all faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor. - walt whitman
Viktor clocks in at exactly 19:04 in the evening and grabs his coffee, unhurried. The nurse he’s replacing has already worked for twelve hours, a few more minutes won’t hurt them. He ambles up the stairs and past Obstetrics, turns the corner into Inpatient and nearly runs smack into Sara Crispino.
“Oh,” Viktor says mournfully as he watches his coffee slip out of his fingers and empty onto the floor.
“Oops,” Sara says, wincing a little. “Sorry about that. Tragedy, considering the night you’ve got ahead of you.”
“Perfect,” Viktor mumbles. “Long Night or Short Night?”
There are two kinds of shifts in little hospitals like this one. Everyone works twelve hour shifts on the floor, but there are what overnight staff unanimously call Long Nights and Short Nights.
Short Nights test Viktor as a medical professional. They’re the kind of shift where everything goes wrong — maybe they get six serious acute admits at once, and maybe the unit has to be opened because someone’s critical which takes a nurse away from the floor because critical patients are one-on-one, and maybe that person codes and has to be flown out by helicopter, and then maybe the fire alarm goes off and they’re hauling patients and IV stands out of their rooms. Short Nights are the shifts without a moment to breathe, the shifts where ‘needs must,’ where paperwork gets shoved onto the back-burner while Viktor’s busy keeping people alive.
Viktor doesn’t mind these kinds of nights — in fact, depending on his mood, he thrives on them. The excitement of nursing is what compelled him to go into the field in the first place, so he prefers these crazy shifts over the Long Nights.
Because honestly, Long Nights are torturous in their boredom. They’re the kind of nights that make his butt go numb from too much sitting because all of the patients are sleeping and none of them need any medication administered. Viktor has never fallen asleep on the job per se, because he really doesn’t want to get fired, but there have been a few close calls — including the time he’d nodded off and accidentally woke himself up when his face slipped off of his propped up hand and he hit the desk nose-first. It’s the kind of shift that he stumbles out of, blinking in the light of day like some kind of zombie, barely able to feed and walk Makkachin before he gives into the siren song of his bed.
Viktor stares at Sara and silently begs for a Short Night.
She winces, and Viktor’s hopes promptly plummet to despair.
“I’ll...go make you another coffee before I leave,” she mumbles before launching into her report.
Thank goodness for small mercies.
They get the call from the Emergency Room at exactly 23:37. Viktor knows this because he’s spent the last few hours staring at the clock, praying for the hands to move faster.
Chris answers the phone with a jovial smile, but his face quickly turns serious as he listens to whatever the person on the other end tells him. Apparently there’s a lot to say.
“Well, Long Night’s over,” Chris announces after a fifteen minute report. “We’ve got an admit.”
“What is it?” Mila asks, trying and failing not to look relieved for something to do other than the ongoing (and vicious) game of Uno with the other aides.
“It’s a surgical, a twenty-three year old male. Broken left radius and ulna, possible concussion, possible rib contusion on the left side. It was a car accident,” Chris explains at Viktor’s and Mila’s twin looks of surprise. “This kid, Katsuki, was driving. There was one other in the passenger seat but Leo said he’ll be released to home. He sounded exasperated though, so I imagine ‘release to home’ means ‘release to spend night on Inpatient with friend.’”
“When’s he coming up?” Mila asks, looking longingly at the Uno cards lying face down on the nurses’ desk. She must’ve had a good hand.
“He’s on his way now. Orthopaedic surgeon is already done with him.”
Viktor winces. Emergency surgery for a radius and ulna break means the break is bad or there’s an open wound and they’re worried about infection. Poor kid. Viktor hopes he’s not left-handed, because he won’t be using that arm for a while.
They get Katsuki about an hour later — apparently ‘on his way’ is Doctor Speak for ‘you’ll get him when you get him’ which, honestly, isn’t surprising at all. At first when the surgical team brings him up all Viktor can see is a tuft of messy black hair and a forehead emerging from the blankets.
Viktor knows he’s probably going to have to one-on-one with Katsuki because of his possible concussion diagnosis, and because Yakov still hasn’t forgiven him for the last shift they worked together, when he caught Viktor in the process of seran-wrapping his entire office. The aides are busy hooking Katuski up to necessary monitors and settling him in for a long, long night, so there’s not much for Viktor to do other than familiarize himself with his new patient.
