When Takao wakes up for the day the first thing he does is stretch lazily in bed, a bed he hasn't slept on for almost a week. He glances at the little calendar on the wall that Midorima keeps for their schedules and meetings, smiles as he mentally encircles the 25th.
Finally it's today. The day.
The day he's been working almost to death for just so he can have his precious day off in the middle of their busy project. It hadn't been easy asking for it since they were due to release the floor plan and designs of a new retail store and condominium early next year but he bargained persistently with their head, promising he would finish more than his required task just to free up this day, hence his long separation from his and Midorima's comfy, comfy bed.
Nothing would keep him from making this Christmas an extra special one.
"Takao, I'm leaving. I left your good luck item on the counter with breakfast." Midorima peeks in the room and frowns at him lazing on the bed. "Even if you don't have work you should get up."
Takao pouts for a moment before shooting him a wide grin. "I will, I just missed the bed."
"You shouldn't have pulled all those overtimes then. I don't understand why we can't just reschedule this date of yours. I had to tell my attending surgeon I'd be leaving early today." Midorima looks put out at the memory, probably thinking he'd be missing an opportunity to assist in a surgery.
"Oh come off it Shin-chan. You need a break too, just because I haven't been coming home at night doesn't mean I don't know you're clocking in more hours. Besides, it's Christmas."
"You're not even Christian."
"That's besides the point. Anyway you'd better go Shin-chan or you'll be late." Takao's lips curves invitingly at him. "Unless you want to call in sick and stay in bed with me."
Midorima snorts, rolling his eyes. "I'm leaving."
Takao sits up and waves at Midorima's retreating figure. "See you later! Don't be late Shin-chan!"
The door slamming close is the response he gets.
By the time Takao enters their little kitchen it's already past ten in the morning, close to three hours since Midorima left. He sees the plate of food but freezes when his gaze falls on a wooden statue about one feet in height of a tanuki, complete with its oversized testicles.
"Shin-chan you've got to be kidding me." He mutters as he approaches the counter, frowning at the little monstrosity. There's no way he'd be trotting that thing around, especially tonight when he intended to propose.
Takao shakes his head as he takes his plate to heat up, a little rueful smile taking hold of his lips. Some things sure hasn't changed.
By five in the afternoon, Takao is bouncing on his feet. He's finished showering, fixing the bed, washing the dishes, even arranging the furniture(not that it really needed arranging). He's picked out his suit, even Midorima's and ironed it, letting it hang outside the closet for easier retrieval later. He checked on his ring, a simple band made of white gold with a single stripe of rose gold along the middle.
Simple and sophisticated, something Midorima could wear even when he went to work. He'd been saving up for it for months, close to a year already without giving anything away to Midorima. He wants this to be a surprise, hopefully a good one.
He closes the box, squeezes it in his grip, heart racing at the thought of proposing to Midorima. His phone vibrates and he opens it to see a message from Kise asking if everything was going as planned accompanied by a slew of excited emoticon faces. Takao grins and texts back that Midorima should be home soon and thanks him again for his help in securing reservations at one of the most exclusive restaurants, a private alcove to boot.
Kise replies with winking emoticons and a 'good luck in getting lucky tonight'. Takao is composing a joking reply when his phone shakes in his hand, the caller id flashing Midorima's name and picture.
"Hello, Shin-chan? Where are you?"
"Takao, I can't go home."
"What? Why? But we have a date."
Takao can hear a muffled sigh on the other end before Midorima says, "I know but can't we reschedule? There's going to be a surgery and I was picked to assist. It's not everyday I get to do this. And it's not like we can't go out some other time. We can go out on New Year's together."
Takao bites his lower lip, not willing to make any noise. He knows that this is important to Midorima. This is what Midorima has been working so hard for in college. Now that he's under one of the best attending surgeons, to be able to assist is one of the highest honors a relatively new resident could ever hope for. And if Midorima could show that he's capable then there's a huge possibility that he could be chosen more often to assist in surgeries.
"Takao?" There's hesistance in his voice, something like guilt starting to creep in. He knows Midorima knows how excited he's been for this date and Midorima has softened somewhat during the years they've been together. Making a decision then, Takao deliberately sets his tone into cheerful.
"It's fine Shin-chan. I understand. I know this is a huge opportunity for you."
Takao cuts him off. "But you're gonna have to make it up to me on New Year's, okay Shin-chan? You're not gonna end up reading a book and ignoring me."
He hears Midorima huff, conscience soothed, on the other side. "Fine. I won't be ignoring you. Look, I have to go now, they're starting to prep."
