The Finest Balm

by Jude
Written for Calluna on the occasion of the Winter Solstice, 2007

Wakaba opened her eyes in the surprisingly dim hospital room. She looked around and found Saionji standing to her right, dressed in his Student Council uniform again and looking grim.

"You could have told me," he said accusingly. "We could have taken care of it."

"What?" she said blankly, having apparently missed something important.

Something important moved in her arms. She looked down in surprise at the bundled infant in her arms. There was warmth and content there.

"Oh, stop being a bastard," said the Saionji on her left, who was wearing his denim jacket and smiling sweetly at her. "It's wonderful."

"That's the bastard," the Student Council Vice President said, pointing at the baby.

"Be nice," said Saionji, "it's ours."

"I don't have time for this," said the VP, turning his back on Wakaba. "It's all your fault, girl."

Wakaba felt tears welling up in her eyes. This wasn't how things were supposed to go at all.

"You made her cry," said Utena, dressed in a denim jacket and walking around from Wakaba's left. "You're such a manly man, making girls cry. Does it make you feel better about yourself that you can make someone cry?"

Saionji turned to Utena, eyes narrowed, and hissed, "You wouldn't know a thing about me."

"I know you can't stand to lose," Utena said, backhanding the rose on Saionji's lapel. Pale green petals scattered over Wakaba's bed in a cascade like snow.

Saionji snarled and tried to slap Utena. Utena stepped neatly inside the swing and landed an uppercut across his face. Saionji reeled back and landed in a chair.

"Oh, look, Saionji, he's got your nose," Utena said, leaning over the baby. Wakaba looked down, and sure enough, the baby was holding Saionji's nose.

The noseless Saionji stood up, straightening his uniform jacket, and said with immense dignity, "He deeds do gib dat back. I'b de Schtudent Coudthil Bice Bresident!"

The baby squirmed out of Wakaba's arms like a cat and jumped off the bed. "No!" she cried, "Please don't go!" and tried to get up to follow. Utena pushed her back gently.

"Just wait," said Utena, "and I'll save you now."

There was a crippling blast of agony that caused her to collapse back into the bed. A scream tore itself out of her, and the world closed in around her eyes. The last thing she saw was the baby running on two legs across the floor toward a shadowy woman in a red dress, holding aloft a small wooden hair ornament. The baby seemed to have a tail and large ears.

Wakaba opened her eyes in the surprisingly dim dorm room. She was sweating heavily, as if she'd just broken a fever.

She didn't remember getting into bed last night. She didn't, in fact, remember much of anything from yesterday.

Her gaze fell upon the two sheep mugs, one a ram, one a ewe, sitting on her table. Then she remembered that he left.

There was a wrench of loss, remembering that he would probably never smile at her like that again, now he was gone. He probably would never even notice her again. Who would notice someone like her, after all? Plain and mousy and uninteresting. And without a special secret.

She rolled on her back in the bed and stared upward for a few minutes. Outside the door, she could hear girls moving around, shouting to each other, one even calling her name. Finally, with a sigh, she rolled out of bed and started getting ready for school. Sometimes, you just needed to keep going, doing the needful things. Even if you weren't special any more.

Utena met her on the path, as usual, though she looked concerned. "Are you okay this morning, Wakaba?"

It was an effort to look at her, more of an effort to smile, but Wakaba managed. "Of course! Why wouldn't I be?"

Utena chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then put an arm around Wakaba's waist. Wakaba blinked at her. Utena kept walking, and kept her arm there.

They walked in silence for a while.

"You're my best friend, Wakaba," Utena said suddenly.

There was something in the tone that made Wakaba think about her dream. Just wait, I'll save you now.

Wakaba leaned her head against Utena's shoulder. They walked to class like that, oblivious to the comments of their classmates.