He flips through slowly, noting Katsuki’s allergies (amoxicillin) and that he’s a foreign student studying at Wayne State if his address is correct. The doctor’s notes are nothing more than scribbles but Viktor’s practiced at deciphering, and it’s just as Chris reported — messy breaks to the ulna and radius both, bruised ribs, concussion watch. The car accident chart comes with crude sketches of the scene and the severity of it takes Viktor’s breath away, just a little.
The notes say Katsuki and his friend Chulanont were traveling at speed limit when they were hit on the driver’s side door by an SUV running a red light. Katsuki had had his arm propped up along the window, which explains the breaks. The orthopaedic surgeon included notes of his own, indicating that Katsuki’d had screws and plates put in.
There’s also a picture for identification, and Viktor bites his lip at the sight of Katsuki’s wide, soft brown eyes and sweetly rounded cheeks. He’s undeniably beautiful.
There are other notes as well, about the general anesthesia he’d been under and stuff about the ambulatory care he’d received. Viktor has read enough, and his heart aches a little for the pain this kid must’ve gone through. He hopes he can help take it away.
When he makes his way into the room, Katsuki’s already awake and chatting groggily to a cute brown kid sitting next to his uninjured side. The kid has an ice pack sitting on his neck and a couple gashes on his temple held together by butterfly tape. They both look up when he pushes aside the privacy curtain, and Katsuki’s eyes go comically wide when they land on Viktor and he lets out a little breathy ‘oh!’ of surprise.
“Hi, my name is Viktor. I’m your nurse and I’ll be taking care of you tonight!”
“Hi. You can take care of me every night,” Katsuki replies a bit dazedly. Viktor stares at the pink spreading across Katsuki’s cheeks with parted lips.
His friend giggles and Viktor’s mouth snaps shut. It’s not the first time he’s been hit on by someone still under the influence of anesthesia, but it’s the first time it’s been done by someone so attractive.
“I’m Phichit, and this is Yuuri,” the friend says cheerfully. He looks like he’s enjoying every minute of his friend’s anesthesia-induced honesty.
“Nice to meet you. I’m afraid you’ll be here for a while, Yuuri, so I’m sure you’ll see me around quite a bit,” he says, trying to recover some of his dignity. “I’m going to check your blood pressure and heart rate — basic things we need to monitor as you come down from your anesthesia.”
“Hm.. Are you sure you’re a nurse?” Katsuki asks, suddenly squinty-eyed. “You’re too pretty to be a nurse.” He reaches out with his good arm and pats whatever part of Viktor he can reach, which happens to be his thigh since Viktor is standing. “I think you should be a — a model. I’d buy magazines with you on the cover.”
Viktor feels the flush crawl up his neck and spread across his cheeks. Katsuki is just so earnest and matter of fact with his praise, and so pretty even mussed and pale from surgery, it makes Viktor feel flustered and a little out of his depth.
“I — yes, I’m definitely a nurse. Last time I checked, anyway. Um.” Oh lord. “I’m going to check you over now, is it okay to touch you?”
Yuuri hums his affirmative, but other than that it’s quiet while Viktor works, pressing his stethoscope to Yuuri’s chest to test the capacity of his lungs (somewhat reduced due to the rib contusion) and checking the function of his IV and saline drips. Yuuri’s body is warm and soft beneath his hands.
He asks a couple of standard questions for monitoring concussions and when Yuuri answers them confidently and correctly he steps back and mutters a quiet “good job, Yuuri” that has Yuuri glowing.
“Okay, you — uh, everything looks good,” Viktor says, clearing his throat. He pretends not to notice the smug little grin flirting at the edges of Phichit’s mouth.
“Your heart rate is a little fast, considering — ”
“Probably because I’m thinking about how much I want to date you,” Yuuri says conversationally. “And because you smell really good.”
“Be my boyfriend, Viktor!”
Viktor feels his heart rate kick up at Yuuri’s earnest expression. The impulsive part of him wants to say yes, but he’s got more integrity than that.
“Ask me again in the morning, okay?” He strokes a hand through Yuuri’s hair and smiles when he leans into the touch. Yuuri will forget; he’ll have other things to think about besides Viktor.
He turns to Phichit instead, since he sincerely doubts Yuuri is capable of comprehending complex instructions. “He may have some trouble taking deep breaths because of his rib injury and he will need to cough a couple of times an hour when he’s awake to make sure no liquid settles in his lungs. I don’t think he’s got a concussion but we’ll watch him just in case.”
