Die.  When the papers were signed and the commotion died down, there was one more thing to settle...

Die sat on Kaoru's bed as Kaoru took his place between his parents on the couch.  And the others remained either leaning on the wall or standing.

"It's okay Mom, I can take care of myself, no worries."

"But Kaoru...you still have recurring nausea and fatigue, someone needs to be there with you."

Mr. Niikura agreed with his wife...when all of a sudden Toshiya cast his offer.

"Stay with me and Hakuei, until you're strong enough!"

He was all smiles, with Hakuei nodding in agreement with his lover, a smile on his face.

Kaoru was caught unawares, his smile sudden, and his nod unplanned.  He agreed.  A big part of him wanted to be somewhere, but Toshiya seemed so happy and excited it was hard to say no to a friend.  He smiled carefully, his eyes looking for Die - he was looking outside the window...and if Kaoru trusted his vision enough he could be sure there were tears.

Toshiya had beat Die to it...that offer to have Kaoru to stay with him, he'd been planning that for months, it was the most logical thing for Kaoru to stay with him...he was Die for crying out loud, Kaoru's best friend.  but then again why would Kaoru want to stay with him?  He was just some guy who acted as a nurse to him, a guy he's only *known* for two months.

Die's heart was breaking.  Right there and then.

He got up from the bed and offered everyone a smile - it wasn't the patent smile of Ando Daisuke - it was a smile of defeat.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was best to leave his car at the hospital and take a cab, he couldn't drive with the tears.  He couldn't scale the walls between Kaoru and him anymore.  He just wanted to go home and lie in bed...Kaoru would be fine...without him.

And that hurt all the more.

He hid his face in his hands, and let himself cry once the cab poured out in the street.


******
 

to be continued

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