"Promise me you'll find me!"
"Promise me! And hold onto me!"
Gazing at the stars, a can of cheap chuhai from the nearest conbini in hand, Akaashi wonders what the mark of a good physician is.
"Why think about the promotion? Just enjoy the fact that you don't need to worry about running out of patients to treat," Kuroo complains, blowing smoke into the air. Akaashi wrinkles his nose in turn, he'd finally convinced Kuroo to stop buying cigarettes even if the e-cig still has nicotine. The air smells like mint and winter.
He shivers in his white coat, wishing that he brought his jacket from his office, side eyeing his misery companion. Kuroo is one of the few physicians left who are still on good terms with him, willing to freeze himself in the hospital's rooftop garden as they watch snowflakes fall.
"I just..." He trails off, leaning against the railings, seeing the entire Tokyo skyline spread in front of him with tall buildings blinking their red lights every so often, a faint whir of airplanes heading east to Narita and golden glows from windows dotting in front of him. Shibuya and its neon glow are on the other side of Kuroo.
Kuroo throws an arm around him, "Think of it as fortune looking down on you."
Akaashi watches as several animators in an office building near them bend their heads diligently to look at their tablets. He sips his can, the taste of cheap grapefruit shochu going down his throat. Every inhale burns his lungs, like the very air is eating him alive.
Every exhale is a distant memory of warmth.
"—Not listening to me at all, are you?"
He gives Kuroo an apologetic smile, blowing his breath on his hands, "Still thinking about that surgery."
"A fucking miracle surgery," Kuroo agrees, "But it's getting really cold. And I need to pee. And drink coffee."
Akaashi rolls his eyes as he allows himself to be dragged to the door, giving the grey-yellow clouds a last parting glance, slivers of snow blowing around Tokyo. Snow never sticks in this city— it's too warm here, but he knows if he goes up north for an hour, he can hear what true silence is like with a foot of snow dampening all sounds.
"I'll buy you coffee," Akaashi says, tossing his can into one of the recycling bins, "And maybe we can get Sukiya delivered. I'm going to stay here overnight anyway."
Kuroo sighs in his ear like he also hadn't stayed in the hospital overnight for a patient, "Too responsible of a doctor you are."
Akaashi orders their drinks and food. Once Kuroo shuffles away back to Cardiology, pulled away by his pager's incessant beeping, Akaashi goes to the ICU, gowns up and checks his patient that made a miraculous recovery.
Nothing in medicine can be categorized as a miracle. If it is, it's because they still don't have an explanation for why surgeries or treatments helped patients. His patient going from brain dead, GCS of 3, to blinking, being vocal and responding to every single neurological tests he's learned— he personally thinks that this reaches 'miracle' levels of awe.
"Sen...sei," His patient rasps when Akaashi walks closer to his bed.
Akaashi smiles, knowing that Yanagiya Shuichi can't really see his mouth curve from the mask covering it, but he allows the patient to shakily grab his hand, squeezing it very weakly.
"They're calling me a miracle, but—" The patient winces. Akaashi makes a mental note to check his painkillers, "—But it's all you sensei, you're the reason I'm alive."
Akaashi crouches, patting his gloved hand on top of the patient's, "How are you feeling?"
"Terrible," The construction worker who had dropped unconscious from the worst cerebral arteriovenous malformation he's ever seen grimaces.
Akaashi looks up to his heart monitor, fiddling with the lines going into the patient, "I'll increase your painkiller drip to make you more comfortable if you'd like."
"No need, no need. It's good to feel pain sometimes, it means you're alive."
Instead of fighting, he respects his decision. Akaashi pulls off his gloves, reaching towards the bottle of hand sanitizer on the wall and liberally coating his hands, "I'll come back in an hour if you change your mind."
"Sensei," Yanagiya chides, hazel eyes flickering to the ring Akaashi's wearing, "Go rest! I'm sure your wife is waiting for you at home."
He gets shooed out of ICU after that by the overnight nurses. He awkwardly stands outside the doors before sighing, heading to the elevator and absently spinning the cheapest gold band he bought at the Mitsukoshi in Chuo as the elevators take him to the Neurosurgery level with a thumb.
He checks his phone. Kuroo hasn't texted him, so he's still caught up in his consult.
He hangs a left to the offices, trades his white coat for his black, knee length pea coat and takes the emergency stairs out. Above, the yellow clouds are raining slivers of snowflakes. He hurries out of the hospital grounds and passes conbinis, boarded up dental offices, pharmacies, fast food restaurants with several yawning workers at the counter and slips into a side street.
There was something comforting about the night.
There was no expectations for him. During the night, he is only a lost twenty something year old trying to wade through life, buying cheap alcoholic drinks from the conbini and trying to fix his poor diet by eating multivitamins because his general consciousness thinks surviving on conbini food and alcohol can't be all too good for him in the long run.
Akaashi looks left and right, marking the end of civilization with two innocent vending machines at the beginning of the alleyway. There's just one flickering streetlamp and the intersection of a less busy main street with houses in the distance. Walls belonging to buildings line the small street.
He steps forward, feeling like something cool has caressed his body. He blinks.
A small street shrine appears next to the flickering street lamp, its red torii overgrown with moss, the red paint dulling from sunshine and weather, Akaashi doesn't know. From the gates to the small shrine the size of a medium box is a small, crooked stone path wide enough to fit one adult. Weeds poke out from the base of the gate. He thinks he can see the wood rotting from here, there's a definite crooked lean.
It other words, it's an extremely old and abandoned little shrine that isn't seen by normal people.
He approaches it cautiously, stuffing his hands in his pockets and looking around the gate and surrounding shrine grounds to see what god the shrine is dedicated to.
"That patient shouldn't have lived," Akaashi says to the temple, letting his breath pool around his face like a lacy cloth, "He'd been unconscious for fifteen minutes before paramedics arrived, his AMV burst mid-operation and his blood pressure crashed."
Was he a bad person for saying his patient should have died? Akaashi wonders if he's fit to be a doctor for thinking such twisted thoughts.
Snow continues to fall around him, fatter flakes landing on top of the little shrine roof. He wonders if someone is watching him, thinking that he's a mad man for talking to an inanimate object.
"He was brain dead when he arrived in the emergency room yet his eye opening and verbal response is as good as other patients who hadn't suffered from a stroke. All he has short of perfect is limited motor skills," He laces his hands into his hair, pulling at the gel that had been keeping his bangs back, "It doesn't make sense!"
Miracles do not exist. Akaashi knows this. If it did, then the gods should have taken his life away in exchange for his parents' when their car crashed.
The shrine doesn't reply. Akaashi stares at his palms, into the deep creases that is his life line. Perhaps he'd been working too hard, but the line seems to be shorter lately, slowly receding. But then again, he isn't a palm reader who stares at his own hands in his spare time. He has better things to do, like writing up research papers on his miracle patient and putting on his coat of responsibilities.
He walks away from the shrine feeling like he'd accomplished nothing, stabbing at the vending machine and feeding it some coins for some hot corn soup. The can is hot when he fishes it out. He presses it onto his cheeks, the warmness spreading throughout his cold-nipped skin.
He gives the side street one final look, finding only one lonely flickering streetlamp before he walks away. He returns to the hospital, sets an alarm for fifty minutes and crashes on the small couch in his office.
He dreams of faceless figures, the world in grey. Akaashi listens to a roar of a crowd, a downpour falling outside a window and a whistle, shrill and high, belonging to another world, another life.
He wakes up with tears trailing down his cheeks into his ears, hand automatically smacking his phone alarm to stop.
And perhaps that's the start of it all.
"You're not skipping practice are you?"
"You look like you had a rough night."
He has to blink several times before he realizes that Yachi is talking to him and holding out a cup of coffee from the hospital's cafe. He places his glasses near the keyboard and mutters a thanks, accepting the coffee and rubbing his eyes.
"Is it time for morning rounds?" He ignores the piping hot liquid and guzzles it straight. It may ruin the soft lining of his throat and esophagus, but he could care less.
"No, it's still half past six," Yachi hesitates, "I came in early because Tadashi dropped me off. Why...don't you take a nap in your office? I'll organize your charts for you and wake you up at fifteen to."
He stares at the windows, watching the midnight black tint of the sky lift to a navy blue. He'd spent another night at the hospital again.
If there was one thing he was very bad at, Akaashi thinks, it was sleeping for long periods of time, the exact sleep he urges his patients to have so they can recover. It doesn't matter that he has a very good mattress at home, an AC unit, eye mask, melatonin, a white noise machine or earplugs.
The dreams have been plaguing him since he was little, but they seem to have been increasing recently.
He knows the follies of not sleeping well— he has an expensive piece of paper and an MD attached to his name to prove it, but still, perhaps that's how his body runs, with only cat naps throughout the day.
At least, that's what he tells himself.
He shakes his head, smiling lightly, "It's fine, I have the Chairman's special project."
Yachi glances at the papers and textbooks Akaashi has spread around him, the keyboards of the adjacent computers in the Neurology Department's break room where physicians can quickly look up something without running all the way to their offices at the other end of the floor pushed away to make room.
"Ever since that brain AVM patient made a 180 he's been giving you VIP patients to take care of on top of your own patients," Yachi mumbles, grabbing a chair and slowly sitting down. "It's been two years."
He glances at his hand.
He knows for sure now. In two years, his life line had receded quite a bit.
"Hospitals are a business," Akaashi attempts to straighten the papers, "VIP patients and their wards give this hospital the money needed for other departments. I've requested to get ICU a new ECMO machine next since they have an older model that breaks half the time after usage."
The Chairman also pays him handsomely for Akaashi's troubles. He doesn't mention that though, knowing that he's paid more than the professors in his department from the coffee break talks he sits in but never participates.
The head of the Neurosurgery department walks into the break room, Yachi immediately standing up and giving him a bow. Akaashi follows a beat later, bowing to his senior.
Hiiragizawa, a man with grey dominating his temples and fine lines that are definitely settling, curls his lips up at the textbooks littered around him, "Saving more lives, are we?"
Akaashi replies flatly, "Good morning, senpai."
"Fetch me coffee, will you?" Hiiragizawa logs onto the computer furthest away from him, "And because you're still technically a junior doctor, do you mind taking over my patients for this morning's rounds?"
Akaashi jerks his head for Yachi to slip out of the break room, not wanting her to be within hearing distance, bowing apologetically in Hiiragizawa's direction, "I have a meeting with another VIP patient this—"
"Another one?" Not the explosion he'd expect, but Hiiragizawa still hisses with venom, "What are you, the Chairman's dog? I really should be putting a complaint on you, you're a neurosurgeon but you've barely entered the OR this year! Why did we even accept your application if all you do now is focus on your expensive, whiny VIP patients who ask for vitamin drips because they're feeling under the weather?"
Akaashi spasms his head in Hiiragizawa's direction, looking at the floor and the fact that he has a receipt stuck onto the bottom of his Italian leather wingtips. He knows if he engages he'll start a chain reaction that won't stop until Hiiragizawa is satisfied, "I'll get your coffee."
"Yes, go get coffee since that's the only thing you're good for these days!"
He escapes the break room to find Yachi hovering outside the door, looking up at him with those big, concerned eyes of hers. He smiles and heads for the emergency exits, going down the set of stairs until he's out of breath and swallowing the lump in his throat.
He's not in elementary school anymore. Words shouldn't sting, but they do, they affix themselves in his skin and force him to bleed.
When he reaches the ground floor, hearing the incoming steps of nurses and doctors entering the building from the main entrance, he fixes his hair, slaps his cheeks to get some color in them and opens the door, muttering "coffee" under his breath.
The April sunrise greets him like a forgotten lover and he shuts his eyes against the brightness, leaving the hospital and going to Hiiragizawa's favorite coffee shop a block down the road. He hadn't changed from last night's clothes, so he pats his wrinkles in his shirt absently, inserting his wireless earbuds and waiting for his turn.
He fights off a yawn, eyes blurring in front of him as a headache aches to makes itself known right between his eyebrows.