"Gotcha, bye Shin-chan! Don't kill anyone."
He hears Midorima mutter something like 'idiot' before he hangs up. Takao looks at his phone, the line dead and beeping softly. Well that put a damper on all his hard work.
Takao sighs, goes back to his unfinished message to Kise and delivers him the bad news.
Kise's reply is a call.
"That's so romantic Takaocchi!" Takao chokes on air at Kise's rather high-pitched imitation of a woman's voice in response to his new plan.
"Shut up. Look I planned to propose today and I'm going to. If I can't take Shin-chan to the date then I'll just have to take the date to Shin-chan."
Kise's bursts into chuckles at the other end. "Can't argue with your logic there. But still, I did go to great lengths to get you those reservations. Midorimacchi shouldn't have just bailed out on you because of a surgery. He's not even the one actually doing it."
"I know, I know and I'm really grateful but you know how important this is to Shin-chan. It wouldn't be right to make him miss out on something that could help his career."
There's a short silence before Kise says, "Midorimacchi sure is lucky he got you, huh? I mean I haven't seen anyone tolerate much less understand what goes on in that head of his. And you actually survived nine years with him, and you still want to survive more." Kise's voice is laced with a gentle seriousnes, like a sibling looking out for the odd duck in the family.
"I know. I want to spend the rest of my life with him." Takao's voice is soft, the fear that Midorima might not want to do the same niggling at the back of his mind, making him anxious.
"Well good luck on your new plan. I hope Midorimacchi appreciates all this effort you're doing."
Takao chuckles. "Thanks. I hope he appreciates it enough to say yes."
"He'd be stupid not to." Kise says. They talk a bit more about little things like how is Kuroko and are they doing well. Kise's more than happy to relate any news about the shorter man, saying that Kuroko's been learning how to cook new meals courtesty of Kagami, and that he and Kuroko are going to spend the night in for Christmas and that he's on his way to get their Christmas cake.
Takao makes a few innuendos that Kise good naturely accepts before they both say their good-byes and hang up. Takao tosses his phone on the couch and heads back to the bedroom to change into his suit. After he finishes, he checks the clock; a couple of minutes past seven. Takao wonders if Midorima's done with his surgery, last time he had to assist it was for a five hour long surgery. He decides to wait for an hour more just in case so he starts taking inventory of what he'll be bringing again. He pats his pocket, feeling reassured at the bulge the little ring box makes.
He pockets his phone and wallet before making one last overall check. He should head to Midorima's favorite coffee shop first, surely coffee is better than flowers for Midorima right now, or ever actually. Midorima isn't really the flower type.
It doesn't take more than half an hour to get to the coffee shop, there's a long line from couples and office workers spending Christmas night out. The place is decked with all sort of red and green decorations, some white for snow and there's a tiny tree on the claiming counter.
Takao smiles, orders a hot latte and one double expresso to go. The cashier cheerfully rings up his order, asking if he wanted anything else while gesturing to their array of holiday themed pastries in the glass case. Amused at the display, Takao orders two of the snowman cookies and one of their mini carrot cakes topped with cream cheese icing, a small candy carrot wearing a santa hat adorning the center, wrapped to go as well. The cashier asks him to wait for his order after he pays and Takao makes a beeline for a newly vacant seat right next to the large frosted window overlooking the streets. A lucky break for him, even without Midorima's stupid tanuki statue.
He smiles, eyeing the decorations of other shops outside, different colored light twinkling in the night as they adorned walls and doors and roofs. The sidewalk lightly dusted with snow from earlier this morning. He watches as people pass by, in pairs or groups with the occasional lone person power walking, probably to get home or somewhere for a party.
He hears his name being called and he turns to look at the counter, the lights from outside are bright, brighter even from the corner of his vision. Christmas really did bring out the lights. He stands up to get his order, already thinking about Midorima's face when he gets there.
Midorima frowns at his phone as the call to Takao doesn't go through. Again. This is his third one but everytime the operator simply tells him that the number is unavailble and to try later.
He wants to at least talk to Takao since he knows how much the idiot made such a fuss over Christmas. And he did cancel out rather rudely earlier. And even if he doesn't admit it to anyone, he does sort of want to hear Takao's voice after that intense surgery. The focus and precision it demanded took a toll even on him, and yet he felt alive, adrenaline rushing through him from the success of the surgery. Something he wants to share with Takao if only that idiot would answer his phone.
He's about to try again when a harried looking nurse calls for his attention.
"What is it?"
