Kaori was still awake, and sitting on her window-seat while she read by moonlight. The teacher's footsteps could be heard out in the hall as they usually were around this time. Except Kaori could hear them talking.
“Where could those two be?” [she thinks this might be her art teacher, based on the voice]
“They don't usually just disappear like this....” [Roger's voice]
There was a moment of silence, and then a knock on Kaori's door. Wondering what could be going on, she walked over and opened it. Roger and her art teacher were standing outside; as soon as Kaori opened the door they both peered inside, as though looking for something.
“Is something wrong, Roger?” Kaori asked.
“Have you seen Mello or Matt anywhere?” he said.
“You mean they aren't in their rooms?”
The two teachers exchanged nervous glances. “If you haven't seen them, that's fine. Have a nice rest.” They both went down the hallway, still talking, while Kaori stood in the doorway mulling over the conversation. Those idiots must have snuck out again.... They didn't take me this time, maybe they wanted to be alone to talk about their fight. All the same, if they aren't back tonight, Roger will be furious with them in the morning. Making sure the teachers weren't in sight, Kaori hurried out of the dorm and crept down the stairs into the main hallway. It was terribly dark at night, but she felt her way down to where she knew the boys' dorm was. Opening the door, she tensed, listening for more teachers making their rounds. When she didn't hear anything, she walked farther inside the hallway and felt with her hands along the doorway. Reaching Matt's room, she opened the door; sure enough, he wasn't inside. Mello's room was empty too, but the window was open. Dammit, those two....
She went back out of the room and up the hallway, where she knew Near's room was. Praying she wouldn't wake up any of the other boys, she knocked softly on his door. It opened a few seconds later, and Near looked surprised when he saw her. “Kaori? It's past curfew – what are doing?”
“Shush!” she pushed him inside and closed the door.
“What is it?” he asked again as she went over and opened the window.
“Mello and Matt aren't in their rooms – Roger is looking everywhere for them,” Kaori said in a rush.
“And you think opening a window will solve this problem?” he asked curiously.
“Idiot, we have to go after them! They snuck out!”
“Snuck out? But...”
“Do you remember the day I hurt my wrist?” she asked with a sigh.
Near nodded. “You just now took the brace off, right?”
“Yeah, well...I sort of didn't do it falling in the shower,” she said. “I snuck out with Mello one night. He and Matt do it a lot, and I went with them a couple times. I didn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't approve....”
“No, I wouldn't have.”
“Anyway, if they aren't back by morning, they're going to be in huge trouble. We have to go and get them,” Kaori explained.
“Wait...why we?” he asked.
“Because...I don't want to go to town all by myself. If you're with me, I'll feel better.”
He sighed. “Okay, I guess I'll go. I'd worry if you went alone anyway.” Near walked over to the window and waited for Kaori to jump out, before joining her himself.
“How are we going to get over the gate?” he asked.
She smiled. “We climb it.”
They searched every store in the town as they went, but the two boys were nowhere to be found.
“Kaori, they aren't here. Maybe they were just somewhere in the orphanage,” Near said, fully ready to go back to bed.
“No...Mello's window was open, I know they went here.”
“Well maybe they've gone back by now.”
“They have to be here.....”
All of a sudden they heard a voice through the crowd. “There's a fire! Up at that old church!!!”
“A...fire?” Kaori said. She and Near glanced at each other, and followed the other civilians to the scene.
Smoke filled the air, and a fire was burning all around the old, dilapidated building. A red car was in the midst of it, it's windshield broken and the car itself mangled beyond repair. An ambulance was at the scene, and a few men were gathered around the front as Kaori and Near pushed their way through.
“What do you think happened?” Near whispered.
Kaori, shrugged, her face pale. “I don't know...”
“What's going on?” Near asked one of the men.
“There's some sort of accident...a couple idiots crashed a car into the abandoned church and caused a fire.”
“What? Accident?” Kaori said. “Who was it?”
“Hell if I know – a couple teenage boys, I think. ...Dumbasses.”
