A trickle of sunlight peeks through an elegantly crafted Victorian-style window with a soft and feminine style. The window is arched, its lacy curtains colored a pristine white, and the glass is clear without a trace of a stain or even a smudge. As dawn passes into morning, more light comes through the window and brightens the room, chasing the shadows in the corners away bit by bit until the bed in the center of the room becomes gradually more visible. A comely though fragile-looking girl lies there, motionless. Her slender form is swaddled in a warm and comfortable-looking blanket. Her long dark hair spills out across the pillow her head lies on; her expression is serene. There's not a single rumple in the blanket covering her, indicating that the girl hasn't stirred even a little bit since falling into her deep sleep.
In her mind, nightmares terrorize her, visions of the last moment in time that she was conscious. The last moment that she could talk, laugh, smile, or scream. A haunting scene plays back, over and over again; each time it replays, the mind of the girl writhes with unrest, even if her body is incapable of doing so. Her body has been incapable of that type of basic reaction to the fear that has tormented her for a long time. Then all at once the pain and fear disappear, as the scene replays again in an endless loop that holds her imprisoned within her own mind, a tragedy that she can never escape. In this dream, she's a boy, and about to begin a pleasant vacation with her family…
"Are you looking forward to it, Madoka?" A kindly woman smiles at the boy, who grins in return.
"It's vacation, Mom! Of course I'm happy," the boy chuckles.
The man in the front seat grins. "We haven't had a nice vacation like this in a long time... my job's just had me so pinned down... I'm glad I could make them see how much I needed a break," he chuckles. "How much WE needed a break," he amends.
The boy's mother smiles at the man, his father. "I'm proud of you, Nobuo. I was starting to feel like you would never have the courage to ask... but you really came through for your family." She winks at the man, and in response Nobuo scratches his head sheepishly with one hand.
"Well... you knew what type of man you were marrying, Mana. I've always been shy about confrontations with my superiors..." He trails off and smiles wryly. "They're very strict with us lower management types."
"I know dear... I know..." She pats his shoulder. "What matters is we're here now... and we're free to relax for a week. It's so exciting! I haven't felt like this since our honeymoon." She smiles at him.
Nobuo blushes and grins lopsidedly. Madoka rolls his eyes and smiles at his parents’ behavior. The display of affection between his parents still feels gross to him, but he’s getting old enough to understand the relationships between men and women. Even though his father hasn’t always been able to be there for him, there is no shortage of love in his family. He knows his parents are always thinking of him. Madoka turns to look outside the window and smiles. They are finally out of the city and into more rural areas. Not having been outside the city before, Madoka is particularly interested in the scenery passing by to either side of the road. There are mostly flat lands with trees. It all reminds him of a large park.
Madoka closes his eyes and zones out, listening to his parents playfully banter in the front seat. What seems to be a moment later, Madoka snaps out of his comfortable reverie, and his eyes widen as they lock onto a dangerously swerving car passing them on a two lane narrow mountain road. "D-DAD!!!" Madoka yells as he points out the rogue vehicle for his father. Nobuo stares for a moment as the car decelerates, and then driver of the car pulls ahead, seeming to stabilize somewhat.
"Jeeze..." Nobuo finally sighs, turning to Mana with a serious expression. "Just because it's the weekend doesn't give people a right to let loose... you can really hurt someone driving like that," he comments, smiling wryly at Mana.
"D-DAD!!!" Madoka screams, pointing straight ahead. Time seems to slow. Instead of accelerating ahead, the driver has chosen to switch lanes and slam on the brakes. There is no time to stop or swerve away. Madoka screams as he feels his body snap forward. A loud explosion goes off in his ears, and soon the sharp pain inside his body is joined by sharp pain outside his body. He opens his eyes and sees a car wreathed in flames. His parents’ bodies are limp and motionless. Madoka stares in shock and then screams, trying to free himself from the burning wreckage surrounding him as the smoke thickens and the heat increases inside the cabin of the car. Battered and in pain, Madoka blacks out.
