When the first roar blasted through the door Ulf rose and stared in panic around himself. At the second he forced the door open and rushed to Yukio's bed.
“What the hell's going on?”
“She says Kyoko's dead!” Yukio screamed and pointed at the nurse as if she had murdered his girlfriend.
It might have been comical but for the cold stone of fear that grew in Ulf's stomach.
“Yukio, listen to me,” Ulf began.
“No! No! No! I don't want to hear!”
Slug him? No, bad idea. His face is already all beat up. Hastily running out of options Ulf regressed to how he'd handled problems the first months since he arrived in this version of Japan. “Shut the fuck up kiddo!”
It worked, to a degree. Yukio retreated back in his bed as much as his prone position allowed.
“Yukio,” Ulf started again. “There was a woman who died, but it's not Kyoko.” But Amaya lost a friend, and I don't think I should tell Yukio that just yet. And then there was the reason Ulf had a stone of fear in his stomach. “Kyoko got hurt, Yukio, but she's alive.” I hope she is, because I don't know what to do if she dies. He had to tell his friend. “Kyoko got stabbed. She's in surgery now.”
Waiting for his stunned friend to say anything Ulf mulled over Amaya's whereabouts. Probably running around Tokyo on a private manhunt pretty much like he himself had done half a year earlier. But this time it wasn't instigated by the old goat.
“Yes,” Ulf said. It didn't matter if that was a lie or not right now. What he needed was exactly the look Yukio just made of deflating totally in his bed.
“So she's OK?”
That was the problem. Ulf didn't know. “She's in surgery. They'll tell us more later,” he said. He didn't even know if that was true or not, but he had to say something. You look like crap. What the hell happened?
For the first time Ulf got an idea how worried his friends must have been when he got assaulted behind the gym during the festival. And Christina. He had to call Christina. She didn't know about Kyoko.
“Yukio, I was asked to go outside,” Ulf said and looked at the nurse who nodded assent. It wasn't the real reason, but he really, really had to make that phone-call.
Screaming bloody murder, threatening Vogue with horrible publicity every talk-show and making just about everyone understand that quitting modelling suddenly was a very real option for her, well that took two hours. Flying back to Tokyo took less.
In the end it turned out she forced her rushed return in vain, but Christina didn't care. Even if she wasn't allowed to visit Ko-chan, she could at least while away her time in the waiting room. She had done as much when Ulf got rushed to hospital. And, as a huge bonus, she found him doing just that when she arrived at the surprisingly small clinic.
“Why here?” Christina asked, rather than the more natural 'How is she?' or 'Did she make it?'. Still, the hospital looked more like a small office than anything related to medical care.
“Military treatment,” Ulf answered. “Kyoko got stabbed and shot, and Amaya pulled rank. She's stable now,” he finished, and Christina didn't need an explanation to understand that it wasn't Amaya who was stable.
Thank all gods! She's fine.
Only after delivering the message Christina needed to hear did Ulf rise from his chair and face her in the door opening. “I'm sorry I dragged you all into this,” he said. “I missed you,” he continued. “I want to hug you,” he finished and walked into her embrace.
Christina didn't need asking. “I've missed you as well. I love you,” she said when she wrapped her arms around his back.
Inside his world, in those arms of his, always so strangely strong and confident, pressed against his body and holding on to him for all she was worth; now she could afford to let out all the fear she had carried with her since Ulf made that first call.
He didn't let her fall even a little bit towards the floor when she sagged, and then first sobbed, and when she felt secure, opened up the flood dams and wailed like a small child. She clung to him, cried her heart out, blew her nose in his chest, cried some more and attached even more snot him, and all the while Ulf just stood there like a warm rock holding both her body and sanity above water.
How long she stood there she didn't know. In the end it was Ulf who loosened his arms around her and led her to a chair. After that he went for the bathroom, probably to clean up his stained sweater from all the unsightly things she had put there.
Christina got all the time she needed to study her surroundings, and as she did so she realised no matter how little or how much time she had it would have mattered very little. The waiting room defined the very word 'nondescript'. It took effort to create something as unmemorable as this.
She rose when he returned, and it was at that time she saw, for the first time, how worried he was.
“Ulf, is there something you didn't tell me?”
He smirked, but his gaze didn't leave her eyes. “It's Yukio. He got badly beaten up as well.”
Your best friend got beaten up and you went to this clinic for my sake? “Ulf?”
“He'll be fine. A few fractures. Nothing compared to what happened to me.”
That Ulf downplayed Yukio's damages by comparing them to his own made Christina want to puke.
“Not all that bad, I promise. In fact he should be on his way here as soon as they patch him up. A day or two at most.”
Christina sat down again. Do we keep the Wakayamas out of the loop? was the first thought that struck her. Then she realised it wasn't important. At least not right now.
“Christina?” Ulf said, and she broke out of her thoughts and met his eyes. “Amaya's really angry this time. I don't think I can stop her.”