"Dr. Midorima, you're needed in one of the operating rooms! There's been an accident not far from here, a car lost control and smashed into a coffee shop. One of the patients admitted is in critical condition since he took the brunt of the impact. He took a lot of head trauma. Dr. Osamu wants you to assist again if you can."
Midorima blinks, twice in one day? How lucky could he get? And Dr. Osamu wanted his help again. He closes a hand around the small omamori in his pocket, his lucky item for the day. That patient however had horrible luck today, Midorima thinks, perhaps he was a Scorpio and didn't bring his lucky item with him, Oha Asa did predict an abyssmal luck ranking for Scorpios. Good thing Midorima had one ready for Takao today.
"Of course, I'll be right there." The nurse nods and runs off, presumably to help the influx of emergency patients. Midorima takes one last glance at his phone before he pockets it. He can call Takao later.
He stops short when he enters the operating room and glances at the patient. He feels like he's been punched in the gut; his lungs constricting, resistant to take in air. His hands begin to feel cold, like the blood is draining from them under his surgical gloves.
It can't be.
It must be only someone who looks like him.
Someone with the same dark hair, same the features, same build. Of course, that's the explanation. Takao isn't that pale (although he could be if he lost a large amount of blood, just like the report says). Takao is at home because he cancelled their date (not here, not on the operating table with his life teetering on the edge). This isn't Takao. It couldn't be. It's not
"Dr. Midorima? Is something the matter?"
Midorima blinks, looks up to the masked face of his senior then glances back to the patient (it's not Takao, it's not, it's not ...) before shaking his head. "No sir, I'm ready to begin." He says, composing himself, expecting no less from the calm of his voice.
Dr. Osamu directs him just like he always does and they target the critical areas first. There's a massive damage to his lungs, a huge wound by his abdomen and an arm broken in two places but what worries them most is the head trauma, there could be internal bleeding from a closed head injury that needed to be fixed by surgery but the patient's body is too unstable for any kind of brain surgery. The best course of action is to fix the other areas as quickly and precisely as possible to put him in a stable condition before attacking the brain injury.
They work as fast as they can without sacrificing the integrity of their work and Midorima refuses to look at the patient's face, if he doesn't look then he won't remember Takao. Takao who is supposed to be at home watching TV and sulking, not caught up in an accident. If he doesn't look then he can pretend that this is not Takao, that this is just another patient they have to save and that every beep that takes a little too long to sound doesn't send his pulse racing in fear, making his hand tremble ever so slightly.
His breath is warm as it fans back to his skin, trapped by the mask he wears. He feels sweat beading on his brow, one droplet rolling down from his temple to the side of his face. His eyes blur behind his glasses, stinging when he blinks from the dryness of keeping it open and focused for too long. His skin prickles like a thousand needles, and there's a sick feeling in his gut like he wants to throw up with an empty stomach when he sees that no matter how much they work the patient is only slipping farther and farther from their grasp.
Midorima has never had a patient die under his hands. Not any of the surgeries he's ever assisted had gone wrong. He swallows, tasting something acid, burning against his throat. He's been told of the signs of a lost cause, a surgery that will fail even if you will it not to. Midorima remembers when Dr. Osamu first gave his batch of residents a small speech: "Even when you've done your best, doctors are not gods and they can't alter the decision of life and death once it's been decided. Try your best, do everything you possibly can and leave the rest to fate."
It was something that resonated with Midorima, after all isn't that the same way he's been living his whole life?
Except this. This surgery had all the signs. And they had done
-- are still doing everything that they possibly can but when he glances at his senior surgeon, the panic he's not accustomed to wells inside him at the realization that even the best surgeon in the hospital had seen the signs that this will be a lost cause. That of all the surgeries, his first encounter with failure, with death is this one.
And when it hits home that this is going to fail, that this is Takao, a soft distressed sound slips from his lips and he freezes, heart rapidly beating in his chest. He stumbles back, hands trembling as he sees the blood on them. Takao's blood. He's breathing hard, gasping at the inadequacy of air going in his lung. There's spots dancing in his vision, the corners blackening as he feels bile rising up to his throat.
Midorima isn't sure how long he's been gone or how long he's been staring at the discarded robe and gloves but his head whips up when the door to the resident's resting room opens, letting the light from the hallway spill in the dimly lit room.
Dr. Osamu enters, closing the door and taking a seat beside Midorima.
"I'm sorry." He croaks, throat dry from all the heaving that didn't really bring up anything. His eyes sting but he hasn't cried; he doesn't know why. He takes a trembling breath, daring not to look at the older man. "Did he
--" make it?