It was then that the two of them could see someone being carried out of the debris; he didn't appear to be injured, only weak. His arm was around the shoulder of the civilian who had pulled him out. The boy's voice was barely audible as he yelled someone's name; he pulled away from the other man and looked back at the fire. He was held back by the man, and in the glow of the fire Kaori could see the boy's face.
“Near...i-it's Matt!” Kaori said, her face drained of all color.
“It's Matt!” She pushed past the people crowding around the scene. Just as she reached the yellow tape strung around the yard, one of the firemen stopped her.
“Miss, you can't go in there. It's dangerous,” he warned.
“Dammit, you have to let me through!” She attempted to push his arm away.
“I can't let you.”
“Dammit... MATT!” she screamed.
He heard her voice, and turned to look in her direction; when Matt saw her face, he stumbled over to where she and Near were standing. Kaori caught him in her arms just as he almost collapsed from exhaustion, coughing.
“Matt! Are you alright?!” she cried.
“M-Mello....he....” Matt gasped, then collapsed into a fit of coughing.
“What happened!?” she demanded. “Were you the ones driving that car!?”
“I-I'm s-so...sorry, Kaori....I knew it was a...bad idea...but I-I ....” he started to sob.
“Where's Mello?” Near asked, looking around at the scene.
Matt didn't have to say anything; the scream that came next was answer enough.
Kaori wanted to ride with Matt, but the ambulance assistant told her and Near they would have to go to the hospital on their own.
They took a bus to the hospital in the city. Kaori looked around as they drove past the many buildings, remembering her nights sneaking out and running around the town. She might have even passed the hospital without knowing it.
“Please...please let Mello be alright...” she sobbed as they entered the doors of the hospital.
They got up to the front desk, and Kaori called the attention of the nurse. “Excuse me...I'm looking for the two boys that were brought in here recently. A car wreck ---”
“Are you family?
“Well, I...no, I...”
“Then please have a seat over there,” the nurse said politely.
Kaori was about to retort, when a voice called her name. “Kaori!”
Almost immediately afterwards, she felt someone throw themselves at her; once she regained her senses she saw that it was Matt. He was crying, and his face was pale. He had a few cuts on his face, but looked alright for the most part. “Kaori, I – I'm sorry... I-I didn't know....wh-what to do....” he was shaking terribly. “They won't let me see him!”
“Matt, you're alright?” she said tearfully.
“Yeah...just some smoke inhalation, but nothing serious.” He looked at Near. “Why are you two out here, anyway?” Matt said, wiping his eyes with a shaky hand.
“Roger's looking for you and Mello. He noticed you weren't in your rooms....” Kaori said, shaking her head and letting out another sob.
“What were you two thinking, driving a car?” Near said.
“M-Mello wanted to come out here...he – h-he was upset about something, so I a-agreed to come.... That was when he decided to take it.... I-I told him it w-wasn't a good idea – I should have stopped him....” he sobbed.
Kaori rested a gentle hand on his shoulder. “It's not your fault. You both were idiots, but it isn't your fault.” She guided him over to one of the chairs in the waiting room. “But, you realize you're going to have to call Roger.”
“I-I know....God, we're going to be in so much trouble....” Matt wailed.
“You're lucky to be alive,” Kaori told him. “Did you...did you see Mello after you crashed? Was he...okay?”
“I don't know...” Matt repeated. “When we crashed, I-I blacked out for a minute.... I smelled smoke, but I didn't know where it was coming from. Then someone pulled me out of the car, I don't know....I passed out almost right after. When I woke up, I didn't see him anywhere....”
“The nurse won't let us in to see him because we aren't family,” Kaori replied.
“I know – I tried, too. I almost lied, actually...damn hospital.”
“Near, stay here with Matt,” Kaori said, standing up from the chair. “I'm going to call Roger.”
He nodded. “Alright.”
A few minutes later, Kaori came and sat back down.
“What did he say?” Near asked her.
“He sounded furious,” Kaori replied. “But he's worried about Mello, too. He's on his way down here, but Near and I will have to return to the orphanage tonight.” She paused, and began pacing around the room. “Damn it...I want to know what the hell is going on,” Kaori said, walking over to another nurse. “Excuse me, can you please tell me which room the boy from the car crash is in?”