The girl continues to dream, suffering from this same nightmare, played back for her over and over again, unaware of the figure that silently enters the bedroom. The figure steps closer to the bed, it is that of a tall man with prematurely graying hair and a face lined with worry. The man wears an elegant dark suit with a white undershirt, for all the world appearing to be a stereotypical butler, right down to the tray in his hands. On the tray, however, is not a full course breakfast as one might expect. Instead, he carries an IV bag full of a fluid, a washcloth, and a neatly folded towel. He sets his tray on the bedside table and then sets about the task of parting the curtains to allow more light to enter the room. Soon the room is brightly illuminated by morning sunlight.
The room is lacy, soft, and bright. The colors of the wallpaper are soft pastel pinks which are both healing and feminine. In the corners of the room many stuffed animals stand in precisely arranged spots, untouched by a single speck of dust. Off to the side of the room between the door and a tall hardwood wardrobe, a vanity mirror reflects the light streaming in through a window across the room.
"Good morning, Sugar." The man smiles at the motionless girl. For lack of a better name, he has long since started addressing her as Sugar. She has a sweet face, especially since the terrible scars that had once marred it have faded. She exemplifies some of his master’s best work. Apparently, despite senior age and current lack of a license to practice, his skills had not diminished.
"I see that you have not decided to wake yet. Well, in any case, you are looking beautiful today, as always." He smiles and puts a gentle hand on the quilt snuggled up around her body for just a moment. It always touches his heart whenever he comes in to visit Sugar. He doesn’t know a thing about her past. One day, the master and he had rescued her from a car accident. She had been nearly dead, or perhaps she really had died in that accident, and her body simply lays there vacantly, perhaps lacking a soul. He wonders about it, and he still hopes that she will soon awaken. There are many mysteries concerning Sugar. No one knows the identity of this mysterious Jane Doe, or so the master has implied.
With a rueful shrug, the man smiles. "Just you rest... save up your strength for the day you wake up, Sugar. Old Kozuke will look after you, no matter what," he murmurs, patting her stomach, and then walks away towards a nearby doorway that leads into a small bathroom. It contains a comfortable looking bathtub with full amenities. His master has spared no expense in preparing for Sugar's needs. When she wakes up, she will find a kind and welcoming home. The master is a lonely man with a complicated problem, and is much in need of a family.
Due to this problem, the master has been unable... or perhaps unwilling might be a better term, to find a loving wife and make a family for himself. His own parents had long since passed away, and he has no extended family. Truthfully, he also had been against the idea of adopting a child, yet when he had rescued this girl, for some reason his heart had gone out to her entirely. Kozuke still marvels at the lengths his master has gone to for a stranger. But that kindness has since earned his master a great deal of Kozuke's respect. To honor that kindness, he has treated Sugar as he would his own daughter. He has always been especially caring with her.
Kozuke begins running water from the faucet, and opens up the cabinet underneath the sink, from which he removes a metal basin. He runs his fingers through the water to test temperature, and when when the water seems to have adequately warmed up, he holds the basin under it to fill it. From the nearby countertop, he selects a scented soap, choosing one from many different varieties standing there in a row. He has a point of selecting a different scent for her daily. It is a small, but important form of pampering. It is said that those locked in comas may hear, feel, or smell things in the environment around them. Kozuke reasons if true, a different scent daily could communicate to her that someone is caring for her and making an effort to treat her well. Perhaps those feelings will reach her one day and she will awaken... and yet a year has passed with no sign of her stirring.
When the amount of water in the basin reaches the halfway mark, Kozuke turns off the water and mixes in the soap quickly with his hand, and then he lifts the basin, grunting only a little as he bears the weight of the water. He carries the basin quickly to the bedside table and sets it down next to the tray. Then he gently pulls the coverings from the girl's body, exposing her sweat-moistened flesh to the cool morning air. Kozuke gently runs the washcloth through the basin of scented soapy water, and begins to gently sponge the sweat away from her body. For some reason, she is always very sweaty in the morning. He suspects her dreams aren’t pleasant.
"Shhhh... It will be alright, Sugar..." he murmurs reassuringly as he cleans her body carefully and meticulously.
This job had been a great deal more complicated when they first had found her. At that time she had been bloodied and pulped. He had to clean all of the blood away from her wrecked body, and even after the master's procedures had been completed, there still had been horrendous swelling and scarring, and it had taken much time for the burns and blisters to heal properly. His duty had been to clean her body three times a day, apply healing ointments, and replace her bandaging, which was frequently bloodsoaked. He has come to feel a strange fatherly bond with the poor girl over the course of time.
