“The doc’s got instructions to call you if I kick it,” Date said, offering a weak smile that Gotou didn’t return. “So you won’t be left in the dark, at least.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“Hey, I gotta cover all my bases, right?”
“Listen,” he said, dropping the smile. He looked deadly serious, and smaller than Gotou had ever seen him. “There are a million and one ways this could go wrong. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it’ll go wrong in a way I can tell you about later. But if I’m not that lucky...Gotou-chan...”
He reached out to cup Gotou’s cheek. Gotou took his hand and squeezed firmly, then met his eyes.
“No more talk like that,” he commanded. “Not now.”
Riding a sudden wave of boldness, he stood up on his toes to meet Date’s lips. Date grunted in surprise before lifting him off the ground, returning the kiss with everything he had, like he needed to, like it was—
Gotou pushed himself away, let Date place his feet back on the ground.
“After,” he said. “After you come home. We’ll put this on hold, and- and then we'll pick up where we left off, okay?”
“I’ll see you soon, Date-san.” He turned towards the door. “Take care of yourself.”
Then he turned and walked out, refusing to cry, repeating to himself with every step that goodbyes weren’t in order.
Now Gotou is pacing the floor of the restaurant, scaring off Chiyoko’s customers (she insists she doesn’t mind, for which he’s grateful). He knows the day of the surgery, and roughly how long it should take, and that Date is most likely in one of three time zones, and that they usually try to start these things early in the morning, which, all in all, leaves a six-hour window for when Gotou should get this call.
He’s been pacing the whole damn day.
The call will come from an unknown number. It should be Date on the other line. It should be, anyway, as long as— no, it will be.
When the phone rings, his stomach drops to the floor, and it’s all he can do to stay standing. Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he answers.
“This is Gotou.”
At the sound of Date’s voice, something cracks and bursts open in Gotou’s chest, flooding him with relief. “Are you okay?” he asks. “Did they get it out? Are you— are you okay?”
“It’s OUT!” he says in English, and Gotou can hear how wide his smile is. “Whole thing went off without a hitch.”
“Oh. Oh, thank god.” His knees buckle. Someone shoves a chair under him. He laughs. He’s vaguely aware that he’s shaking, that someone’s hugging him, that a sob is rising up in his throat. But his consciousness is consumed by this, by Date, by the fact that Date is going to live.
“What,” Date says, “don’t tell me you were worried?”
Gotou chokes out a laugh.
“Gotou-chan, I was always gonna be fine! I know this doctor, she’s the best! Gave me an extra pillow and everything. And I’m gonna have this sweeeeet scar. It’s all wrapped up now, but it kinda feels like— Ooh. Ah.”
“Date-san, please don’t poke the incision.”
“No, it’s okay, I’m a doctor.”
Eiji brings over a cup of tea, and whispers that they’ll clear out and give him a little privacy. Gotou nods, grateful, still dazed.
“I’ve got a whole life to live now,” Date muses. “A whole life. And Gotou-chan...maybe this is kinda cheesy, but I want to spend it with you.”
Gotou chokes on his tea. He puts the cup down slowly, trying to keep in check whatever his heart is doing, replaying Date’s voice over and over in his head to make sure he really said that. “You…” he starts, then stops, remembering caution. “You’re on a lot of painkillers right now, Date-san.”
“You should probably get some rest.”
“But I want to talk to you!”
“Just...just don’t say anything you’ll have to take back later, okay.”
“Oh.” Date pauses. “Oh, nooo no no no no. Oh, Gotou-chan.” He takes a breath, speaks slower, like he’s trying to concentrate on what he says. “If I was holding back before, it was because I needed my hundred mil, or else…” Gotou hears a burst of static that he assumes is Date blowing a raspberry. “But that’s not a problem anymore, is it?”
Gotou smiles. “No, it’s not.”
"Nothing to stop me from kissing you stupid."
"I mean it, okay? I'd have to be an idiot to take that back."
Gotou chuckles. “Well…”
“Did-did you just make a joke?” Date bursts into laughter. “You did! Oh, you’re learning to make jokes, I’m so proud!” He keeps laughing in a way that’s so Date, so warm and ridiculous and very, very alive, that Gotou’s only a little surprised when he finds himself bursting into tears.
Date’s voice turns soft again with remarkable speed. “Hey,” he says, “hey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Gotou sobs. “Nothing, I’m—” It feels like weeks of tension and sadness and heart-stopping fear are working their way out of his system, untangling themselves from the threads of his muscles, rushing out of the dark crevices of his brain like startled bats. It’s safe to cry now, now that Date is coming home, now that Date is coming home to him .
Savoring that thought, he wipes his eyes and catches his breath. “I’m just really glad you’re going to be okay, Date-san.”
“Yeah? That makes two of us.”
“Do you know when you get to come home?”
“Should be just a couple weeks.” Date’s voice takes on a mischievous edge. “I think you said something about picking up where we left off?”