The good thing about this coffee shop is that the staff knows Hiiragizawa's order by heart. Akaashi only needs to say, "For the man in glasses," for the cute cashier to nod. It's a painless exchange of money and goods.
He holds the coffee cup firmly in his hand, opening the door and yawning, thinking of what he should do when he gets back.
And then a body slams into his left side, coffee slipping out of his hands as he gets an unpleasant wave of hot liquid on his ankles and shoes, seeping into his socks.
The man who'd stumbled in him immediately pulls out his earbuds as a stream of apologies comes out of him like a faucet on full blast. His feet are slightly too warm to be comfortable, but it's tolerable as Akaashi shakes off the coffee burning his hand and tugs his earbuds out.
He's loud, Akaashi thinks, as he receives tissues pressed into his hands, but he accepts it all the same, patting his ankles dry as he fishes the empty cup from the ground, looking up.
The man stares at him, hair hidden by a black cap, dressed in jogging clothes. His eyes are an unnatural amber shade, almost golden.
"I'm really sorry," He huffs, breath smelling like toothpaste. He seems to gravitate closer to him. Akaashi takes an alarming step back as the stranger shuffles into his personal space.
"Don't worry about it."
Akaashi bows quickly, slipping past him and going back inside the shop. The cashier had seen his unfortunate collision with the jogger, "Just wait a mo', we'll have another cup ready."
Akaashi blinks, his card already in hand, "Oh?"
He gives him a dimpled smile. If Akaashi had enough space in his life for a relationship, he might hit on him, "It's on the house, sensei. We thank you for yer continued patronage!"
Akaashi smiles, plucking a cookie from the basket near the register and placing his card on top of it as he waits. He secretly presses his hand onto the cool surface of the counter top, finding relief. He examines the skin. It's only red, the burn won't stick.
When the new cup of coffee is ready and Akaashi pockets his cookie, he exits the cafe warily, spotting the jogger hovering outside, scrolling on his phone.
The jogger turns, eyes wide, "Let me pay that!"
Akaashi checks his watch, "It's fine, I'm in a rush right now," He dips his head politely, moving away. It's quarter to seven and he hasn't even organized his files for the morning rounds. If he's lucky, he can run to his office, change into another set of clothes that's not coffee stained, and start his rounds with Yachi on time.
If he's unlucky, he'll be stuck hearing Hiiragizawa drone on about the coffee for an additional five minutes, making him late.
A hand on his elbow stops him from crossing the street. Akaashi turns, caught off guard by the sheer desperation on the jogger's face.
"Please," The man waves his phone, LINE pay on his screen. He has large hands, Akaashi notes, before his brain stutters to a stop and he feels his head pulse strangely, another version of the jogger wearing a black and white windbreaker with gold accents showing up. He looks quite thinner and shorter as well.
Akaashi blinks, watching the jogger peer at him in concern. He's taller now. And much older.
He fishes his phone out, handing it over to the man as he absently rubs his temples. The man furiously transfers his money over, handing Akaashi back his phone.
Akaashi checks the account holder, "Thank you, Bokuto-san. I will be going now," He bows, twisting around and launching his feet onto the crosswalk, the headache pulsing stronger behind his eyes.
He sucks in a breath, tasting spring on his tongue, wondering out of all days today, why the sunlight is so harsh on him.
Akaashi whirls around, body moving not on his accord. He opens his mouth as the long hand on his watch ticks closer and closer to the number eleven. He definitely won't have time to change into his new clothes now.
"Akaashi Keiji!" He shouts. He then forces his body to turn, limbs like molasses, running to the hospital as he tries to forget about the jogger with the eyes of the sun.
"You can't just tell me not to go follow you when you've been acting sneaky for the past few months."
"You've read up on the patient?"
Akaashi nods, hiding the urge to smooth his hair again. He's checked himself in his office mirror to make sure he looks like a doctor worthy of the VIP ward. Proper and clean with no hint of coffee stain on the ankles of his pants.
The only thing that might throw patients off was his age, but he's found several white hairs among his black strands the other day.
"You said here that he...really wants me to be his son's doctor," He taps his chart where the Chairman had printed a copy of a heart crushing email, of a parent's wish for Akaashi to be their hope.
The Chairman leaves him at the front of the VIP ward, clasping his hand behind his back, "Yes. He's a prominent Olympian, the father. Do you follow volleyball, Akaashi-kun?"
The Chairman gives him a tight smile, patting his shoulders, "Well, do your best. You've been nicknamed the Miracle Doctor these days."
"There's no such things as miracles in the world of medicine," Akaashi gives him a wary smile, wondering why even the Chairman fell for the lousy nickname the press has given him, "Only things that we cannot explain yet with modern science."
The Chairman smiles absently, "Yes. Well, do your best."
He quickly walks away to the elevators. Akaashi turns to the glass doors, scanning his badge to get the doors to open. He nods to the charge nurse sitting at the station, heading to one of the six rooms available on the floor.
The carpets of the VIP ward are plush. Akaashi passes a sitting area, wondering if he could nap on the couches after hours and if the couches here are better for his back than the one he jammed in his small office. He checks the name outside the door, knocking loudly three times before making his presence known.
"Pardon the intrusion," He shuts the door behind him, turning and spotting a young child sitting on a large bed with a parent beside him.
Akaashi lets out a soft exhale at the familiar face, "Oh."
"Papa!" The child beams at Akaashi.
Akaashi inches closer to the duo, looking between the parent who looked like he'd been slapped across the face and the young boy grinning at him.
His parent laughs weakly, standing to his feet and bowing, "I'm sorry about bumping into you this morning."
Akaashi waves that worry out of the window, extending a hand, "Akaashi Keiji," He introduces himself again.
His heart speeds up when their hands meet.
The Olympian has large and very warm, rough palms, wearing a plain white shirt that shows off his thick forearms. His eyes are wary but warm, "Bokuto Koutarou." His eyes look south at the hems of Akaashi's pants.
Akaashi loosens their hands quickly, trying not to panic at the fact that he feels very light headed, like he could be swept away by wind at any moment. He should have eaten the cookie from earlier, flexing his fingers as he turns his attention to the little boy.
He smiles to the child sitting on the bed, "And who might you be?"
"Mitsuharu!" The boy grins, showing off a gap toothed smile. He has thick, black hair that curls at the ends and his father's eyes though he's pale and exhausted, the children sized hospital gowns looking too large on his small shoulders, "I'm five!"
"Bokuto-kun, I'm going to ask you and Otou-san some questions, alright?" Akaashi drags a rolling chair from the wall closer to the bed, opening his chart. "After that, Otou-san and I will talk briefly and I'll give him back to you."
He starts his grilling session, going through Mitsuharu's extensive list of health issues and previous medical records obtained from other hospitals. Akaashi already has a suspicion of the problem, though he doesn't voice it in front of the five year old, stabbing a remote so the TV plays a random kid's channel.
He gestures for Bokuto to follow him outside the bed area near the door where there are a set of couches, a table and sliding doors for privacy.
Akaashi lowers his voice to a pitch he knows the child will probably have a hard time hearing, "It seems that he's already received chemotherapy and diagnosed with ALL three years ago at the age of two."
Bokuto nods, struggling, "It came back. He's been through all the chemotherapy, it makes him really ill. I have...I don't know what to do next. None of it was working, we've tried radiation therapy, targeted cell therapy, we're on the waiting list for a matching bone marrow donor. He's...sicker and sicker and—"
Akaashi looks at his chart, "I'm not a pediatrician or even an oncologist, Bokuto-san, I don't know if I'll be much help. I can send a referral to a specialist—"
"But you're...I was watching the news a month ago. I've heard of the Miracle Doctor, I know you're not a cancer specialist, but every patient you touch, you save."
Again, the sheer desperation.
Akaashi clenches his fists, "I—"
"Please," Bokuto pleads, standing and bending his spine, "Please, save him. He's the only thing I have left of his father."
"Aren't you afraid that something bad will happen? The world...it doesn't just give random people powers like that without a price."
Akaashi pulls the tab of another cheap chuhai, drinking until the taste of peach and grapefruit blurs together on his tongue and he can't discern what he's tasting. He leans back on his expensive office chair, staring at the ceiling, his computer table full of textbooks, papers, reports, chocolate wrappers and Kuroo's minty gum that he had been meaning to give. He should clean his office, but he can't muster the energy to.
He spent all week juggling his patients and meeting with various pediatric oncologists around the Greater Tokyo Area. For now, he's giving Mitsuharu a chemotherapy drug that the boy tolerates best. He's trying to arrange several online meetings with various oncologist experts around the world to get a second opinion while they try to prevent the cancer cells from multiplying further.
He drains another can, stopping himself at pleasantly buzzed. A sorrowful song croons out of his computer speakers.
He shuts his eyes, listening to the rise and fall of each vocalists, melody and harmony, thinking.
He feels out of place here, like he's trapped in his own mind and body and doesn't belong, an anxious energy thrumming in him every time he steps in the hospital. He should be writing his resignation letter right now, but he woke up today from a three hour nap and felt like utter shit.
Everyday he puts on his clothes, dons on his white coat and goes through the motion of living. He doesn't let his emotions merge with patient lives, but he does look down at his hands during surgery and wonder why he's controlling them and why his own body feels so foreign to him.
And with every problem he has, he pushes the thought into the back of his mind until his mind buzzes too much and he drowns himself in alcohol, letting tears run down his cheeks as he stares at the ceiling, numb.
Today's problem is his hand, more specifically the life line on both palms.
The overhead buzzer goes off. Akaashi immediately sits up, staring at the round circle affixed to the ceiling as a cool female's voice says a child from the VIP ward has escaped. She goes to describe the child's appearance as he pinches his cheeks, the pain clearing whatever pathetic buzz is in his bloodstream.
He pulls his white coat from his chair and runs out of his office, patting his cheeks dry. There are several nurses puttering around in the hallways, alert.
"Akaashi-sensei! Isn't the boy your patient?" One of the older nurses on his floor calls. Someone beside her has opened the linen closet, frantically whipping his head left and right for a small boy.
Akaashi nods. He joins them in the hallway, opening linen and cleaning closets, bending and nearly losing his balance as he squats and leans further down to see if a scared child is hiding in the back behind a stack of saline bags.
"Not here," Yachi pants, dressed in her coat. She'd suppose to be out celebrating her wedding anniversary. He reminds her that her shift ended twenty minutes ago and to leave this with their team.
Yachi stubbornly refuses. She leads him to the other side of the floor to where the physician offices are. He knocks every single door, asks if a child had crawled in by accident, ignored the snark from his seniors and flinching when Hiiragizawa's younger brother slams the door straight into his nose.
"Akaashi!" Yachi pulls her bag open, scrambling to grab a packet of tissues for fear that his nose will bleed. Akaashi waves her off, massaging his nose and blinking the tears away.
"Honestly," Yachi grits, "Those two have the administrative staff wrapped around their fingers. I've put in so many complaints but they haven't been spoken to once."
"They're not worth it," He sighs, momentarily not thinking of Mitsuharu. "What did they say about bullies? To ignore them."
"They're not bullying you anymore, Akaashi," Yachi drops the honorific with no one around them, pinning him with a gaze to remind him that she skipped ahead in high school and was his desk mate for second and third year, and well into university at Todai. "They're gas-lighting you, they're forcing you to pick up after their slack, they're slandering your name and a million other things that you can press charges for."
He thinks of the resignation letter. He hates running away the most, but would it be running away if someone was forced to be in his position and endure years' worth of getting treated like he could juggle patients, surgeries, research papers, oversea conventions and only sleep for a few hours per day?
"We can talk later," He tells her firmly. His head goes back and forth in the empty hallway, "I'm going to the roof. Call me directly if you find him!"
He bounds up the stairs with a sour taste in his mouth, worried, as Yachi sighs behind him. He pushes against the heavy door, breathing in the chilly night air and seeing a small figure standing up to the fencing surrounding the edge of the roof.
"Mitsuharu-kun," He calls, walking forward and letting the door behind him slam.