When her skin had finally healed, the master's surgical skills had truly become apparent to him. The wounds had cleared up daily, revealing an oddly unbroken and perfect complexion she surely had not been born with. She had become a beauty that quite took his breath away, and yet he still felt no other feelings than a desire to care for this girl. Not for the first time, he is lost in his consideration of his feelings towards this girl. Even so, Kozuke continues to efficiently yet caringly wash the girl, toweling her front dry, and then turning her limp form gently as he works. The girl doesn't stir even a little, as usual. When he finishes, he gently towels her back and returns her to her customary position on her back, yet he doesn't tuck her in again yet. Kozuke steps away towards a nearby closet and removes a tall metal rack on wheels stored within. It somewhat resembles a coat rack if you have not seen one, its purpose however, is not for hanging coats but rather, bags of intravenous fluid.
Sugar is unable to feed herself, so three times a day, she must have a bag of nutritious fluids and medicines infused directly into her bloodstream. In her right wrist a needle has been inserted. It feeds directly into her veins. Attached to the needle is a short see-through rubber tube that must be replaced multiple times a week. The master handles that duty, thankfully, alternating wrists when inserting new needles weekly. Kozuke feels his master is far more qualified for that work since he is a doctor. Attached to the plastic tube is a simple device like a faucet to allow or disallow the passing of fluid or air, and an air bleed line to make sure she doesn’t get any oxygen in her bloodstream. The tube has a joint on it designed to disconnect before sufficient pressure on the needle can cause damage, supposing Sugar were to suddenly move, tangling the line in the process. At one time she had a feeding tube surgically implanted, but a month prior, the master had removed it. Feeding the girl through the tube had been more than a little troubling to him.
Kozuke carefully attaches a longer plastic tube to the bottom of the bag, and after wiping the connection point with a pre-packaged alcohol pad, he attaches the other end to the tube extending from Sugar's wrist. He twists the valves at the bag and her wrist, and within moments, the liquid from the bag is traveling along the line and feeding into her bloodstream. The sight of it used to make him shudder, and he is not a man to faint at sights like this. It had been easier to get used to this method of feeding her, but the vision of her laying there is still saddening to him. It stirs emotions in one's heart to see someone fed in such a way. Without these methods, however, Sugar would surely die. She is unable to take in sustenance, medicines, and liquids any other way.
With a sigh, his tasks for the moment completed, Kozuke gently lifts the blanket and tucks her in once more. Now that she smells nice again and is being nourished, he has nothing else to do for a time. As usual, he pulls a chair over towards the bed and sits down beside her. He has some time to himself in the mornings, his duties in the mansion are mostly centered around caring for Sugar, while the live-in maid prepares and serves meals. Keeping her company is one way which he chooses to spend his free time. He reaches under the blanket for her small soft hand, and gently clasps it in his, giving it a soft squeeze.
"Wake up, Sugar... things aren't as bad as they seem."
"D-DAD!!!" Madoka yells and points. Outside, in the lane across from the happy family, a car swerves dangerously. Nobuo stares at it for a moment and their family car decelerates, the dangerously swerving car pulls ahead to a safer distance.
"Jeeze..." Nobuo finally sighs, turning to Mana with a serious expression. "Just because it's the weekend doesn't give people a right to let loose like that... you can hurt someone driving like that," he comments.
Madoka stares ahead, his heart beating wildly. Hasn't this happened before? Haven't they narrowly avoided crashing into a car just like that one before? Is it déjà vu? He frowns, shivering. He can’t get over the feeling that he has seen this scene before... things aren't as bad as they seem. Where is that voice coming from? He’s heard that voice before, but he doesn’t know from where. Wake up, Sugar… The voice frustrates him for some reason.
"Where have I heard..." Madoka mutters to himself as he looks up again, and his eyes widen in terror.
