Tatsuya remembers the first time he stood inside a hospital. Four years old, seeing his grandfather for the last time as the man had slowly died of lung cancer. An oxygen mask had slurred the old man's words. Tatsuya had forced himself to stand still when the gnarled papery hand had reached out to pat his shoulder. He'd been terrified.
He's avoided hospitals ever since. So why, he wonders, is he pacing down the ward corridor, looking for one room in particular?
The room is number 403. Tatsuya takes a deep breath – in, out – then slides the door open. The first thing he sees is a mask. They've got Jin hooked up to more machines than Tatsuya's ever seen in his life but the oxygen mask brings it home, how close they'd come this time to losing him.
Their assistant manager, Yanagi-san, is sitting by the bed. There's a stack of files in his lap and a pen in his left hand, both forgotten. He's staring at the IV, watching the fluid drip steadily down the tube into Jin's arm.
"Hey," Tatsuya says softly. It takes a second for the word to register, then Yanagi-san looks up at him; the man's eyes are bloodshot even through his thick-framed glasses.
"Hello." Polite, formal, still on duty. Jin is the only person Yanagi-san has ever seemed to drop the act with, and Tatsuya is pretty sure he knows why.
"How is he?" Tatsuya slides the door closed behind him, takes another step into the room.
"Breathing." They both glance at the oxygen mask. It fogs for a second, then clears. Tatsuya wants to rip the damn thing off. (Only people on death's doorstep need an oxygen mask and Jin's not that weak. He can't be.) Clenching his right fist, Tatsuya thinks about punching bags instead and feels the anger begin to trickle away.
"How long have you been here?" he asks. Yanagi-san blinks, then looks at his watch.
"Since two-thirty this afternoon." It's ten past seven now. Nearly five hours. "I didn't notice– . . . I should head back to the office."
"You know he'd probably tell you to let the office hang for a night and go look after yourself." Because Jin has none of Tatsuya's hang-ups about unsought advice.
"If he practised what he preached, we wouldn't be having this conversation." For the first time, Tatsuya sees a crack in the façade, a hint of anger buried under the professional concern. Yanagi-san shifts the files from his lap into a canvas shopping bag (with more force than strictly necessary) and stands up.
"I'll leave him to you for now," Yanagi-san says, bows slightly. "See you tomorrow morning."
"Good night." Tatsuya bows automatically and watches their assistant manager leave. He understands the anger. It's a natural reaction after fear.
With a sigh, Tatsuya sits in the visitor's chair. It's pushed up against the bed, crowded in by machines. He's close enough to see Jin's eyelids, fluttering occasionally to whatever scene he's dreaming. Jin's been here for nearly a week now. When the doctor last checked on the patient, Tatsuya had been in the chair taking mental notes: ketones absent, insulin levels stabilised, respiratory infection slowly clearing, no immediate risk of diabetic coma. Simply put, Jin was going to be okay. This time.
Carefully, Tatsuya slips his hand under Jin's, carefully wraps his fingers around the palm. Squeezes. He can feel the pulse under his fingertips.
"You bastard," he whispers.
Jin's arm is a mass of flowering bruises, seeping out from where the IV needles have gone in. His first sentence will probably be a demand to know which intern used him for target practise. When he wakes up.
"Johnny's furious, you know," Tatsuya says aloud because the white noise is too much. "How dare you get sick, and right when they're planning another tour? Your mother's at the Jimusho right now, begging them to let you keep your job. I heard Yamashita's threatened to quit if you don't come back." He tries to bite his tongue but the words have been spinning in his head all day and he can't stop them. "Do you know how many people are sticking their necks out for you right now? All because you couldn't take five minutes out of a day to prick your damned finger."
Tatsuya forces himself to loosen his grip on Jin's hand. His trainer says he doesn't know his own strength sometimes, and he doesn't want to add to the patchwork on Jin's arm.
"You'll be happy to know Kame's been like a ghost all week. He breaks it off and three months later you're in hospital? If you were looking to punish him, it's working."
He hasn't been able to look Kame in the eye since they got the phone call. He can't handle seeing the normally shuttered face stripped raw with every thought screaming from Kame's eyes: I did this, it's all of it my fault, and this is only the beginning, isn't it?. Deep within himself, Tatsuya knows that's probably true.
The only response is the clouding and clearing of the oxygen mask.
"You're both so goddamned selfish." Not a thought for anyone else. Broken for three months and still completely wrapped up in each other. "Why didn't you say anything? Why couldn't you swallow your pride for ten seconds and tell us you weren't coping? We're a fucking group! We're here so none of us has to do this shit alone."
And Tatsuya can admit to himself that this is why he's so angry. Every single one of the beeping, blinking machines a testament to the fact: he'd known something was wrong, he'd just expected Jin would come to him. As surely as Kame blames himself, Tatsuya has spent the past week wondering would things be different if he'd said something? Concurrent to Jin's silence had been his own.
The sound of the door sliding open cuts off his train of thought.
"I'm sorry, sir." The duty nurse. "Visiting hours will end in five minutes."
"Thank you," he says automatically, politeness ingrained in him. She bows her head and moves on, closing the door behind her.
Other than the rise and fall of his lungs, Jin hasn't moved.
Is it guilt that keeps bringing Tatsuya here? Night after night, breathing in the scent of disinfectant and death, spilling his thoughts to a man who can't hear him. Or maybe hope, that one of these nights Jin will finally open his eyes and see Tatsuya gently cradling his hand and realise what's been right in front of him for months?
Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow then.
"Bastard," Tatsuya mutters again. Mindful of the IV needle, he places Jin's hand back on the bed. Then stands and carefully pulls down the oxygen mask. "Don't ever scare me like this again." Unconsciously he wets his lips, then brushes them over Jin's. Always so soft . . .
Jin's eyes stay closed.
(He doesn't have the heart to open them.)