The little boy turns around, hair whipping in the wind. He's managed to somehow pull the tube connecting to his IV ports off, two needles still taped to his arm with tubing flailing around, dripping.
His eyes are reflecting the lights of Tokyo. The empty gaze sending chills into Akaashi, who shrugs off his coat and bundles it around him even though the night chill can't simply be warded off with one layer, "Why did you run out of your room?"
Akaashi turns to face the view, seeing Tokyo Tower beam brightly several hundred meters away, his hand still around his small shoulders. He can relate in a sense, guessing that the boy is missing his father.
"If you're lonely, you can press on the button that looks like a bell and the nurse will ring Sensei. We can read a book together," Bokuto had dropped off several children books at the front desk for sanitation before they were allowed to go into his room. He pulls out his cellphone, texting the overhead pager number that he's found Mitsuharu safe and sound. "It's not good to go somewhere without telling a nurse first, alright?"
He wonders why he even went to the roof. And how Mitsuharu was able to push against the heavy door.
"Sensei," Mitsuharu starts, looking down at the lights, "Aren't you lonely?"
It scares him, how perceptive this boy is.
"Why do you say that?"
Mitsuharu blinks up at him with confusion. Akaashi watches as his eyes slowly fill with tears, the boy sniffling.
"I hate Kami-sama," He blots his tears on Akaashi's coat, "It's because of them we're apart."
Akaashi thinks to how boys his age should be finishing nursery school, brushing his hair softly. Of course, it's tough for a child to realize that they're very ill and to see their parent flounder around helplessly. He probably wants to play with his father instead of sitting in bed.
"I hate Kami-sama too."
Mitsuharu tilts his head up, the skin around his eyes red, "You do? Why?"
He thinks of Hiiragizawa, his parent's death, his father's lawyers telling Akaashi that his inheritance will only be released in small amounts with every perfect grade he achieves in medical school and how weak he is to not go against that route.
Perhaps it is his weakness that landed him here.
"Shall we go back inside where it's warm? I can get some warm milk for you," Akaashi extends his hand out.
Mitsuharu looks at it, reaching forward to tightly grip onto his palms. His hands are warm, like he'd been holding them out to a fire for the longest time.
"Sensei," The little boy urges, clutching his hands.
His eyes glow in the night as he pins Akaashi with his eyes. Akaashi will later think of two things the father and son share: their eyes and the sheer desperation in their voices.
"You really don't remember me, Papa?"
"I wouldn't mind it being sunny for our first date!"
He smiles, tugging a hand as they head up the hill under umbrellas. He tells him to stay under the cover, looking down at the city as a cover of grey floats atop.
He claps, feeling the moisture in the air stop. Then he opens his eyes to see the sun peeking out. The boy laughs, darting out from the cover to plant a kiss on his cheek, "It's sunny!"
"Of course, I made it to be sunny."
"You're the best Keiji!"
Bokuto skids into the VIP ward as Akaashi gently closes Mitsuharu's door. He has a bag slung over his body, wearing a pair of dark coloured sweats.
"He— I heard," Bokuto pants, eyes darting around the hallway, hair mussed. Akaashi had to make the difficult call at four in the morning to let him know what happened, "I heard he escaped? And went to the roof?"
Akaashi reassures him that Mitsuharu was found quickly and that they will have security guards placed at the doors of the VIP ward so the lone nurse at the front desk isn't tasked to watch the doors and monitor vitals at the same time.
He bows apologetically for the trouble the hospital has caused like a good physician would, "He is sleeping now. I've given him a bath and cleaned his lines. We're terribly sorry for allowing this to happen."
Bokuto stares at him, golden eyes soft, "No...it's fine. He runs away a lot. Did he...say anything?"
"He seems to be confusing me with...another person," Akaashi tries to broach the subject delicately, watching for Bokuto's reaction. The jogger stiffened slightly, tongue darting out to wet his lips.
"Did...Did he call you 'Papa?'"
Akaashi gives a wan smile, pushing up his glasses. He knows from social worker reports that Mitsuharu's other parent had disappeared, "Perhaps I share a resemblance to him."
Bokuto swallows, catching the strap of his falling gym bag before it hits the ground as his bottom lip trembles. Akaashi quietly reaches into his pockets and pulls out a packet of tissues.
After tears have been wiped away and Akaashi ushered Bokuto to his office with promises of tea, Bokuto is sipping his cup intermittently as Akaashi tries to kick as much papers under the table with his shoes.
"His other father...his sister offered us her egg, and we accepted. So in a way, he's biologically ours," Bokuto starts. Akaashi watches his reflection across the table reflecting from the cup, absently spinning his ring, "She passed, so he's lacking parental figures. I have baby sitters of course, but Mitsuharu has to be hospitalized constantly."
Akaashi stares at Bokuto, feeling a faint pang of sadness. It's for this reason he didn't like his pediatric rotations. There's too much heartbreak when it comes to dealing with children.
"I'm sorry to hear that," He says softly, "You've been through a lot on your own."
"Yeah? You must too," Bokuto gives a wan smile, "Not even in your thirties yet and they call you a miracle doctor."
"I really am not," Akaashi gazes at his palms, "There are no such things are miracles in the medical world, only explanations that modern medicine cannot explain yet. And in the end, it's the will of the patient that pulls through 80% of the time."
"Will huh?" Akaashi looks up to see Bokuto put his chin on his hand, "I suppose that's true. Will is everything," Bokuto looks around his office, "I would have thought your office isn't the size of a cleaning closet with all the patients you see."
Akaashi makes a face, "Well...the Chairman has been insisting that I could take over a new one, but I refused."
Bokuto blinks, resembling a confused owl, "Why?"
Akaashi takes a deep gulp of tea, rolling several cans of chuhai under the table along with his messy hand scribbled notes, "It's not proper for someone of my station."
"But you're a doctor?"
"Junior doctor. I finished my residency in neurosurgery two years ago, I'm at the lowest totem pole for surgeons."
"Well that's even more impressive that you can treat VIP patients. I heard from the nurses that you're only 28?"
"I'm 29," Bokuto sips some more tea, "It's quite old in terms of professional athletes, but look at you, you're still starting out and everything."
Akaashi smiles, "I daresay you're more impressive, juggling your career and raising a child at the same time."
Bokuto's mouth twitches into a funny smile, like Akaashi had said an inside joke that he was not aware of, "I'm sure you can do it too. Who's the lucky person?" He gestures to his ring.
"This is fake," Akaashi pulls it off, placing it on the table, "I wore this because every old lady that came through the outpatient clinics tried to marry me off to their granddaughters and grandnieces."
"No! Really? You had to go through the length of that to ward them off?" Bokuto laughs. Akaashi, after a beat, cracks a smile.
"I'm not making it up, promise," Akaashi sees that his cup is empty, so he stands to offer another cup when his cellphone buzzes on the table.
Akaashi looks at the international number, glancing at Bokuto, "I...asked several other world renowned oncologists for advice, this should be one of them."
Bokuto immediately stands to his feet, "I'll get out of your way then. Thanks for the tea!"
Akaashi bows in his direction as his office door shuts, feeling lonely again. It was odd, like his body had immediately felt at ease around Bokuto.
He bends down to grab some scrap pieces of paper, swiping right on his lock screen, "Keiji Akaashi, Neurosurgeon at St. Luke's International Hospital speaking....yes, Dr. Thomas, thank you for returning my call...."
"—And happy anniversary to Keiji and me!" He feels his cheeks blush as a man with mustard yellow hair makes a face at him. "Congratulations to the Jackals, to Hinata's debut and to us!"
"Rub it in a lil' more, won't ya, Bokkun?"
"Congratulations on your engagement, Akaashi-san!"
"I can watch him if you would like to go home, Akaashi-sensei."
He looks up from Mitsuharu's monitors, jotting additional notes on his chart and shaking his head at the nurse, voice muffled from the mask around his face, "No thank you, I'll remain here to observe him."
The nurse nods, closing the door slowly behind her as Akaashi sets the chart down at the end of the bed and sits on the rolling chair at Mitsuharu's bedside, his isolation gown crinkling around his waist and thighs.
He adjusts his blankets, the child's chest rising up and down as he kicks in his sleep.
It's odd, to feel so at ease with a father and child he never saw before. Bokuto always asked how his day is going before asking about his son's condition. While Akaashi knows he's being polite, a part of him wonders if he's this nice with everyone he meets.
He draws the line here tonight, walking away from Mitsuharu's bed and going to his office to sleep for a few hours before he takes the first train home to change his clothes.
Bokuto seems to be in the hospital room every moment of the day.
He watches as Akaashi enters the room from where he'd been reading the newspaper on the couch, donning a disposable isolation gown in a hideous yellow color with face mask and gloves before he checks on Mitsuharu every two hours. Akaashi bows his head at him, watching his son sleep.
"You're here often," The words come out muffled.
Bokuto rubs his eyes, dark purples dominating his face, "I took a leave from volleyball this year. They understand, with Mitsuharu's condition and all."
He'd heard about that in fact. Not from the Chairman but from a simple search online. Bokuto had been trending on Twitter for a while, a wave of heartfelt messages from his fans wishing his son and him well in the year he's taking off.
Akaashi frowns, lowering his pen as his mother hen clucking comes out, "It wouldn't do you any good if you collapse. You can afford to sleep when he's sleeping."
"Can't sleep," Bokuto gives him a glance, "No offence, but you don't look like you're sleeping yourself, sensei."
Akaashi gives him a wary smile, knowing that he can't see it, "Perhaps I can buy you some tea from the cafe downstairs that helps you sleep?"
Once Akaashi finishes the charts and types his reports, he leads Bokuto out of Mitsuharu's room. He orders two cups of chamomile tea and leads him to a garden on the first floor of the hospital.
"It's not much," He says, as several patients and workers are taking their breaks under the trees, sitting below on benches. He leads them to an empty one in the corner, dusting off a bit of dirt, "But it's a little bit of green in the hospital."
Bokuto hums, sipping the tea. Akaashi slides his eyes to watch him out of the corner of his eyes, ignoring all the dirty looks sent his way from the other physicians. There's scruff around his chin, like he hadn't shaved this morning. His hair is starting to lose its hold from the gel.
"How did you get into volleyball?"
Bokuto perks up at the mention of his favorite sport, "I played for fun and then got hooked onto it. Have you played before?"
"No. You've never wanted to quit?"
"Sure did," Bokuto says. There's a strange lilt to his voice, like he's suppressing an Osakan accent, "Volleyball is hard, there are other players who are always better than you, but it's fun you know, playing people stronger than you and beating them."
Akaashi looks at his cup, "I see. It must be nice to find your calling."
"...Medicine not working out for you?"
"Well," Akaashi smiles, knowing that he's treading the fine line between patient and acquaintance, "I do my job properly, if that's what you're worried about."
Akaashi stiffens. He looks up to see Hiiragizawa and several other older surgeons beckon him over the garden, coffee cups in hand. His mouth dries as he mumbles a quick apology to Bokuto, dipping his head silently when he's near them, several cherry blossom petals sprinkling down.
Hiiragizawa smiles. It's polite and vacant and speaks of lies, "Do you have that much free time to be having tea with a parent?"
His group of surgeons tither. One blows smoke into Akaashi's face as Hiiragizawa looks down at his watch, "We have monthly teaching rounds tomorrow with the med students. Have my part ready. That's all."
Akaashi tightens his hold on his cup, thinking of the fifty slide presentation he has to prepare for his patients, "But you're their assigned physician, senpai."
"You've been taking care of them right? Therefore you should make the PowerPoint. Don't forget to upload surgical footage as well," Hiiragizawa huffs out smoke, tapping on his butt near the ash tray on top of the trash can. He lightly adds, "Ah I forgot, you have a disc replacement procedure later tonight. Has anyone told you it's unhealthy if their physician stretches himself too thinly?"
Akaashi stays still, gazing at the grey pavement and how the sun hits every bump to create a small shadow, little blades of grass blowing in the wind as the group of surgeons laugh. He wants to take Hiiragizawa's cigarette and put it out in his eyes.
Who was it that gave him all this work?