"D-DAD!!! Pay attention!!!" Madoka screams, pointing straight ahead. Time seems to slow. Instead of accelerating ahead, the driver has chosen to switch lanes and brake. There is no time to stop or swerve. Madoka screams as he feels his body snap forward as the cars collide. A loud explosion goes off, the sound hurting his ears, and suddenly he hurts all over. Soon the pain outside his body is joined by a sharp pain inside. He opens his eyes, and they refuse to focus. He dimly sees the interior of the family car is wreathed in flames. His parents’ bodies are limp and motionless.
“Help meeeeeeeee!!!” Madoka screams as he witnesses his parents’ deaths again. He struggles and tries to free himself from the burning wreckage surrounding him as the smoke thickens and the heat increases. Battered and in pain, Madoka curls up.
“I... I don't want to die... please, Kami... help meeeee!” Madoka wails silently as the pain sears his body. He feels himself being cooked alive... he feels himself dying again... Again?
Later that day, when the sun's position has lifted higher in the sky, the light in the girl's bedroom dims and shadows once again leap out in the corners of the room. Although the light has faded, it is by no means dark in the girl's bedroom. Finally, something occurs that hasn't in just over a year's time.
The girl stirs in her bed, twitching weakly. Her fingers tighten and claw at her bedsheets, and a weak scream escapes her lips.
"D-Dad... M-Mom... I... I don't want to die..." she moans and mutters, clawing at her bedsheets. Her eyelids flicker fitfully, and she screams, the pitch of her scream increasing. In her dream, she is being roasted alive.
Her body stretches and contorts with pain, and the tube that moments ago was feeding nourishing fluids directly into her bloodstream snaps free, the before mentioned safety preventing the needle from damaging her vein with the force of her sudden thrashing. She moans, clawing at the bedsheets, until finally, her eyes snap open, filled with horror.
Her body is covered with a new sheen of sweat, and her bedsheets are soaked with it from her thrashing. She looks around, searching the room with fear-filled eyes.
"M-Mom... D-Dad..." Her eyes moisten and she curls up under the sheets and blankets, sobbing loudly.
Some time later, the tears stop flowing, and she shows some interest in her surroundings. She glances around woodenly, taking in the lacy decorations around her. Her mouth twists humorously, though she isn’t feeling particularly like laughing at the moment. One image fills her mind completely right now. There is no room for any other thought. The image of her parents’ limp and lifeless bodies in the front seat of the wrecked and blazing family car. The image makes her cry out, shivering violently. Finally, she hunches over again, losing interest in her surroundings, and falls back asleep.
Sometime later that night, the door opens, and Kozuke enters the room again, another IV bag in his hands. He closes the door behind him, and smiles at the bed.
"Good evening, Sugar." He smiles and steps towards the bed. As he walks towards the bed, a few important details finally register upon him. His eyes turn towards the IV rack. The tube that had been attached to Sugar's IV drip tube is hanging down. He glances at the bed again and his eyes widen. The bed sheets and blankets are heavily disturbed, and the girl seems to have changed positions. In fact, she is curled up into a fetal position now, instead of her usual position laying on her back. Kozuke's practiced smile changes instantly to a broad and genuine one. He walks over to the bed and carefully pulls the covers away from her body.
As he has suspected he finds that she is indeed curled up. Her face is peaceful now, though tear-streaked and still a little red. He notes that she has cried herself to sleep. He cannot blame her, waking up in unfamiliar surroundings. Perhaps she is even aware that her parents are deceased. Kozuke carefully checks her wrist, and nods to himself. The IV needle is still securely taped in place, and she has not harmed herself. Kozuke notices that she is drenched with sweat again. Most of the scent from the soap he routinely washes her with is faded now, replaced with the scent of her terror. Kozuke makes a note of her status and gently tucks her in again. He strokes her hair gently and speaks softly to her. "It'll be alright now, Sugar. You'll see... you won't be alone," he murmurs.
He smiles and walks briskly towards the door. He needs to report this amazing news to the master!
The girl's eyes flutter slowly open as she feels herself slowly regaining conscious. She stares up with bleary eyes at the lacy canopy above her and sighs. What is this strange place? She thinks to herself.
"Why am I here?" she mutters under her breath. "I don't recognize this place..." she trails off. A kindly voice interrupts her disoriented musing.