He pauses because Phichit is just…staring at him. Specifically at the hand still in Yuuri’s hair. With his phone out. Right. “Did you, um, get all that?”
“Yep,” he says, popping the p. Viktor has a bad feeling about the phone.
“Right. Well. Hit the alarm if you need anything in the meantime.”
As he walks out of the room he can hear Yuuri stage-whispering, “I hate for him to go, but I love to watch him leave,” and Phichit’s soft, tired laughter.
Viktor checks in on them through the night as promised.
It doesn’t take long for Yuuri to fall asleep once he makes it through the anesthetics and is given a little bit of pain medicine — not enough to really put a dent in what he must be feeling, but enough to dull the sharper edges. His friend dozes off and on in the chair before he moves to the couch, so Viktor takes the lukewarm ice pack and drapes a scratchy blanket over him, and cares for Yuuri as quietly as he can.
He’s thought this before, but Yuuri is really beautiful — even more so when he’s asleep and relaxed. Like this Yuuri is loose and long-limbed, and the lines around his eyes — likely a product of pain and fear — have softened into nothing. His long lashes brush shadows onto cheeks that look full of color, and his chest rises and falls with only the smallest hitch as he breathes.
It’s a relief, really. Yuuri’s injuries are not life threatening per se, but Viktor’s been around long enough to know that sometimes even the most mundane surgeries or injuries can surprise you.
Viktor likes surprises, but not that kind.
So Viktor spends his night checking Yuuri’s saline drip and making sure the IV isn’t disturbed in his sleep, because tugging and pulling can hurt. He spends the night checking blood pressure and heart rate and marveling at each one of Yuuri’s breaths as he listens for fluid settling in his lungs. He spends his night soothing each of Yuuri’s little nose scrunches and finger twitches with gentle fingers and gentler words, hoping his patient can somehow get a good night’s rest to heal.
Each time he emerges from the room, Chris and Mila tease him for his obvious interest. He knows he deserves it; he also knows he doesn’t care — Yuuri intrigues him more than anything else has in a long while. He doesn’t know Yuuri but he wants to, and that’s enough. He just hopes that, come morning, Yuuri remembers and wants to know him, too.
Sara clocks in at precisely 6:59 because she isn’t a monster like Viktor, which means the report is given and over with by 7:14. She goes off to make her coffee like she does every morning, and Viktor goes to knock on Yuuri’s door.
For a moment it’s dead quiet on the other side. Viktor wonders vaguely if they’re still sleeping, which is entirely possible given the night they had — but then there’s an unexpected burst of noise and a flurry of activity. He thinks maybe he can hear the sound of Yuuri’s voice, high pitched and panicked, and the counterweight of soothing tones of his friend. A minute later Phichit’s face fills his vision as he opens the door with a wink and a tiny grin, ushering Viktor inside.
“I’ll leave you to it,” he says and sashays out, leaving Viktor alone with his patient and a budding, delicate hope that maybe Yuuri does remember what he’d offered last night.
“Good morning, Yuuri!” Viktor says, moving the privacy curtain aside and coming face to face with a wide awake and flushed Yuuri. He looks incredible for someone who went through hell just a few hours previous, Viktor notes. He tries very hard not to think about how messy bedhair looks good on him, and fails.
(Because it looks good. Really good.
It looks like tendrils of ink curling messily across his forehead and over the tops of his ears, like the kind of hair that might stick up if Viktor ran his hands through it.
And (un)fortunately Viktor already knows firsthand how soft it feels beneath his fingers.)
Yuuri stares up at him with glossy cinnamon eyes, shy and soft and a little apprehensive about Viktor’s presence, but he’s making eye contact all the same, and the warmth of the hope in Viktor’s chest grows and grows.
“I’m off duty for now, but Sara will be your nurse for the day,” he says, voice warm in the small space between them. “She’s really sweet and funny, so I think you’ll like her. But I’ll be back again tonight to take care of you again.”
“Ah,” Yuuri says, looking at his hands clenching and unclenching the sheets at his thighs. “Um. It’s just — hospital food? I hear it’s pretty terrible.”
“Um, I think that — that feeding me terrible hospital food might constitute poor conduct as my nurse, since you’re supposed to be taking care of me.”
Viktor — grins.
“How about I bring you pasta instead? From that little Italian diner near the university?”
The corner of Yuuri’s lips pull up and when he lifts his head Viktor’s hit with the most breathtaking smile, like the sun coming up over the horizon after an achingly Long Night.
“I think...it’s a date.”