"Don't forget your place. Dismissed."
He bows his head, hand trembling as the other surgeons toss their butts in the tray, clapping his shoulders and making their way back to the door. He raises his head up, watching Hiiragizawa's smirk at him before he turns around, sauntering to his friends.
Akaashi turns rigidly and walks back to Bokuto, who is scrolling through his phone. He sits down and starts pulling deep breaths like a quiet bellow, clenching his jaw.
"Are you in trouble?"
Akaashi doesn't open his eyes but his voice comes out sharper than he wanted to, "Why do you ask?"
"You have that pinched look."
He opens his eyes. The world is the same. The earth revolves around the sun, Bokuto is still sitting next to him and Akaashi is the most hated surgeon in the hospital's entire surgical department.
"...I'm not very popular, Bokuto-san," He confesses lowly, placing his coffee up on the bench next to him and leaning forward to put both elbows on his knees. He starts fiddling with his hangnails, focusing on ripping them. The pain grounds him slightly as he wonders why he's spilling his darkest secret to a random parent.
"Eh?! How come?"
He shrugs, pulling a bandaid out of his pocket as blood starts flowing freely from his thumb. Maybe he shouldn't have ripped them off since he has surgery later, grinding out, "Why bother thinking about it? You can't please everyone."
He's used to being the most hated. He doesn't find it fair, but what can he do against the likes of Hiiragizawa who has been at this hospital for years? Akaashi hates one thing the most and it's running away.
His smiles as his pager goes off, pressing the edges of the adhesive on his finger. He stands, bowing once to Bokuto, who looks up at him like Akaashi is a lead character in a tragic story, like he'll do anything to negate his pain. It's a very intense gaze, and Akaashi's heart stutters as he drowns in warmth— warmth from the sun above them and the intensity of Bokuto's eyes.
All of his anger falters just like that, like a gentle breeze knocked out one vital card in his playing cards castle, all of the violent thoughts and wishes he has for Hiiragizawa vanishing. He breathes out slightly, a smile tugging the edges of his mouth as he softens his tone.
"Enjoy your tea, Bokuto-san. The nurse at the ward will give you an eye mask if the sunshine bothers you."
Bokuto blinks, the intensity in his eyes disappearing, "Oh, sure. Thanks."
Akaashi strides away quickly after that, patting his cheeks and finding that it's entirely too warm for his liking as he dashes to the ER department.
"Deadline got shortened?" A mouth kisses his temples, his forehead, his nose, his jaw. He nods, staring at the pile of papers in front of him numbly as someone strokes his hair until he fall asleep.
He joins Kuroo on the roof, ignoring the rain splattering on him as he plucks the cigarette from Kuroo's hand and takes a drag.
Kuroo sighs, arms on the railings as Akaashi starts coughing, easing the cigarette off his fingers, "It's one of those nights, hm? Who are we angry at today?"
His mouth taste terrible, like the sky had condensed every pollutant in the air into one tiny huff and he willingly breathed it in, "Hiiragizawa. What about you?"
"Old man Washijo. Also, you suck at smoking."
Akaashi elbows Kuroo, pulling out some gum from his pocket to clean the taste out of his mouth, "I just needed something to remind me that no matter how angry I am at the world, at least I can taste my food properly."
"You little!—" Kuroo headlocks him. "At least I'm not destroying my liver!"
"At least I'm not destroying my lungs, Former-Hakone-Ekiden-Runner-san."
Kuroo laughs, sharp and painful above him. Akaashi lowers his eyes, holding onto his elbow as Kuroo leans against him. He pats Kuroo's hair, feeling the water-logged strands between his fingers, "What did Washijo do?"
"I don't want to talk about it," His voice is muffled, "The gas-lighting jerk deserves to rot in hell."
Akaashi presses closer to Kuroo, feeling the sharp jut of his ribs and worrying, "Let's eat, Kuroo. You're too thin."
Kuroo looks anxiously at his pager, "Okay. Somewhere close."
"Of course. How about Isomaru Suisan?"
"He's so small! Hello~"
There's a warm bundle in his arms. The baby is fast asleep. Akaashi looks up from the infant to the man next to him, dressed in a simple crew neck sweater. The man next to him affectionately kisses him on the cheek, going around someone's bed and clasping her hand.
"Wah, you're really amazing Keiko-san. Do you need your feet rubbed?"
An amused voice laughs. It brings Akaashi memories of being piggy backed in the park and braiding someone's long, black hair, "I'm fine, Kou-chan. You take good care of my nephew, alright?"
After his attempted escape, Mitsuharu must have had a talking to from Bokuto. He doesn't call him 'Papa' again.
"How are you feeling today?"
Mitsuharu shakes his head when Akaashi points to his lunch, untouched. His curly black hair is reduced to thin strands now, most of them scattered on his pillow.
Akaashi tries not to let his eyes sting too much when Mitsuharu starts wearing a soft black toque with bear ears on the top one day. He tries to get the boy to eat, reading his books out loud once his charts have been finished as Mitsuharu manages only several mouthfuls of congee before his nausea is too much.
Mitsuharu asks him about his friends one day, looking chipper as he attacks his miso soup. Akaashi awkwardly tells him of Yachi and Kuroo, stating that he doesn't have many friends besides the two.
"Work," Akaashi lies. Mitsuharu gives him a glance like he doesn't believe him, but says nothing as Akaashi clears his throat and goes back to reading The Little Prince.
"What about your lover?"
Akaashi chokes on his saliva, whipping his head around to the innocent boy, "'Lover?'"
Mitsuharu says that he has a ring underneath his gloves. Akaashi tells him that it's fake and that the word lover has different connotations than the one he's thinking of. The boy brightens after that, nibbling on the hijiki salad Akaashi's been trying to get him to eat.
Sometimes, on Mitsuharu's good days, all three of them— Akaashi, Bokuto and Mitsuharu— would play Uno. Akaashi had lost many times because, "Sensei doesn't have a good game sense and pities us too much," Mitsuharu says loudly as Akaashi slides over one prohibited candy they're using as winnings.
He doesn't ignore his own patients back in the neurology department or other VIP rooms of course, but he focuses on the boy because of a strange gravitation he feels. Like he wants to sit with him and rub his back when the nausea becomes too much and sneak him as much sweets as he wants.
"D'you like pediatrics now or something?" Kuroo asks as they share Akaashi's couch and watch Terrace House together on Akaashi's laptop, shoving food down their throats as fast as possible in fear that they'll be pulled away for a consult. "I barely see you now."
"I don't mind Mitsuharu-kun," Akaashi says, cutting up his katsudon into pieces with a spoon, "He's quite a smart child. He knows all the multiplication tables. And he makes paper cranes for me. Cute, right?"
The slap of reality hits when Mitsuharu continues to steadily grow weaker and weaker before his eyes, pale and tired. He sleeps most of the time now when Akaashi checks him.
The pile of books he promised to read to him grows dust in the corner. They haven't touched the Uno cards for weeks.
Instead, he talks to Bokuto, who is looking as tired as Mitsuharu, the lines around his eyes setting in as he anxiously awaits Akaashi's weekly updates.
"Have you been eating?" Akaashi frowns at the yakitori sticks hastily stuffed into the trash bin.
Bokuto looks guiltily at him.
Akaashi can't trick Bokuto into sleeping or eating like he did with Mitsuharu, so he approaches this like how he would with Kuroo.
They talk. They talk for hours and hours at a time, time passing by the rise or fall of the sun with food as their audience.
They talk about sports at first because Akaashi had been curious what playing professional volleyball was like. Slowly, he learns of Bokuto's favorites— his favorite meal, his favorite city he visited for competitions, his favorite members of the National Team, his favorite baby picture of Mitsuharu, his favorite color.
Bokuto has a mole on the back of one ear. He has a barely noticeable dimple when he stretches his mouth into a laugh. He's a regular at a certain yakitori restaurant because it's the one his team goes to when they celebrate wins and end of season events.
He exchanges facts about himself. It was strange at first to speak this much to someone that wasn't Kuroo or Yachi over tea or a quick meal together by one of the restaurants near the hospital, but being with Bokuto was easy.
So easy that they'd got drunk on Akaashi's last day of his work week. Akaashi is familiar with feeling drunk, but Bokuto surprisingly wasn't, slurring something about how they're not allowed to drink that much during on-season and something about a midget devil dietitian named Mamiko who won't hesitate to break their kneecaps if they stray away from her carefully curated diet plans.
Akaashi tries to remember if there was a Mamiko in Bokuto's team staff. He doesn't think there is one, but then again, his head is perfectly fuzzy as he holds Bokuto around the waist as they wait for his taxi to arrive.
He'd been thinking of something when Bokuto's mouth clumsily lands on the corner of his mouth. Akaashi jerks back, whipping his head too fast and watching Bokuto groan, jerking himself back and throwing up on the side street.
The kiss was forgotten then as Akaashi pulls a packet of tissues from his pocket, but his thanks to the darkness only covered the blush riding up high on his face and neck, waving as the taxi driver dutifully takes Bokuto back to his expensive apartments in Roppongi.
He swallows, scanning his card at the card reader as he waits for the last train to arrive, cheeks heavily stained not with alcohol, but a blush and a rising despair that he caught feelings for a patient's parent.
He wonders if he should grab those one hundred yen sakes from the nearest conbini and drink himself into a stupor so he wouldn't remember any of this the next morning.
"You know," A man bends down to kiss the head of a baby, his grey lashes long, "I've never been happier than now."
He wakes after a restless two hours of sleep, turning in his bed and raising his hand to look at his life line.
He thinks of how he is a miracle to his patients, who were each on the brink of death and sprung back to life without any great loss. Akaashi closes his eyes, knowing that today is one of those days where his skin feels too stretched around his joints, his breaths becoming shallower and shallower.
Deep breathing can only hold him off for so long. He taps his phone to listen to music from a cold, distant land, heart hammering like he'll combust any moment now.
He craves for the warm, strong arms around him in his dreams, not caring if the stranger is always faceless, riding the worst of his anxious moments in the safety of his apartment, away from the wandering eyes of the hospital.
They're having one of their pillow talks, an arm circles around his hip, sharing his pillow as the baby snoozes in between them. Akaashi smiles, rubbing the eye crust away as the stranger grabs his hands and kisses his knuckles.
"Oh good," Bokuto says, intercepting him just as Akaashi was about to re-enter his office, "I caught you."
There's a piece of paper in his hands. Bokuto is wearing a faded black long sleeve that has seen better days. He's shaven at least, Akaashi flickers his eyes to his face, finding that he's slept some since he saw him last when he delivered the bad news that Mitsuharu has a cough from his chemotherapy.
"Is something wrong?" Akaashi goes from sleepy to alert in one second, mind racing of all the wrong things that could happen to Mitsuharu.
Bokuto waves his hands, "No! He's fine, sorry, I should have said that first."
Akaashi feels his shoulders relax, inviting Bokuto into his messy office as he remembers the almost-kiss in the alleyways, "Tea?"
The paper, as it turns out, was a picture Mitsuharu had drawn for him. Akaashi stares at a black-haired circle with a smiling face and glasses, wearing a long, camel-colored trench coat open at the front to expose a cream sweater that's supposed to be him. In scrawling, large loops below the picture are the hiragana to Akaashi's full name.
He doesn't think he even has those clothes in his closet, nevertheless wore them outside before, but the gesture makes him smile.
"He's very talented," Akaashi says, placing the picture on his mini fridge door with a magnet. He's acutely aware of the humming of his computer, his mini fridge and the setting sun casting shadows into his office. His mouth dries as he turns to look at Bokuto, who had silently crept up.
He's standing a foot away from him, looking down at Akaashi with a confused expression on his face.
"K—Mitsuharu drew that for you, Akaashi," He says very quietly, barely head above the humming.
Akaashi watches as Bokuto silently inches closer. He continues to stare, his mind free of swimming thoughts about leukemia and drugs and transfusion rates as he counts the number of freckles Bokuto has on his face.