"No, I'm sorry Midorima-kun," Dr. Osamu starts, a hand placed on his shoulder in a fatherly manner. "We did everything we possibly could. You understand that we cannot save everyone, right? And all we can do is try and give our best."
He does. He knows. He just doesn't understand why he couldn't save this one, why couldn't he save Takao.
"I knew him." He says, and there's a startled expression on the older doctor and then a shift as he pieces the puzzles.
"I know I should have said something." Midorima interrupts. "I know it's practice to not let a surgeon be too close to a patient because it'll cloud their judgement but it didn't. At least not during the first part."
Dr. Osamu nods, understanding. "Who is he? A friend?"
Midorima worries his lower lip, gaze unfocusing. Takao is more than a friend certainly but he's not exactly comfortable in disclosing their actual relationship. Lovers and more, something that was supposed to be forever. "The closest one I have. He's...He's almost like family."
"I'm sorry then for your loss. Perhaps you would like to take his belongings. We tried to contact his parents but they were unreachable."
"They're on an overseas trip." Midorima says, recalling Takao's mother calling them about it. His gut clenches at the thought of him delivering the news of Takao's death.
"I see. Well, see the head nurse to get his things and..." The older man watches him, deciding. "And if you want, you can visit him down at the morgue. I'll tell them that you're the family. After that you should head home for tonight. Take some days off, to rest and to get back on your feet."
Midorima nods, trying to feel grateful but failing. When the door clicks shut, Midorima stares at the bloody gloves on top of the robe in the corner.
His head begins to throb as he walks under the bright fluorescent lights of the hospital. Midorima had been to the morgue before, mostly for study and one hospital tour and he's never been afraid. After all, ghosts and the dead rising are all silly superstitions, nothing to worry about. But as he pushes the down button of the staff elevator, his hand trembles and his legs feel like lead when he moves to get on.
It's a quiet place, the morgue. The lights on the hallways leading to the huge room are dimer than normal, and the whole place is colder. When he enters, there's only one person there and he recognizes him. The older employee sends him a pitying glance before pulling a sheet partway off the one body outside.
As Midorima draws closer to the body he thinks that this is not a place for Takao. Takao should be outside with the lights and the people and the noise, complaining about the cold and sipping something warm and sweet, teasing and smiling, not in this place, not lying on that table cold and lifeless, face peaceful like he's only sleeping except he's not.
He takes a breath, hand reaching out to tentatively touch Takao's cheek. Cold is the first thing that comes to his mind. It's been a couple of hours since he left the operating room, since Takao died, this is to be expected.
He brushes his fingers across the side of Takao's face, follows the bridge of his nose with a finger, touches the pads of his fingers to his lips, dry and chapped and blue-tinged, lingering. He realizes he seldom examines Takao's face like this; Takao is always moving, always living that it's rare to keep him still, lips curving into a smile or pushing into a pout, eyes blinking rapidly or shining with excitement, pulling him along with all his shenanigans. Or when he's angry and his grey eyes flashes like a raging storm, when they fight it's loud, and when they make-up Takao makes sure they're even louder.
And now they'll never be loud.
There won't be a Takao waiting for him at home. There won't be a Takao sending him text messages with silly emoticons wishing him a good day. There won't be a Takao to remind him that it's okay to have fun once in a while. There won't be a Takao to bother him when he's reading. There won't be a Takao to scold for leaving clothes all over their apartment.
There won't be a Takao. Ever.
His gaze flicks to the employee who moved to the other side of the room, looking at files, to give him some privacy then back to Takao. This would be the last time he could be alone with him like this, the next time they'd meet would be at his funeral when his parents came back. And for once Midorima throws propriety out the window, so what if kissing a dead body is bad form, so what if they're both guys. Takao is already family even if he doesn't say it, able to charm his mother and make his father grudgingly accept that his chosen profession is a good one despite it not being related to the medical field. So he leans down and presses his lips to cold ones, their last kiss.
When he pulls up, he sees the employee glancing at them, eyes wide but he doesn't say anything. Midorima schools his expression, takes one last glance at Takao (longing for this to be a dream or a joke, anything just so Takao would open his eyes and come back) and pulls the cover up over his head.
He thanks the other man before he strides away.
Midorima spots the head nurse and calls for her attention, briefly explaining that the deceased Takao Kazunari's possession would be handed over to him since his parents couldn't come. Her eyes, wide brown ones, filled with pity when she realized that he and the deceased were friends. She hurriedly got his things; just a coat, his cellphone(amazingly still functioning even if the screen is slightly cracked) and a wallet.
