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"Taichou..."  Sai paused, shifted on the hard plastic seat next to Yamato's bed, uncertain and...'out of his element', he believed the proper phrase was.

Yamato lay there, entirely unresponsive, eyes closed and breath even.  One might have thought him to be sleeping, if not for the oxygen mask strapped over his nose and mouth or the slow beeping of the monitor to which he was attached.

He'd been found by search teams after the final battle, battered and comatose, had been brought to Kumogakure and straight to their hospital.  Kumo's mednin had worked tirelessly alongside Konoha's best to heal and stabilize him; his chakra reserves were all but decimated, however, and there came a point when the only remaining course of action was to let him be, give his body all the needed resources to rebuild those reserves and wait for him to wake up on his own.

Sai had read the body language of his teammates as they stood over their fallen comrade—the stiffness in Kakashi-senpai's shoulders and the rigid set of his jaw that meant he blamed himself at least in part for this outcome, the fierce stubbornness in Naruto's balled fists that betrayed his frustration at not being able to physically pummel Yamato's coma into defeat, the determination in Sakura's movements while checking vital-sign monitors and adjusting the flow of intravenous solution that said she wasn't about to let Yamato die, not on her watch—and he wondered what they might in turn read in him.

Did he seem unaffected in their eyes?  Unconcerned?  Such perceptions would be...inaccurate, but he did not know precisely how to label his current state of mind, much less how to telegraph it to others.

His own feelings were...complex.  There was no doubt that his emotions were involved, but while he'd begun to recognize their existence he was frequently uncertain of the proper labels to identify them, was still puzzling through their causes and effects and interactions more often than not.

Tsunade-sama had said that talking to Yamato might aid his recovery, that sometimes those in a coma could still be aware on subconscious levels of the world around them and be receptive to outside stimuli.  Today Sai had come to see him alone, wanting the quiet and solitude to focus on his thoughts, his emotions, and analyze them without interruption.  Yamato had always been...helpful, when Sai needed to sort out impressions and confusion regarding interpersonal behavior and social bonds; Sai didn't think that a one-sided conversation would be nearly as enlightening, but it would at least give him something to say.

"Yamato-taichou...can you hear me?  Hokage-sama said perhaps you might be able to.  I hope that you can; I have...feelings that I don't fully understand, and speaking with you has frequently proven helpful in the past."  He paused again, uncertain how best to converse when Yamato could not participate but deciding to order his thoughts the same way he did when reporting his findings from a reconnaissance mission.

"I have been paying particular attention to the emotions I can feel since the war ended.  I am pleased that the fighting is over.  I am pleased that the Shinobi Alliance seems inclined to continue.  I am...relieved, that none of my teammates are dead.  I feel respect for those who died in the war.  I have observed many people from all the villages expressing similar feelings and I am confident that these are all expected and predictable responses.  But there are others that puzzle me somewhat."  He recalled that Sakura had advised touch and physical contact when talking to Yamato, any kind of sensory stimulus that might reach him; carefully, he arranged himself so that he could comfortably slide one hand beneath Yamato's on the bed, palm to palm, not unlike he had learned to do on their date many months ago.  "I have found myself giving more thought to your recovery than anyone else's, Taichou, and I am...puzzled, to realize this."

Kakashi had been briefly hospitalized as well, for chakra depletion and physical injury, but he had been released again after only a couple of days.  He was not yet back to full strength, but Kakashi was resilient, and stubborn, and Sai did not doubt that he would recover fully. 

Yamato was also stubborn and resilient, but Sai found himself inordinately concerned that Yamato might succumb to his coma, succumb to the damage dealt him despite the fact that Kakashi's physical injuries had been more severe.

"I do not understand my preoccupation," he continued.  "Many people were hurt in this war.  Gai-san is recovering from injuries far worse than yours, but I do not find myself concerned for him, not the way I am concerned for you.  Yet your body is in fair health at this point; all that remains is for your chakra reserves to rebuild and your brain to wake up.  I have been assured that this is routine.  The mednin who have spoken with me have primarily expressed optimism that you will recover fully.  It would make more sense for me to be concerned with plans to return to Konoha and how to strengthen our political alliances than when or if you will come to."

He shifted, swept his thumb lightly over the back of Yamato's hand.  "But...Yamato-taichou, you are the subject I think about most."

This was attachment, he was beginning to recognize, something that had been quietly building for months, and he did not know what to do about it.

"I feel...many things when I think about you," he said quietly, "and I need your help to make sense of them all.  You have always been...a good listener, and I rely on your counsel."  He relied on it far more than he had realized before Yamato was taken; it was Yamato's absence that had begun to bring all these feelings to light.

"Yamato-taichou, I don't know who else to talk to; Naruto and Sakura and Kakashi have never had the same...understanding, that I found in you.  Should you fail to wake up—"

He cut himself off; the thought was not a pleasant one.

He did not know what he would do if Yamato died.

He shifted in his seat, leaning marginally closer to Yamato, still holding Yamato's hand with steadfast determination that his taichou would somehow realize he was there.

"I do not believe that you will die; your body has been repaired and healed by the most highly-skilled medic-nin and they say the only reason you might fail to recover would be if you had 'given up', if you decided that death would be preferable to life.  In my observation, you are not the kind of person who would reach that conclusion unduly."  Sai was unaware that he was pressing Yamato's hand between both of his own now, did not realize how tightly he held it.  "Yamato-taichou, it is safe for you to continue living.  The war is over and the Alliance is victorious.  You cannot be used by the enemy any longer.  There are people here who will be distraught if you never wake up.  I will be..."  He paused, uncertain if what he felt in the pit of his stomach at the idea was enough to qualify for such an emotionally-evocative word as 'distraught'.  "...disappointed, if you never wake up."  He wasn't sure that was the right word either, but let it stand.  "Taichou—Yamato-senpai—please wake up soon. not want you to die."

Silence settled over the room, broken only by the slow, steady beep of the monitor.  Yamato's face remained unchanged beneath the oxygen mask, pale and peaceful and utterly unaware.

Sai let his gaze drift down to Yamato's hand, somewhat surprised to find it gripped securely in both of his own.

When had he done that?

Attachment, he thought again briefly, like a flash in his mind, and squeezed Yamato's hand gently.

There was no response.

"Please wake up," he repeated, barely more than a whisper, and wondered what the proper name was for this sodden weight of emotion sitting heavy in his chest.