Bokuto cups a hand around his jaw, not quite gripping the short hairs behind his head. He meets lips as his head is tilted up, the gesture sparking heat to flood his face. He opens his mouth to say something— to refuse him when his heart doesn't want to, to say this is inappropriate when he wants to be loved by another person— when Bokuto mistook that as permission, opening his mouth further and sweetly, sweetly pressing their mouths together.
The edge of his fake ring presses painfully against his finger as he grips the fridge door tightly. Bokuto rakes his dull nails against Akaashi's jaw, catching his upper lip and nibbling gently on it. Akaashi nearly sees white.
When Bokuto's hand lands on his hip, right above where his belt is, he wonders if it was possible to internally combust, being pulled closer and closer until they were both pressed together like the heavens themselves will have to intervene to tear them apart.
He's being spun, the sun momentarily bright against his closed eyelids. In another life, could they be like this? Where Akaashi's life isn't tied to his patients and Bokuto's son is healthy?
Bokuto crowds him against his computer desk, pressing forward until Akaashi's neck starts to cramp from the unfair height advantage and he refuses to bend his neck further to accommodate. Their breaths are loud in the office, and Bokuto moves his hand from his jaw to the back of his neck.
"Relax," He breathes in his ear. Akaashi feels his spine spasm, blinking the stars out of his eyes when Bokuto nips a specific spot on his neck that he didn't know would feel so good.
He fists his hands in Bokuto's shirt, savoring the feel of a mouth scraping against the thin skin of his pulse before he sees his framed degree on one of the blank walls of his office.
Reminding him of his place.
He pushes Bokuto off.
Bokuto careens straight into the desk full of textbooks and Akaashi's laptop, pupils wide and dark, hair mussed, lips shiny. He catches himself on the corner, looking lost.
Akaashi touches his cheeks, registering the blistering heat as they both stand straight.
His office is too small, too quiet and too stuffy. His blood roars in his ears. Bokuto can definitely hear his heart pound.
"This is...." He looks down at the distance between them, suddenly craving his arms around him again as he tries to smooth out his rough voice, "Akaashi-sensei, remember? Not Akaashi."
Bokuto's eyes dims as he continues softly, "This is improper, Bokuto-san. Mitsuharu-kun is your child, this would be against the rules of the hospital."
"...Of course," Bokuto says, distant, looking like he'd had his feelings stomped on. Akaashi clenches his fingers together into a fist to stop himself from doing something stupid, like pull him back for another kiss. He continues to duck his head, "Of course. I'm sorry."
Akaashi nods, brushing a hand through his hair and pulling his cellphone and lying though his teeth how he needs to go to the emergency department for a consult. Bokuto follows him out of his office and they part ways there, Bokuto staying behind and Akaashi always running, running away from his feelings.
Once the elevators doors have closed, he closes his eyes and spins his ring until the elevators dumps him on the ground level and he melds in with the other hundred or so people with white coats in the lobby.
"Keiji, grab my phone! He spoke his first word! He spoke his first word!!"
Akaashi and Kuroo turn around, jackets in their arm as a greying grandma shuffles up to them. The izakaya doors slam shut, cutting off the rowdy conversation from the quiet side streets of Tsukiji. Kuroo puts away his e-cig in his pocket, peering down at her, "Can we help you?"
"You!" She glares at Akaashi, "It's time for you to wake up!"
Akaashi stares at her with extreme confusion, feeling a wave of cold wash over him as Kuroo tells her that she'd gotten the wrong person. He allows himself to be tugged away, feeling the breeze play with his hair as he and Kuroo walk towards the nearest train station to get back to the hospital.
"Old people huh," Kuroo kicks a stone in their path, grumbling, "I work with some of the geriatric population for Cardio, some of them are whack."
"She told me to wake up."
"She doesn't know what she's talking about, you might have a twin walking around. Do you have a twin?"
"Very funny," They turn a corner, going up a small set of stairs to the station entrance. They tap their wallets against the card reader, going through the gates as the platforms mill with students getting back from cram school and salary men and women barely awake, swaying in place. "Have you heard of the newest VIP patient?"
"Yeah," Kuroo purposefully keeps things very vague, patient confidentiality and all, "He's the reason we cinched gold in the last Games. His kid doesn't look anything like him, right?"
Akaashi nods, not having told Kuroo of what had happened between he and Bokuto yet, "...The kid drew me a picture.'"
"That's sweet," Kuroo says. Akaashi slaps the e-cig out of his hands and presses a stick of gum to him instead. Kuroo begrudgingly pops one in his mouth, chewing as obnoxiously as possible, "Can't imagine being him though, going in and out of hospitals all week long. Have you heard back from all your emails?"
"Just about," Akaashi frowns, "The diagnosis doesn't look good. The kid has an extremely rare HLA type in the bone marrow registry and his cancer is stubborn. There was a match found a few months ago but the donor changed their mind and refused. I'm just barely holding it back with the cocktails his previous physician has given me."
"He's really out of options? What about haploidentical match?"
"They found one but the donor died in an MVA a year ago."
Kuroo doesn't reply.
Akaashi stares at the train tracks, "I don't know what to do, Kuroo. He's getting weekly blood and platelet transfusions on top of his chemotherapy. I worry that at the rate the cancer isn't slowing down, it'll eventually spread. He's getting weaker too. I spoke to the hematologist about other options. There are drugs that haven't passed clinical trials yet, but they're not guaranteed to work and on top of it, extremely expensive."
Kuroo presses some gum into his palms, "Go home tonight, Akaashi. You're overworking yourself and burning out. The fate of the hospital doesn't rest in your hands. Heck, take the weekend off."
A stray cherry blossom petal floats past. The sunset is dipping behind several buildings in the distance, the sky burnt orange and deep purple, petals dancing in the wind and landing among the steel tracks.
Kuroo leans into his face when he doesn't reply, "How have you been sleeping?"
Kuroo frowns, "I can get you some melatonin pills from my office drawer."
He rakes a hand through his hair, listening to the train on the other platform arrive, announcements going off above them from the overhead speakers, "No that's not it. I've been having really weird dreams."
"Yep, that's called stress. Go home, I'll call in sick for you tomorrow so you don't have to face Hiiragizawa."
Akaashi feebly thinks of Mitsuharu, "But—"
"You can't take care of patients if you don't take care of yourself, right, Akaashi-sensei?"
He struggles to find an argument that would support him, "No, I guess not," He adds, "Thanks, Kuroo."
He takes a random short cut, huffing, wiping sweat out of his face. Hiiragizawa is going to murder him even if he has a legitimate reason that the Hibiya Line being several minutes off schedule is valid and throw the slip of paper in his face.
He stops in the middle of a short alleyway, seeing the hospital in the distance. He checks his watch, slowing to a walk and wiping the sweat off his face. He can't show up to his first day of work as a fully trained neurosurgeon like this. He has a surgery in an hour too, no less.
A flash of red catches his eye. It's a small, abandoned shrine at the side of the road, surrounded by garbage bins and cardboard boxes from the back doors of the izakaya next to it. Akaashi claps his hand once and prays to the shrine, thanking the gods that he won't be late after all.
He stumbles forward, accidentally crossing the gates. He turns, frowning, wondering how he tripped when the streets are empty.
He pats his cheeks to wake himself up, setting off to the hospital in a speed walk and muttering under his breath the steps of today's operation.
"Just stay still! I'll come to you!"
He opens his eyes, rolling away from his wet pillow and patting his mouth. It's dry.
He touches his eyes, brushing off the tears. He slowly blinks, seeing gaps of sunshine the black out curtains didn't block sunshine in his messy studio. He hasn't been home in several days, so the plates are teetering dangerously in the small sink.
He flips his palms up, seeing only an centimetre of his life line left on both hands.
The clock on the wall ticks, a comforting noise that reminds him of the steady beeping of hospital monitors. Outside, he can hear the gentle thrum of cars and trucks on the street and someone shuffling in their balcony to hang laundry. It's sunny, maybe the park is full of hanamis.
"I'm going to die, aren't I?" He asks his apartment softly.
He's been having the same recurring dream again of holding an infant in the crook of his arms, of a mysterious man who dotes lovingly on him. Akaashi is single, choosing career over love time and time again. He has no cousins as well, so it couldn't be a relative he's holding.
He switches his phone settings from English to Japanese, shakily typing Bokuto Koutarou's name in hiragana. He taps on a Wikipedia link. He stares at the kanji characters, scrolling down slightly, ignoring the picture of the athlete as he poses for a gold medal with his teammates, to the four characters of next to his family section.
Family: Bokuto Mitsuharu (Son).
He traces the crease on his palms again, before flipping them down and getting up. He goes on the internet to find an address, grabbing his keys and wallet with a dry mouth.
If Kuroo has called in sick for him today, he might as well be productive on his day off.
"Your father is a 100% sunshine boy! He clears skies with a clasp of his hands and a prayer!"
"Ah, Papa's coming back, why don't we give him some water for all of his hard work, hm?"
He adjusts the antibiotic drip with a gloved hand, glasses fogging up from the face mask. Mitsuharu is struggling to breathe, pale and sweating in the hospital bed too big for him. Bokuto is staring at his son with a vacant expression Akaashi knows all too well.
After the kiss happened, Bokuto withdrew into himself. They stopped meeting for coffees and short meals together. Akaashi sorely wishes he could ease the furrow of his brows away, but he always kept his hands to himself.
They talk in quiet voices in his office. It doesn't look good. Mitsuharu's cough turned into pneumonia. Akaashi has him on the strongest antibiotics that are commercially available right now.
"The transplant team did find a match," Akaashi pulls out a package of papers, sliding it over the table as Bokuto looks up sharply, "They informed me an hour before you came. It's a haploid match, so 5 HLA markers out of the ten from this particular donor fits Mitsuharu's typing. The donor is also at a good age for bone marrow to be harvested. I've already contacted them and they are willing to come in first thing tomorrow to receive the drug injection to stimulate their marrow."
Bokuto slumps in relief, skimming through the package, "You really are a miracle doctor, Akaashi-sensei. Thank you."
"Bokuto-san, a bone marrow transplant does not guarantee a full recovery," Akaashi gently warns, "Mitsuharu's leukemia is the most aggressive every hematologist and pediatric oncologist in the Greater Tokyo Area has ever seen."
"I know," Bokuto balls up his fists, the note of desperation back, "But it's something, right?"
"Yes, of course," He bites his tongue, not wanting to raise Bokuto's hopes up that a bone marrow transplant might be the only thing that could tempt the cancer into remission.
"Will...will I be able to contact the donor? I'd like to thank them— I know there are strict guidelines but perhaps a letter explaining my thanks...."
"Yes..." Akaashi pushes the box of tissues across the table, nodding, "I believe letters are allowed."
Bokuto grabs his hands across the table instead, the sunset illuminating his tears. Akaashi's office is orange and purple, the pink skies outside matching Bokuto's red nose. He smiles as Bokuto mumbles thank you over and over again.
He checks his palms as Bokuto pulls out his phone to cancel a meeting with his finance advisor for the presumptive operation date. Both life lines are nearly faded.
Death. He should be afraid of it. He was nearly beside himself two years ago when he noticed his life line shortening.
But somehow, exchanging it to give Mitsuharu a chance felt right. He would bet on it, bet on the fact that Mitsuharu will get better before Akaashi fades away or whatever will happen to him the moment his life line disappears.
And then he'll resign and move on with his life.
"'Mitsuharu?'" He looks at the slip of paper in front of him. "Is that how it's suppose to be said?"
"No! I already said it," A man whines. "I wanted both our names."
"...But Koutarou, 'Mitsuharu' makes more sense. It's the name of a samurai during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama period."
"But," A petulant voice grumbles. He looks up to see a pair of muscular arms crossed in front of an equally muscular chest, "But we can just write the furigana on top."
He stops seeing new patients in the ward, Hiiragizawa chewing him out in front of everyone as Akaashi tunes out his yells, the medical students cowering as Hiiragizawa yells himself hoarse in the staff room.
He focuses only on Mitsuharu, to make sure the respiratory bacteria is completely cleared from his culture and that the boy is fine for the transplant surgery.