"Because the master saved your life, Sugar. Good morning, by the way." The voice that spoke up seems familiar to her; even so, it makes the girl practically jump out of her skin. If it weren’t for the fact she is utterly exhausted and weakened by her long sleep without any physical exercise to keep her muscles toned, she might even have leapt out of her bed. Her eyes focus and turn anxiously towards the person who speaks to her. She blinks as she stares at the person. He is practically a stereotypical butler, seemingly well into his middle years. His hair is graying in places, and he has a kindly smile on his face.
"Have... we met before?" She frowns, muttering. She suddenly feels like rolling back over and going back to sleep, but as she considers that option, fear eats at her. If I do that, I might not wake up again… she thinks to herself, worrying.
"Ah... not quite... though I've been caring for you for a long, long time now, Sugar." He smiles and steps forward, seating himself on the edge of the bed as he usually does. "My name is Kozuke. I'm the butler here at the house that you'll be staying at... as for your condition.... Ah... well now. How to say this…” He frowns, pausing a moment. “You've been in a coma for over a year now. We don't know a thing about you or where you come from. There was no identification on your body... and all records in your parents’ car were reduced to ashes by the fire, I'm sorry to say. Do you by any chance have any memory of your life before now? Do you know your name?"
The girl blinks and frowns, her sorrow plain in her eyes. "My name is Madoka... not Sugar. And... if you think just because I have a girly name that means you can treat me like a girl, you're wrong." Madoka smiles weakly at the elderly man. For some reason she decides that she likes him, and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by lashing out at him unkindly.
He blinks and then smiles tolerantly after her statement. "Alright then... Madoka it is. It could take me awhile to get used to calling you by that name, but I shall do my best not to refer to you as Sugar."
"Why Sugar?" Madoka asks after a moment of silence. "I know I have a girlish figure, Kozuke, but no one's ever called me Sugar before... I'm not insulted or anything, I guess... it's just... I don't understand it," Madoka murmurs quietly.
"Why not Sugar?" the man returns with a smile. "Ah perhaps you weren't as pretty prior to the accident as you are now..." he murmurs with a flash of intuition. "I assure you that you're one of the prettiest girls I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. The master does amazing work. There wasn't much to work with... your hair and body features were all so horribly burned... it was a wonder that you managed to cling to life. Your insides were damaged up too, so you needed replacement donor organs as well as extensive burn care," Kozuke explains.
"Kozuke... is it? I... I'm not a girl," Madoka murmurs simply, with a wry expression. "I'm a boy... so..." the girl trails off, shaking her head. For the first time, due to that motion, she notices how long her hair is. "Huh? Wow... I really was out for a long time..." she gasps, shocked, as she examines it.
"A boy?" Kozuke questions her with a startled expression of his own. "Are you certain? You were a boy?" He blinks, suddenly appearing to be very upset.
"Yes... I'm sure..." Madoka says with a dry expression. "I checked a few times..." she chuckles, and then falls quiet, a realization dawning on her just now." Hey... w-wait... did you just say... were? As in past tense?" she gasps.
"Yes... used to be," Kozuke reaffirms. "Look... please don't hold it against the master... I saw your body when you came in... your entire genital area was charred and burned by the fire. Your whole body was a mess of blood and burns, in fact. There were no distinguishable sexual characteristics, except for your feminine figure. The master not only saved your life, he made you beautiful. So please don't think of him in an unkind manner," Kozuke murmurs, a pleading expression on his face.
The girl just stares at him, shocked, for a long moment, but weakly she reaches down between her legs. Her eyes widen again as her sense of touch confirms his statement. Madoka squeaks. "N-no way... it's another dream... I-I'm a freak now?" Her voice cracks and her eyes moisten.
"No!" Kozuke suddenly puts his hand on her head and gently strokes it. "No... you’re not a freak. From what I can see... you're every inch a girl... you aren't a freak. You're in fact very beautiful... Why, when you go back to school, I would even imagine that you will be very popular, even..." he murmurs, trying to console her. He isn’t quite sure of what to say. It is true that his master has made a horrible mistake, but the way she was when she was found, well, technically she hadn’t been a fully functional boy even then.
The girl sobs softly as Kozuke gently runs his fingers through her hair. The gesture is soothing, and soon the girl is able to relax a little.
"I... I don't know if I want to go to school... I... I should just die... my family is gone... my... whole life is... it's ruined..." she moans.
