It was beyond belief.
No less than an hour ago, they were preparing lunch for a visit with his parents. A day like any other violently disrupted by an event so surreal.
Xiang Hao Ting sat white-knuckled in the hospital waiting room, sinking so deeply into his own thoughts that he was barely aware he occupied a body.
He recalled the screeching of tires and the concerned shouting of onlookers. Images of a motionless figure bent in the road accosted him, the loosely-fitting clothing draped strangely over it.
He couldn't contain these images, they kept coming. His breathing became shallow.
He'd never seen anyone in this state of injury before. It was so unfamiliar an experience that the form itself seemed like it should have belonged to a stranger. Filled with terror, Hao Ting approached. Bleeding lacerations and scrapes marked Xi Gu's gentle face. One arm was angled unnaturally beneath him.
He was very still.
Hao Ting suddenly became far too aware of his own body.
The sensation of gravity pressing his weight into the chair felt crushing, his numbed extremities were tense with adrenaline that no longer served a purpose, his unseeing eyes were stinging and blurry with tears. The air seemed thin, he couldn't breathe in enough of it.
He began trembling and gasping when his shoulder was gripped by a strong hand. His parents had arrived and his father maintained a pacifying hold on Hao Ting until he was able to regulate his breathing.
He rose to his feet and held his parents tightly. Hunched over to meet their heights, he buried his face somewhere between them. They all shook with the force of his weeping.
They were led down a long hallway glossy with white tiles. He could feel his heart beating in his throat as they followed the nurse guiding them. They soon entered a single-occupant room.
Xi Gu was alive.
Emotion overwhelmed Hao Ting. He was filled with joy and his worst anxieties were alleviated. His heart swelled with gratitude towards the hospital staff, towards the passersby who didn't delay calling an ambulance.
He was grateful to have another chance to hold him, to look into his kind eyes, to kiss him, to scold him for not being careful.
Still, Xi Gu's appearance was alarming: bruises and stitches blemished his exposed skin; he was hooked up to an IV; there were wires attached to his chest and a complex-looking brace with pins sticking out of it wrapped around a propped-up arm.
Hao Ting sat by Xi Gu's bedside and brought his hand to the other's uninjured one, softly caressing the chafed skin of his upturned palm.
He imagined how much more frightening and painful this experience must have been for Xi Gu. He desperately wanted to turn back time at this moment. This didn't need to have happened.
The guilt that followed was nauseating.
He regularly reprimanded Xi Gu for his inattentiveness. It worried him deeply. The amount of times that boy nearly ran headlong into trees while distracted by his phone or walked directly into an oncoming biker's pathway while in a hurry was incredible.
They could have finished making lunch without the salt they'd left at the store, they were already running late. He should have known that sending Xi Gu on a rushed errand was a bad idea. Maybe this wouldn't have happened if-
The sound of laughter nearby interrupted his line of thought.
A pair of passing nurses were smiling over a shared joke. The mundanity of the exchange was striking to him. His gaze lingered absently on the doorway. That anyone could be experiencing a routine day on the job felt unfathomable, enviable.
At long last, a doctor made her way into the room. Spurred by Hao Ting's insistent questioning, she provided a very detailed account of the previous several hours.
Xi Gu underwent surgery to repair a broken arm. The bone had fractured in two places and required a specialized brace that held a complicated array of pins in place. He also sustained a slight concussion and some topical abrasions.
She assured them that Xi Gu's injuries were not as serious as they might have appeared. He would be allowed to return home in a day or so.
Relief washed over Hao Ting, a release of tension that had been building since the morning. The gravity of the situation was sobering. At last, he felt a sense of ease but remained emotionally exhausted.
He directed an appreciative look towards his parents, who seemed to have been trying to figure out a way to cover the cost of the hospital stay.
When he returned his attention to Xi Gu, warm brown eyes met his own.
The breath caught in his throat and his heart leapt.
Xi Gu inhaled as slowly and deeply as he always did in the morning, blinking away the sleep in his eyes and grimacing away from the bright ceiling lights.
"Hi," came his soft voice.
But Hao Ting was already peppering his lips with small kisses, his own cheeks moist with tears and reddened with elation. "I love you, I love you-" he repeated over and over, cradling the other's precious face.
Xi Gu grinned, his lips meeting Hao Ting's through visible confusion. It was as if he'd been expecting to wake up in bed at home and was surprised to find himself elsewhere.
Hao Ting delighted in his groggy cluelessness. He was as Yu Xi Gu as Yu Xi Gu has ever been.
He would be okay.
They would be okay.