It's hard to find time where Bokuto isn't attached to his son's side, but Akaashi manages to slip into the room in middle of the night, checking Mitsuharu's lines and monitor out of habit.
He grimaces when he accidentally brushes the bruise on the inside of his elbow against the edge of the bed railing. The clipboard at the end of Mitsuharu's bed states that he is to fast for his 0700 operation in the morning, led by a veteran pediatric surgeon from another hospital named Iwaizumi Hajime.
Mitsuharu stirs, blinking sleepily at him, "Sensei?"
Akaashi crouches, holding onto his small hands.
He smiles, knowing that the child can't see it past his mask, "Your name is supposed to be pronounced as 'Koji', right?"
The boy stares at him, mouth slowly opening as his eyes fill with tears.
Akaashi pulls off his gloves. He shrugs one arm out of his white coat and rolls the sleeve of his shirt up, peeling back the bandaid to show the needle mark in his arm. He sat in a blood donation center for eight hours today, connected to an aphresis machine that drew out the stem cells in his body, "I had a feeling something was up. I went to register myself as a donor a few days ago. It didn't really surprise me when I was your match.
"Did your previous doctor tell you?" Akaashi asks quietly, shrugging his coat back on and rubbing sanitizer on his hands as Koji's large eyes follows him, "You have an extremely rare HLA type. Your father doesn't carry it. Your biological aunt does, but records show that she passed.
"It doesn't make sense. I'm an only child. Did I have a sister, wherever you came from? Siblings don't always have the exact same typing. To get five out of ten is lucky."
Koji nods, silently crying, "Y-You...Keiko-san is her name. Did. Did you remember?"
Akaashi shakes his head.
His child looks crestfallen, staring at his blankets. Akaashi strokes his hair, feeling weighed down and freed at the same time.
He swallows, feeling the blistering headache in his head pulse. His vision blurs. Koji snaps his head up, golden eyes glowing as the light of the surrounding buildings flood into his room.
Akaashi stumbles, hearing the door to the VIP room burst open. Another pair of golden eyes looks at him in alarm.
He curls up on the floor, seeing a baby crawl towards him on the floor in a yellow one piece, a younger Bokuto sprinting ahead of him on a hill, wearing a dark blue t-shirt and white pants, hearing the roar of a crowd as a shrill whistle blows. His dreams are melding into reality.
Hands are pulling him up from the ground. Akaashi opens his mouth to tell Koji not to move too much, fearing that he'll pull his IV out again.
He hazily tilts his head up. The room is definitely spinning. Koji is clutching the hem of his father's shirt, scared. Bokuto lets go of him, opening his hands with the most desperate expression Akaashi has ever seen— more desperate than the crying parents who gripped his front and begged him to save their sons and daughters, more desperate than any of his patients combined, more desperate like he cannot let Keiji be spirited away— and clapping them between his hands.
Clapping them like a prayer.
Then he is nothing.
Ebisu Ward, Tokyo, Japan
"You're not skipping practice are you?"
Akaashi slowly turns around to see Bokuto cross his arms at him, the rest of Fukurodani practicing in the background. Akaashi stands up straight, shaking his head.
"I'm going outside for...a bit," He shifts, anxiously checking the caged clock on the wall. "I promise to be right back—"
Bokuto throws an arm around him, smelling like detergent and sweat. Not the gross kind with body odor, but the kind that permeates in his clothes after several hours of running around and jumping, "Oh! In that case, I'll go with you."
"It's really not necessary."
"Aw come on! You're my kouhai, I'll keep you company and all."
"It's just for a short charity work," Akaashi anxiously tries to shake him off, "I'm on a time limit. I'll be right back."
Bokuto must be so surprised that Akaashi stumbles away, nearly tripping over his feet, "Charity work?"
Akaashi sighs, looking up from the floor to Bokuto's over curious gaze, "I will be right back, Bokuto-san. Please tell Coach that I have stomach problems."
He then runs as fast as he can, turning back once and seeing Bokuto hovering at the gym entrance, not following him.
Akaashi turns back, running past the baseball team coming back in, grumbling about how muddy the fields are today and what they would do for a clear practice after school for once. Today is the sort of day where it has been raining on and off, a strange occurrence in May since the start of rainy season in Kanto is a month away.
He runs out of the school grounds and hits the main road.
He checks his phone for the details, spotting the shrine ahead of him. There is a crowd of people hovering anxiously, looking at the skies with expensive, brightly colored kimonos and parasols.
Akaashi hides behind a bush, nose full of the scent of azaleas as he clears his throat, clapping his hands together.
He opens his eyes when the wedding party cheers, seeing the clouds part above and the evening sun just starting to set. The photographer clicks away rapidly as the bride and groom happily grin. In his safety of the bushes, Akaashi smiles.
"Did you just make the clouds go away?!"
He yelps, tripping against a tree root and falling. He grimaces, looking up to see that Bokuto had followed him.
Bokuto hauls him up as if Akaashi weighs nothing, picking a leaf from his hair and dusting the dirt off his back.
"I thought I asked you not to follow me."
"I got suspicious! You can't just tell me not to go follow you when you've been acting sneaky for the past few months," Bokuto says, squinting as the sunlight reaches behind the bush and falls in his eyes. They burn brightly, "So you control the weather?"
Akaashi releases a pent up sigh, knowing that he'll be asked a hundred questions if he tries to hide it, "No, but I can make clouds part and stop rain momentarily."
Bokuto drops his mouth, "Are you a superhuman?"
He studies his shoes, "I don't think so."
"How did you get your powers?"
Akaashi shrugs, not wanting to tell him, "It's a long story. Maybe for another day," He crawls out of the bush, not waiting for the spiker.
Bokuto needles him about his backstory on the entire way back to Fukurodani. Coach made them run twenty laps around the track for sneaking away from practice, but Akaashi runs them without complaints, trying not to fall every time Bokuto would slump against him, moaning of hunger.
When they finish their laps, the clouds have covered up the sun again.
Akaashi lazily slits his eyes open against the sun, the warmth from the body next to him too hot. He starts going through a shady website full of urban legends in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area on his phone with one hand, tapping on a tab called 100% Sunshine Boy.
He doesn't want to be in the public eye, so he goes through odd requests on the internet and clears up little spots throughout Tokyo, making sure that he never leaves any patterns on where he mostly goes. He also tries to wearing clothing that won't attract attention on himself.
The less people know about his occupation, the better.
A finger touches his skin where a scar on the bend of his elbow shows discoloration. He turns his head to see Bokuto blink at him.
His rough morning voice makes Akaashi shiver. He watches as Bokuto grabs his free hand and brushes his lips over his knuckles.
"I spent my childhood in the hospital," Akaashi mumbles, hearing his sister shuffle out of her bedroom and into the bathroom. He can hear the faucet run, "As it turns out, having an IV in your arm for years doesn't make the skin around it properly heal."
Akaashi looks away from a request to clear up a nursery school in Kichijoji tomorrow afternoon for a daughter's graduation ceremony. Bokuto's hair droops freely around his head, the black and white strands vivid against his dark blue bedding. Akaashi wipes the inner corner of his eyes gently, brushing away the eye crusts.
"I had leukemia as a child. Keiko donated her bone marrow to me."
Bokuto turns his gaze to the ceiling, humming, "I see," He sits up, yawning widely and stretching as his limbs pop. Akaashi makes a face at the noise, "Interhigh is around the corner, care to practice a bit, Akaashi?"
"Sure, I'll make breakfast for all of us and then we can go to a park."
He wakes up suddenly on the couch, a blanket thrown over him. It's dark in the living room but there's a faint glow coming from upstairs.
He lays his feet quietly on the hardwood floors, sneaking up and catching a whiff of smoke from the balcony.
"...have a good friend like you, Kou-chan," Keiko's voice goes, "He...doesn't really have a lot of close friends, so I'm glad he found you and Konoha-kun. I would appreciate it if you continue to be with him in the future. That's what our parents would want, I think."
Akaashi leans against the walls, studying his feet in the dim light.
"Akaashi never mentioned it...but—"
"Died in a car crash, the both of them. Kei-chan was five, I doubt he remembers much of them. I begged our aunt and uncle to remain in Tokyo, not wanting to go down to Fukouka. I was fifteen at that time and ready to quit school to take care of him, but our relatives told me to stay and sent us money.
"I think he couldn't grasp the idea of death," Keiko's voice lulls. Akaashi swallows, pressing his palms against the wall, "He ran away from the hospital one time. They found him passed out next to a small shrine near St. Luke's International Hospital where he was staying.
"It's the most curious thing you know? The day of my high school ceremony was rainy. Kei-chan saw me crying because I wouldn't be able to take good photos if it was overcast so he ran up to me with this serious frown on his face and told me he can clear the weather. Dragged me outside in my uniform, nearly face-planted himself on the steps. Then he clasps his hands together like you would in a prayer and the skies cleared."
Akaashi looks down at his hands, the middle and ring finger of his left hand taped together. He'd jammed the ring finger earlier today but Fukurodani won Interhigh, so it didn't matter.
"100% sunshine boy."
"Yes, I looked the other way. I thought if it's not harming anyone, who am I to stop him?"
Bokuto chuckles, "Ah, so that's how it is. Are you a weather maiden too?"
"Just a normal office worker, Kou-chan. Sorry to disappoint you.... Why the long face?"
When Bokuto speaks, his voice is unusually somber, "Aren't you afraid that something bad will happen? The world...it doesn't just give random people powers like that without a price."
Akaashi swallows, staring at the edge of the step he's on. He hears his sister sigh, imagining smoke floating away from their balcony.
"I do worry, but I try not to let it consume me. We don't know much about his powers so why worry about something you can't control? I'd like to think that a soul as kind as him would grant him a pass with the gods."
"It's dumb, isn't it? But I believe that the deeds you do in your past life reflects your next one. My parents may have met their end a little too soon in this life, but they'll hopefully have a long and lasting one in the next."
"I see.... I hope Akaashi and I will meet in the next one too, wherever that is."
Keiko giggles, "Are you that smitten with my brother already? He's pretty cute, right? He gets his looks from our mother."
Bokuto squawks as Keiko continues to tease him. Akaashi jumps when one of them knocks the laundry pole over, smiling at the steps as he descends back down.
"You know," Keiko says, serious. Akaashi pauses mid step, turning his head to the third floor. "I'm not one for mystic and the unknown, but this old woman came up to me and Keiji one day when we were playing the park and told us that based on his palms, he's born into a terrible fate. Kaa-san got pretty mad when Keiji cried to her and told the old woman to stay away. I wonder if he remembers that...."
"How much longer?" Bokuto moans.
Akaashi doesn't look up from the handsome toaster he's scrutinizing, "Just a few more."
"We've been here for ages!" Bokuto complains, bouncing on the spot. Koji's eyes are wandering around the store, holding the tail of a special limited edition Pikachu Konoha had given as he hangs out of the baby carrier strapped to Bokuto's chest. It's well loved by the tail that needs to be resewn over and over again, "I promised Hinata that I'd meet him after dinner to buy his new runners together!"
"Who was it that knocked the toaster off the counter yesterday morning?" He blinks quickly, his world blurring in front of him. He should really get his headache checked out, but between getting VISAs for all of them and his new job in the literature department, he found very little time to visit the doctor's.
"Hinata can join us if he wants. He has questions about the VISA application to Paris right? How come Meian-san isn't helping him with Olympic-related papers?"
"Meian is too busy making sure Tsumu and Omiomi aren't tearing each other to death."
"Of course," Akaashi gazes at the ceiling, plucking out a box and walking away to the register, "I've chosen the toaster. Bokuto-san, your credit card please, as we've agreed."
Bokuto sighs in his ear, "Again, we're married."
Akaashi grins at him as the girl at the register chirps a thank you for shopping at their store, handing him the toaster in a bag. They exit the building, greeting the cool April air, "Force of habit. Sorry, Koutarou."
He then feels his head pulse, the worst pain he's ever had threatening to split his head open. He drops the bag, hearing it bounce on the street and knocking against his ankles.