She offered him a kind sympathetic smile as she hands him Takao's personal effects, apologizing that she had to continue her rounds before leaving him. Midorima rubs his temples, taking a seat at an available chair. The coat shifts from where it hangs across his arm and a small dark purple box tumbles out. Midorima picks it up, curious. Surprise hits him when he realizes it's a ring box. Why would Takao have a ring box? He opens it and admires the simple ring inside, made of good quality but not ostentanious. A perfect ring for an elegant, mature woman who knew her worth.
Suddenly he recalls the words the nurse who called him for the operation. Takao was at a coffee shop, far from their place. Takao was dressed up in a fancy suit despite him cancelling on their date. Takao had a ring with him.
What was Takao up to?
Who was he meeting?
Was she one of the emergency patients admitted here?
Startled by the onslaught of thoughts, he drops the box and it bounces a bit before rolling a few steps away from him.
He remembers Takao being persistent about the date they'd set for today
--no, it was yesterday. He remembers Takao saying he needed to tell him something. Midorima glares at the little box. Did Takao arrange the date to break up with him because he found someone he wanted to marry? That would explain the ring. That would explain why he was out, probably meeting the woman and telling her that he didn't manage to break up with Midorima yet.
Midorima grits his teeth, angry at the circumstance he's envisioning, angry at that faceless woman, angry at Takao and himself. If Takao would've just waited at home, he would still be alive. If he didn't meet that woman in the coffee shop he wouldn't be caught up in an accident and Takao would still be alive. If Midorima didn't cancel out on him, they would be at a restaurant, Takao telling him that they would be better off separated and Takao would still be alive. Surely waiting one more night wouldn't be such a trial.
He picks up the ring box, squeezing it in his palm. He could ask for the records of the patients that arrived from the accident and he could check which one would be the likely candidate. She would want this ring.
He's about to go off to find the head nurse when Takao's phone vibrates, followed by the tune of his ringtone. Midorima stares at the screen, making out Kise's face in the picture and his name. Why would Kise be calling?
"Kise, why are you calling?"
The other end crackles before he hears Kise's reply. "Oh ho! Midorimacchi, why do you have Takao's phone? Oh I know is he otherwise occupied ?" There's a chuckle that grates on Midorima's nerve. "I guess everything went well, huh?"
"What do you mean?"
Kise clicks his tongue. "Don't hide it Midorimacchi, I know all about it. I even helped Takaocchi plan. By the way, you really shouldn't bail on him next time. I had to pull so many strings just to get you two those reservations but it ended up for nothing. Just imagine you were supposed to be proposed to in one of the most exclusive restaurants with the breathtaking view and romantic atmosphere, instead Takaocchi had to do it in a hospital." There's a sigh. "Really, Midorimacchi, a hospital. How could that even be romantic?"
"Kise...what are you talking about..." It couldn't be, no, Takao was meeting up with someone else at the coffee shop a few blocks from here.
There's an odd silence on Kise's end and a barely audible curse. "Takaocchi didn't do it yet? Crap, crap, crap! He'll kill me. Look I can't say anything else okay, just that he told me if you can't go to the date, Takaocchi will bring the date to you. Please act surprised when he pops the question. I can't believe I ruined the surprise..."
It's an awful moment when everything fits into place. His hand go numb and the phone slips taking Kise's voice, smashing to the floor, skidding a few steps, the light on the screen still blinking.
He remembers now, the coffee shop where the accident took place is his favorite; he remembers meeting Takao there twice during his break, remember telling him they made the best expresso. He stares at the ring box; flipping the top open, he examines the ring with new eyes. It's simple, elegant, something he could wear. Takao knew he doesn't like flashy things.
This isn't for some other woman. It's for him.
Takao didn't intend to break up with him. He was going to...to propose.
Throat tight, he takes the ring out (it really is an exquisite ring), holds it up, watching the glare of the light reflected, bounce off.
This is his ring. Takao was going to give him this ring.
It's his fault that Takao died.
If he hadn't cancelled, if he was better at surgeries, if he just for once put Takao first before his career none of this would have happened.
He feels sick, he can't stay here. He stumbles as he hurries to the exit, ring in his fist. He needs to get away.
The cold air greets him as he steps outside, it cuts through the cloth of his doctor's coat, his pants and top. It's freezing but Midorima bears it. Nothing could be colder than Takao's skin, lying on the metal slab.
He walks, blind to everything else. Uncaring if he bumps into people, or if someone shouts at him, or if horns blare so close to him. Or if a set of bright headlights heads towards him.