"Don't speak like that," Kozuke murmurs in a fatherly tone. "Young people should go to school. As for your family, they would want you to go on living! They would want you to be strong! If you committed suicide after everything done to save your life, how would that repay the master's kindness? Would your parents be so happy to see you that they would forget that you just threw away your life, and your chance at happiness? You have a second chance, Sugar! Don't waste it..." he implores gently.
The girl remains silent for a long moment, curling up a little under the blanket. "I don't... I don't know... I don't know how to be a girl... I don't... my family... my friends... all gone... and I'm so weak... I can hardly move," she mumbles, almost inaudibly.
"I understand. We've been massaging your muscles and using electricity to exercise your limbs, but there's only so much we could do. You need exercise. All our efforts were barely effective enough to keep your muscles from atrophy." He pats her head gently. "It will probably hurt you a great deal, but you'll walk again. Perhaps run even with time and effort." He smiles. "To that end, I have prepared a wheelchair for you. Would you perhaps like to see the garden, and take in some fresh air and sunlight? There are some people here at the mansion who would very much like to meet you. You have been something of a mystery around here ever since you arrived."
The girl stares off into space for a long quiet moment, and she takes so long to respond that Kozuke almost decides to leave her to think. "You know.... Kozuke... I... I think that's a good idea..." the girl murmurs, sitting up with obvious effort. "My parents wouldn't want me to just die... and I don't want to live this way... laying in a bed," she murmurs, forcing a smile.
Kozuke smiles at the girl, feeling his heart warmed by her words. "I understand, Sugar. Ah! I apologize." He smiles. "I can't seem to kick the old habit." He chuckles, stands up quickly, and walks over towards a corner of the room where a wheelchair waits.
Madoka frowns as she looks over at it. "That wasn't here before... did you know I was awake?" Madoka asks with a confused expression.
"Ah yes actually, you see..." Kozuke smiles as he pushes the wheelchair over to the bed. "When you were in your coma, you wouldn't move even an inch! The blanket covering you was quite rumpled so I could tell that you had moved. Also, your IV line had disconnected at the safety joint. I alerted the master and the maid of your awakening. If you feel up to it, there will be a light soup for dinner. More of a broth actually, and applesauce. We need to baby your stomach. It hasn't been used in a while." He smiles as he walks over towards the dresser. "The master has already prepared for you everything you could possibly need. Unfortunately, everything he has prepared for you... well..." he reaches into the top drawer and dangles a pair of white panties from between his fingers.
"It's all of an extremely feminine nature. You have makeup kits and all sorts of toiletries at your disposal... and we even researched the clothing that's in style for young girls of your age today," he murmurs as he skims through the drawers and produces a skirt, leggings, a blouse, and socks. Madoka winces at the sight of all the above.
"Are you serious, Kozuke? You expect me to wear that? I'd be... embarrassed." She blushes very redly. "A boy shouldn't..." Madoka trails off. Kozuke simply smiles at her.
"No offense... but I don't see a boy right now. I see a cute girl who will look simply ravishing in these clothes. No one in their right mind will think anything of it. Furthermore, it's either these clothes, or you could streak." Kozuke smiles with an amused look.
Madoka turns another shade of red at that and shakes her head vigorously. "No... no thank you. I'll wear the clothes... but I... I don't think I can..." Madoka trails off, looking at them again dubiously.
"No worries. That's part of my job. You aren't able to clothe yourself, yet. I'll do it. It was my intention to help you dress, actually." He smiles and strides over towards the bed. Kozuke carefully helps Madoka into a sitting position. "Put a hand on my shoulder to steady yourself," he murmurs and smiles approvingly when she does so. He carefully helps her into her undergarments, and then her skirt, blouse and leggings.
Kozuke lifts her easily, and gently sets her in the chair. "That didn't take as long as I thought it would," Madoka murmurs. That is not a sensation I’m particularly familiar with! Madoka thinks to herself. It is extremely embarrassing to Madoka that Kozuke is able to lift her so effortlessly.
"Alright... shall we go? If we don't hurry up, there won't be any sunshine left." Kozuke smiles down at the girl as he slowly begins to wheel Madoka out of the room she has occupied for so very long.