Akaashi tenses, clutching his head as he turns incredibly nauseous. Two izakaya owners are running to him, passing a rundown little shrine at the side of the road with molding torii gates. He wonders if this is a stroke or an aneurysm, tensing as another wave of pain shakes through his body.
His head rolls upwards. It was suppose to rain in the evening, but the clouds have parted to show stars twinkling.
He turns, cradled in a set of arms as Koji weeps fat tears, Bokuto yelling at the 110 dispatch to send an ambulance right now, tightly gripping onto him.
"The gods are never kind, did you know how unbalanced you've made the heavens with your little tricks? It's time you wake up!"
He snaps his eyes open, watching Bokuto free fall in the sky. He whips his head left and right, finding that he's floating on a bed of storm clouds that felt like solid ground. Something that sounds like an explosion goes off to his left and he tastes the burn of ozone in the air.
"Koutarou!" He yells, getting to his feet and jumping off.
He opens his mouth to scream as he falls, passing through edges of clouds, his clothing becoming heavy with moisture. Thunder rumbles around them as he looks up, trying to reach Bokuto as the wind knocks them over. Koji shrieks as lightning passes by, strapped to Bokuto's chest, the Pikachu ripped from his hand by the wind.
"Spread your limbs!"
Akaashi grits his teeth, "I'm trying!" He starfishes in the air, nothing but the howling wind in his ear and a foreboding feeling that they'll immediately die if they can't land in a body of water. He rolls several times in the air, losing his orientation as his glasses flies off.
Everything is blurry, a cry gurgles out of him as he blindly swipes at the black clouds surrounding him, "Koutarou!"
"Just stay still! I'll come to you!" Bokuto's tiny voice floats. Akaashi swallows his fear down, trying to keep his limbs far apart to increase the drag on his body as they both speed down towards earth.
Something explodes by his ear. He goes blind for several seconds.
He convulses and screams, clutching his left arm as he starts shaking. The smell of burnt flesh fills his nose, he feels himself tilt in mid-air, wanting to black out from the pain as lightning flashes around him.
He starts falling faster and faster, the left side of his body stinging. The clouds are so cold, so very cold. He hears chattering, it's probably his own teeth. And then he tastes blood. Did he bit himself?
He opens his eyes as something collides with him, Bokuto's face coming into focus. Akaashi tries to curl the left side of his body around Koji, smelling only burnt flesh as Bokuto screams at him to stay awake.
Something above them roars. He slits his eyes open to see the blurry mouth of a dragon appear, lightning making up its body as it chases them.
Akaashi uses his good arm to clutch onto his jacket for dear life, wondering what Bokuto can do against an angry, lightning filled sky dragon bent on striking all three of them to death when he feels a hand pressing against his cheek, warm.
He looks away from the dragon onto Bokuto's face, alight from the light source above, rain rolling off his face, hair standing up on end.
"Keiji! Promise me!" Bokuto yells. Koji has grown silent in his carrier, probably due to the thin oxygen. Akaashi feels like passing out too, the left side of his body numb and cold. His teeth continue to chatter, "Promise me you'll find me!"
"Promise me! And hold onto me!"
"I promise!" He yells, tears streaming out of his eyes. He fists his nails further into his jacket, not caring if his fingernails rip off. Bokuto blurs.
Then Akaashi sees him clap, hands formed like a prayer.
St. Luke's International Hospital, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan
His eyes snap open. He yells when he realizes he's free falling in the sky again, looking left and right for the lightning dragon that was hellbent on chasing them.
His head pulses, he rolls into a cloud, coughing and shivering as he comes out the bottom completely soaked, his tie flapping into his face. His head is heavy with memories— 100% sunshine boy, Keiko sitting up in her hospital bed, the feel of a volleyball in his hands, the funeral of his parents, stacks and stacks of paperwork, Hiiragizawa kicking him out of the OR in his first year as a resident.
Somewhere in the clouds, he is two people merging into one.
Tokyo glimmers below him, an ocean of twinkling stars as he tumbles. He naturally spreads his limbs out, looking around to see Bokuto desperately trying to swim across the air to him.
"Koutarou!" He yells, "What?!—"
Something small bumps into him. He automatically curls his arm around the object, feeling himself accelerate as he opens his eyes and sees Koji's fear stricken face gaze up at him, the ears of his bear toque flapping in the wind.
The boy gasps, "Otou-san! Otou-san! Papa remembers me!"
Bokuto sails past them, overshooting his trajectory as he fans out his limbs again, hair ruffling in the night wind. Akaashi maintains one tight arm around his son, unknotting his tie with one tug and using that to tie Koji's wrist to his left arm.
"I'll come to you!" Bokuto swims across the air, eyes glowing like the sun itself. He bares his teeth, reaching forward as Akaashi extends one hand out.
He grasps Bokuto's slick palms, being pulled closer and closer until they're face to face, still plummeting down at the speed of falling stars.
"Did you really remember?" Bokuto screams, eyes tearing up. He's not sure if it's due to the wind or emotions.
Akaashi looks into his eyes, furious at the fact that Bokuto had been normal at some point, but between being spirited away to the skies and living as a doctor in an alternate universe, he definitely did something stupid. His head hurts from living two lives, "What dumb promise did you give to the gods to follow me? You should have never dragged yourself into this!"
"Why not?" Bokuto hotly demands, spitting at him. "You expect me to abandon you?!"
"I made that stupid promise with that god ages ago!" Akaashi screams, "It's my mistake and mine only!"
"The world can go to hell! I'm not going to let fate steal you away from your friends and family!" Bokuto shouts, baring his teeth as his eyes burns gold, "And I'll do it again if they interfere this time! Again and again and again! I'll look for you in every single alternate universe to bring you back!"
Akaashi grits his teeth, Bokuto blurring as tears slip out of his eyes. He looks down, Tokyo close. He can pick apart specific landmarks, the city spread in front of him like a large, dark map with glowing dots representing each light fixture.
How are they going to land?
"Are we going to crash?" A whimper comes from his arms.
"No!" Bokuto and Akaashi yell at the same time. Akaashi immediately spots several straight lines of Haneda Airport to his left. He tilts his head, finding the neon glow of Shinjuku next.
"Move to the right! We're going to crash into Odaiba at this point!"
Bokuto is hysterical, "You want us to fall into Tokyo Bay?"
"It has a depth of seventy meters!" Akaashi snaps back at him, "I don't know the speed at which we're falling right now, but landing in water allows the momentum to be absorbed by our surroundings! And we won't immediately be flattened!"
"What about the boats?!"
"Avoid them!" Akaashi snaps at him, looking down at Koji, "Koji! You still remember how to swim right?"
Koji nods furiously. Akaashi orders Bokuto to do the air swimming gestures, pushing them away from the artificial land until all that is in front of them are dark waters.
Akaashi begins to feel like he's having an out of body experience as they get closer and closer to the surface of the ocean, like he wants to curl up, vomit, pass out and pretend that he isn't actually living this exact moment in his life.
Bokuto gawks at him, "Are you nuts?!"
"We'll be sucked in together!" He doesn't know if that's actually true, his brain going at a hundred miles per hour. He can treat this like a physics question, but all he can think about is not landing on the water's surface belly first. "Pretend you're at the pool and you want to touch the bottom! Point your toes!"
He hurriedly tells Koji to take a deep breath on his mark. Akaashi looks desperately at Bokuto.
Bokuto, who knew he was a sunshine boy, who knew every single mole on his body, who went professional in Osaka, who raised Koji together with him, who threw away everything without a thought to make sure he wasn't spirited away.
"I'll find you!"
"You better!" Bokuto yells, still hanging onto his arm, "On your count!"
Akaashi swallows, seeing fireworks pop around them from Tokyo Disney Sea. He nods, immediately spreading his legs and one arm out as Bokuto pushes him away. He flips several times before rightening himself, Koji looking close to like he'll pass out at any moment.
He checks Bokuto. Both of them are stable in the air.
A firecracker pops beside him, illuminating the waters slightly. He blinks, forcing himself to focus on the darkness of the waters and not the blinding light, "Three!"
"Two!" A tiny voice from his side yells. He's level with Tokyo Skytree glowing brightly in the distance. He loosens the tie, watching it immediately fly away.
He pulls himself into an upright position, like a knife, toes pointed downward, arms tightly hugging Koji, "One! Breathe, Koji!"
They enter the water. Akaashi immediately curls up like a shrimp once his entire body enters, his ankles and legs going numb from the force of their fall. The water is deathly cold and he opens his mouth in surprise, all his nerves set on fire at the temperature. He releases the little body and pushes it upwards, using his arms to stroke for the surface.
Bubbles floats up. He follows them, gritting his teeth and wiggling up like a mermaid when his legs won't work.
He breaches the surface, immediately lying on his back and floating as best as he can to catch his breath. He begins to chatter, the cold weighing his limbs down. He needs to get Koji and get them to land.
"K-Koji!" He hisses, dazed.
"Pa!" A little head flails. Akaashi swims over, telling Koji to not struggle and hold onto his white coat. He begins to paddle towards the beaches with weak arms, heading for the amusement park lights. Land. Where is the land?
"K-Koji...are you hurt?"
He shuts his eyes against the sea water, realizing that his glasses have been off his face for a while, "I'm s-sorry, it'll be over soon."
When he's close enough to shore, he gives up, letting the waves pull him forward and listening to copyrighted music play around them as they wash ashore.
He drags himself on the beach, "K-Koji, are you o-okay?"
"I-I-I never, e-ever," His son chatters, eyes blinking up at him, "Wa-want to do t-that again."
He laughs loudly, pulling them out from where the water had been lapping at their ankles. He shivers, hoping there would be golf carts he could borrow so they can ride to a payphone within the park's walls.
He shrugs off his white coat and tells Koji to lie on his back for a minute, checking his lung sound as best as he can without a stethoscope, thankful that there's only a light breeze near the waters tonight.
He stares at his legs, flexing the muscles and trying to stand when the best attempt he can give is a feeble crawl. Perhaps he has suffered long term damage for falling out of the sky and into the ocean. He'll be surprised if he walks away with only a few bruises.
"Kou..." He tries to yell. It comes out very faint.
He stares at the blurry shoreline with a rising panic. How was he suppose to find Bokuto with no glasses and a son who cannot get pneumonia again?
He pulls his cellphone out. He presses a button. It's dead.
He throws it in the sand, hearing it bounce off a log ten feet away from him.
"Ow," The lump groans.
Akaashi gasps, "B-Bokuto?" He manages a half crawl, half run to him, pressing his hands on his chest as Bokuto's face sharpens when he gets close enough.
Bokuto coughs up water, sand sticking to his hair and skin, "Ugh. J-Just g-g-give me a se-second. How's K-K-Koji?"
"Fine," Akaashi grits his teeth, pulling off the seaweed that has wrapped itself around his ankles and making sure that Koji is still breathing on his own, a foot away from him. He checks Bokuto's nerves by pressing as hard as he can to the bed of his thumbnail. Bokuto flinches.
"Ow! Wh-what's that for?"
"To m-make sure you've sustained no neurological damage," Akaashi mutters. "Once you're o-okay, can you sit up and look for a gold cart? We need to get warm soon or risk hypothermia and I need a stethoscope to make sure none of us has water in our lungs, especially Koji because he's immunocompromised. Do you know what kinds of bacteria are in the bay? Aeromonas to name one—"
Bokuto waves a chunky Nokia at him he pulled from his waterlogged pockets, "See if this...works."
Akaashi immediately seizes it, pressing the power button and blinking with surprise when screen starts loading. He makes a noise in this throat that Bokuto echoes, both of them too tired to say words. He types a set of numbers in a frenzied state, hoping and hoping that—
"Kuroo Tetsurou, Cardiology."
"K-Kuroo!" Akaashi sighs, collapsing on the sand as he looks at the stars. "Kuroo, c-can you drive out to Disney Sea and bring lots of blankets and a first aid kit?"
"Um, what for? Why don't you ask the park for their first aid kit?"