She looked at a clipboard for a minute, and then said, “Room 215, on the second floor.”
“Thank you,” Kaori said gratefully, and went back over to the other two. “Room 215. Second floor.”
Almost immediately after they reached the second floor, loud screams met their ears.
Most of the words were intelligible, and some Kaori thought might have even been in a different language. They were horrible, agonized screams. “IT HURTS!! GOD, IT HURTS!!!” A few curses, more shouting, and a thud. It sounded like a kid screaming; it was a high-pitched, terrified, voice. “DON'T TOUCH ME!” They cried. “FICKEN! VERPIß DICH!!”
Near and Kaori shot panicked glances at each other as the screams continued, relentless. It only got louder as they reached 215. It was obvious that the sound was coming from in there. By now the screams had turned into sobs. “IT HURTS!!! ...”
A nurse came out of the room a moment later, pale and shaking. It wasn't but a split second later that something came flying through the air, crashing into the hallway. The nurse hurried back down the hallway to the main floor.
Inside, the curtains were drawn across the bed, but they could hear moans on the other side. The screams from before were now whimpers. Slowly, shaking, she walked over to the other side of the curtain. “Mello...?”
He looked up when he saw her, his eyes wide and terrified. He wasn't covered in blood, as she had expected, but she still felt her face drain of color when she saw him.
The left side of his face had been severely burned, all the way down to his neck, the wound still fresh, and -she knew- painful.
“K-Kaori!” he said. “What are you doing here?”
He was still sobbing slightly, but she could tell he was trying not to scream from pain anymore.
“When you and Matt weren't in your rooms, Near and I came to look for you. That's when we heard about the crash, and...”
“...We didn't mean to crash it....We...we just.... I was the one driving, it was my fault....” He sobbed. “I was so angry...about...e-everything, a-and I...I asked M-Matt to c-come with me...a-and w-we...”
She had never seen him so terrified in the entire time she had known him; never seen him so helpless. Kaori sat beside him on the bed and gently touched the wound; he winced. “I was terrified when I heard you screaming like that....I didn't know what I would find...”
“It hurts...” he moaned. “It hurts so much....”
“I can't believe you two would do something so stupid!” she said. “You had me worried sick!”
“I know, I know...” he sobbed. “Please don't be angry with me...I'm sorry.....”
Kaori couldn't help feeling sorry for him, especially knowing how much physical pain he must be in. “We've called Roger...he's on his way here, now.”
“No....” He moaned. “We're dead, we're dead....”
Matt came around the curtain now, his eyes filling with tears when he saw Mello. “M-Mello...!! I'm so sorry...” he started to sob again. “This is all my fault...!!”
“It's mine,” Mello said, wincing a little as he tried to ignore the mind-blowing pain.
Gently, Kaori reached out to touch his face again; he jerked away and she recoiled. “You should stay here overnight. Roger is on his way. Near, Matt and I have to go back to the orphanage tonight.”
“No – I want to stay, too,” Matt said. “My um...my ankle hurts a bit, anyway.”
“Right. Then Near and I will go back.” Kaori stood up.
Matt stopped Kaori on her way out the door. “You guys...”
“We'll see you tomorrow, okay?” Kaori said. “Get some rest.”
They left the room, and returned to the first floor, where Roger was waiting for them.
It was a week before Mello was able to leave the hospital; Matt wanted to stay during that time, too, but was forced to go back to the orphanage since he wasn't injured.
When Mello returned, he barely went out of his room. His hatred for Near only grew, as he believed if it hadn't been for his anger towards him at that time that he and Matt wouldn't have had the wreck. The scar on his face was permanent, the doctors said that the day he left. The other children at the orphanage whispered about the incident, rumors spread and questions arose. The other three didn't answer any of them. Matt was the only one Mello allowed in his room the first few days after he left; Matt brought him lunch, and dinner. He brought him his lessons, and his homework. But Mello was never really the same; he was always angry about something.
-End of Chapter 18-