Akaashi warily smiles, turning his head to look at Bokuto, "L-Long story, just come okay? To the beaches please, the beach at the back of the park."
"This doesn't taste good," Akaashi mutters, poking his curry in distaste.
Kuroo growls from the end of his bed, hair sticking up from the countless of times he's dug into scalp. Koji is sleeping soundly in the other VIP room, Bokuto also admitted in there for overnight observations.
The Chairman had fainted when the ambulance came wheeling Akaashi, Bokuto and Koji into the emergency room. Akaashi only shot Bokuto an intense look before he was whisked away by Meian, the trauma specialist, for full blood work, X-rays and neurological exams as the sun came up.
"I still don't understand how you appeared in the ocean," Kuroo tiredly says, looking like he aged several years in the two hours he rescued all three of them. He smells like seawater, having carried Koji first to his car and wrapping him up with blankets before slowly shuffling Akaashi and Bokuto one by one when their legs started working again.
"K—Mitsuharu-kun ran away to Disney Sea. Koutarou and I followed him. We couldn't make a phone call because we got caught in the water."
"...Alright. Just eat your curry, you'll feel better soon."
Akaashi shovels the curry in his mouth without tasting it as the monitors connected to him beep in tandem.
"I won't ask, because I'm tired as fuck and just got out of an AD," Kuroo attempts to fight off a yawn, "But after you talk it out with...what did you call him again? 'Koutarou-san?' I want an explanation too."
"Of course," Akaashi promises, leaning back onto the bed. Part of their conversation in the ER while they waited for his lung X-rays to come back clear was how he'd fallen madly in love with Bokuto and will be resigning from his position so they can sign the marriage papers as soon as possible, "Thank you for not making a fuss by the way."
Kuroo yawns, waving from the chair, "I'll call in sick for you. Go sleep, Akaashi."
Akaashi smiles at him before he shuts his eyes.
"Aren't you suppose to be resting?" Bokuto asks warily as Akaashi peers at his monitor, having being discharged the first out of their family five days after they fell from the sky. Akaashi begged Meian to be released even though he could have gone another night resting, hovering anxiously outside the OR as Dr. Iwaizumi performed the marrow transplant.
"How is he?" Akaashi had shot to his feet when Iwaizumi pulled off his surgical cap, coming out of the OR.
"Good vitals, it went well," Iwaizumi scratches his head, eyeing him suspiciously, "Has anyone told you that he looks an awful lot like you?"
Akaashi nervously laughed as he led Iwaizumi up to the VIP ward so the surgeon can report to Bokuto.
"Your heart rate is increasing," He comments, humming. He raises one eyebrow, mouth covered by a mask, "How come?"
Bokuto scowls, crossing his arms. Koji giggles from his bed, pushed away to make room for Bokuto's. The VIP rooms are large enough that Akaashi could probably roll in six patient beds and still have room in there leftover for a kitchen and sink.
He turns his attention to Koji, pulling out the cup of mango pudding he'd sneak inside.
Akaashi grins, propping the feeding table up from the end of the bed as Koji crawls forward. He grabs the TV remote and finds a channel having Doraemon reruns.
He jerks his chin to the door, "Otou-san and I are going outside to talk for a bit, okay?"
Koji nods, entirely engrossed in his pudding and show. Akaashi holds the door open as Bokuto limps out with a set of crutches, shutting the door carefully and leading him to the fire exit. He pulls off his mask and throws it into a bin just outside the heavy door.
"Great. Stairs," Bokuto sighs.
Akaashi lends a hand, slowly shuffling them up one step at a time, until they greet the sunset. He slips his tie off and pockets it in his pants, unbuttoning the first two buttons and taking a deep breath of air.
They both watch the colors of the sky change for several minutes in silence. Orange slowly turns to pink, which slowly turns to purple, indigo and violet blue.
"I'll start first," The dimension jumper says.
Akaashi gazes at the buildings as Bokuto recounts his story. After Akaashi's collapse on the streets of Osaka, he spotted a little shrine at the road side and wished for a way to help when he blacked out and appeared in the sky.
"I think that happened because I was holding you. Anyway, I prayed for another chance," Bokuto murmurs, shuffle close to him as their shoulders brush, "I don't care what price I had to pay. You blacked out then but I pulled you into this empty space. I don't know what it was, probably the space between dimensions or something, and we were both falling into this column of light.
"Then we got separated. I landed in this world with an older Koji in a Roppongi penthouse and the Olympics dawning upon us. Alternate universes are funny. I was a volleyball player in our first life and I am one again in this life."
Akaashi tries to comprehend, "So you spent....eight months in this world?"
"Yeah, until I bumped into you," His eyes are heavy, "I think my price for jumping dimensions was Koji getting leukemia."
Akaashi doesn't reply, remembering Bokuto's words years ago when he spoke with Keiko on the balcony.
Bokuto props up his crutches against the railings, massaging his palms, "When I landed, I looked for you in various literature magazines. I didn't realize you would be a doctor. If I did, I would have found you sooner.
"I was so worried," Bokuto sucks in a heaving breath, his voice cracking. Akaashi puts a hand on his arm, feeling it shake, "Koji was sick, you were gone and I had to pretend to be someone I wasn't. I was trying to find you and get Koji treated at the same time."
Bokuto wipes away his tears quickly, sighing a shuddering breath, "When did you piece it together?"
Akaashi flips his palms up. His life line came back, not as long as it used to be, but longer than when he last looked at it, right before it had disappeared completely.
"I've been having dreams throughout my life, dreams that I can't remember. They came back with greater intensity the day we bumped into each other.
"And then Koji called me Papa. He looks...he looks so much like me that I thought, what are the chances of us being related?" Akaashi remembers sitting in his office for an hour numbly, staring at the HLA results from the reference lab, how he was matched immediately. "I called the bone marrow donation coordinator and she told me what luck it was, to be matched with one of my patients."
Bokuto grins tiredly, "It wasn't lucky. You have your sister's blood and she is—"
"Koji's biological mother," Akaashi finishes, looking away towards the street below them, at the cars being redirected away from the construction at the intersection, "Keiko doesn't exist in this world."
Bokuto grows quiet, "Hinata doesn't either. Instead of Meian being the Captain of the National Team, I was named Captain for the last Games."
He shows his palms to Bokuto, staring right into his eyes.
"In my past life," He says softly, "I was 100% sunshine boy. In this life, I was a miracle doctor with a life line that shortened inch by inch with every patient I treated. I was suppose to be spirited away in this dimension, Koutarou, did you do something to restore half my life line?"
Akaashi remembers Bokuto clapping his hands together like a prayer before he blacked out in Koji's VIP room.
Bokuto blinks evenly at him, holding both palms up.
Akaashi looks down, feeling his eyes prickle with heat and pain.
"I know bartering with the gods requires a price, so I made sure to wish it only upon me when I transferred half my life line to you," Bokuto quietly says as Akaashi traces the creases in his palms with a shaking finger.
"Yeah," Bokuto agrees with a single tear slipping out of his eyes, pressing their foreheads together. "I'll run after you even if this dimension crumbles, too."
Akaashi throws his arms around him, the wind running through his hair and he leans in and presses his mouth firmly against Bokuto's.
Akaashi quietly hands the Chairman his resignation form, stating that he is going to marry Bokuto and therefore it would be a conflict of interest if he is treating his soon-to-be-son. The Chairman had been stunned when he explained, but he was able to leave his office without too many questions.
Another doctor is assigned to Koji, and Akaashi takes his time finishing his last research paper and cleaning his office out, enough to see that the bone marrow donation worked.
Koji is being wheeled to an expensive looking car, holding a plush from the hospital and a balloon in hand for a successful remission. Akaashi made his last day at the hospital the same day they're all going home, having given Bokuto his last box of medical textbooks in Koji's room earlier that morning.
Kuroo and Yachi are waiting for him at the lobby, opting to stay inside the air conditioned building rather than wait outside as Bokuto fiddles with Koji's car seat.
"You're...marrying Bokuto-san?" Yachi blinks, looking like the information is sudden and she needs a minute to process it. "And you're, um, also going to pursue literature? Instead of medicine?"
Akaashi nods, giving the lobby one last glance as a physician. He always felt off working here. Kuroo has his ID and keys to his office in his hand, "I can afford to retire early thanks to the money the Chairman gave me."
"Wow," Yachi breathes out. "That much?"
Akaashi grimaces, "Well, I did put a lot it into a high interest savings account and—"
Kuroo locks him in a headlock, looking slightly down that Akaashi won't be working with him anymore, "You sure you don't want to come back to the hospital? You can take a sabbatical. All of us will write Hiiragizawa up. There's no way admin can ignore him— Yachi got a recording of his outburst."
Akaashi smiles, hiding his palms from view, "It's okay, Kuroo. You both are free tomorrow night for yakiton, right?"
"Hell yeah I'm free for grilled meat!"
Yachi brightens, "Yes, of course!"
"Keiji!" Bokuto's voice enters one ear louder than the other. Akaashi fiddles with his hearing aid, his left eardrum destroyed from the firework that popped right beside him during their free fall. It's the only permanent injury Meian caught in the ER, "Koji's in the seat now— K-Keiko?"
Kuroo blinks at Bokuto, "Sorry?"
Bokuto vehemently shakes his head, eyes too wide as Akaashi stares at him, open mouthed, "N-Nothing! Uh, slip of the tongue."
"Koji?" Yachi echoes.
Bokuto waves his hands, flustered. Akaashi stares at Kuroo out of the corner of his eyes, trying to see what Bokuto sees. Kuroo is tall and smokes a lot, sure, but....
He smiles to himself, maybe Bokuto is right.
Kuroo dubiously squints at Bokuto. The two had became close during Akaashi's days of being a patient in the VIP ward he used to work in, "Anyway, are you sure your ankle is healed enough to drive? You shouldn't push yourself."
"It's fine! I won't be driving, Keiji will be."
Akaashi nods, waving at his coworkers, "I'll see you both tomorrow."
Yachi and Kuroo wave back casually, seeing them off. Akaashi immediately grumbles at the intense humidity outside, heading over to the driver's seat and fanning his dress shirt as the car's air conditioning unit thrums quietly.
"I never asked," Bokuto mumbles in his ear as Akaashi puts an arm over his shoulder, steadying him. He wonders where the crutches are, "But do you remember everything?"
Akaashi nods, "I remember both lives...it's quite overwhelming actually, living two lives at once," He comes to a stop as he realizes what brand of car Bokuto has, "...This is a very expensive car."
Bokuto shrugs too casually, shooting him a knowing grin, "I didn't buy it. It came with this world."
Akaashi laughs loudly, Koji asking what was so funny from the backseat.
Bokuto chats nonstop as Akaashi maneuvers the car from Tsukiji to Roppongi, the windows slightly rolled down as he inhales the warm breeze, "—Koji needs some catching up on schoolwork, I have to tell my team that I might be able to come back for V.League, oh, we haven't gotten you a cellphone yet! We should do that! And wait, your stuff! You have your own apartment, right?"
"Otou-san, be patient."
Akaashi grins at the mirror, pulling the skylight cover back so the entire car is illuminated by the sun, "That's right, Koji. Everything can wait, Bokuto-san," He smiles, feeling the sun's warmth on his skin from the windows, spotting fluffy white clouds lazily drifting about. He feels freed, truly freed, "One step at a time. We have the rest of our lives to figure things out."
"'Bokuto-san?' Keiji! We're married!"
"Not in this life," Akaashi reminds him playfully. He waves his ringless hand, the cheap gold band he bought for himself lost in the ocean.
Bokuto nods seriously, "That's true. First order should be lunch and then ring shopping."
Akaashi grins as they zoom under a bright blue sky, holding the wheel in one hand as the other seeks Bokuto's.
Their fingers lace together, warmed by each other and the heat of the sun.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spots the alleyway where he saw the shrine. It's empty, with only a streetlamp standing innocently before they whiz past.
Bokuto turns his head, "See something?"
"Nothing to note," Akaashi squeezes his hand, "Just thinking how all of this is a miracle."