White ceiling, something like a vent, colorless lights.
Atsushi’s limbs ache, it’s worse than any pain he's felt before. There was a feeling at the back of his throat that made him want to gag. He knew he couldn’t move a muscle, even if he tried.
Inhaling made his lungs hurt.
However, he’s never been one to give up easily. He’s unaware of his whereabouts, and the last thing he remembers is somebody flinging him towards a wall while on an infiltration mission.
He tries to move, grunting a bit. Was he sedated? Are these the side effects, not being able to move afterwards?
A figure appears, the one of a man, standing above him like an angel.
This is probably what death is like.
Huh, how nice. He’s probably going to heaven.
“Atsushi-kun~” he hears, it’s probably the angel calling out to him. The man repeats his name, and he blinks again, awaiting the beautiful angel that’s come to bring him to the gods above.
… Instead, he gets Dazai.
That’s definitely not an angel.
Atsushi groans, finally able to move, rolling over onto his side. He presumed he was in the agency’s dorm — but it looks like he’s in a hospital. There’s a curtain slid closed on his right side, and he’s laying on an uncomfortable bed.
Well, that’s just great.
“Atsushi? Is he awake?” A voice that sounds like Kunikida queries, rushing over to see for himself.
Atsushi bats Kunikida’s hand away when he gets too close, “Don’t go inspecting me like I’m a corpse! Obviously God didn’t want me!”
His two coworkers falter at his tone of voice as he sits upright on the cot.
Dazai frowns, “You’re quite the cranky one when you’re injured.”
Atsushi gapes, having a moment of realization, “I’m injured?”
Kunikida sighs, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, “Unfortunately, yes. You and Akutagawa were struck badly while on your mission.”
The younger of the three can only think of more questions, “Why are we in the hospital, then? Can’t Yosano-sensei heal us? And where’s Akutagawa, is he okay?”
His superior seems to hesitate, “That’s the unfortunate part. Due to your ability, you’d usually have a quicker recovery. Akutagawa would’ve still needed to be hooked up to a ventilator, but,” Kunikida crosses his arms, “the ability user was too powerful, and some.. aspects of your ability may take time to come back. Yosano-sensei’s ability isn’t able to fix this.”
Atsushi deadpans, “Huh?”
Dazai watches as Kunikida sighs, deciding to take over, “Now, don’t look so sad! You’re still able to transform into your tiger form, but you don’t have your regeneration aspect nor your speedy recovery aspect. For Akutagawa, we can’t say, since he isn’t awake yet.”
“So I’m just a tiger… with no strength.”
Dazai nods brazenly.
The world comes tumbling down at that very moment.
Kunikida seems to sympathize with him, giving him a solacing pat on the head.
“As for where Akutagawa is,” Dazai starts back up, “he’s right here!”
The man pulls the curtain on Atsushi’s right side back, revealing his partner, hooked up to so many machines. Akutagawa isn’t awake yet, as they said, laying almost lifelessly on his cot. He looks so pale and thin, unhuman — like something out of an abstract painting.
Atsushi’s heart almost drops out of his ass.
“Is he okay?!” he moves to get out of bed, his own IV hookup holding him back.
“Calm down, he’s not going to wake up just because you want him to. He’ll be okay. There’s a chance of survival.”
Atsushi’s chest heaves, looking between his two coworkers, “A chance? Just a chance? There’s no guarantee?”
Kunikida has a firm grip on his shoulders, holding him down in a sitting position. He looks worried himself.
“Akutagawa’s body is… frail,” Atsushi cringes at the choice of words, “he’ll need more time to recover than you do. You can’t go freaking out now. Besides, you’ll have a VIP seat to keep an eye on him as long as he’s here.”
Wait, then that means…
“That means I’m staying here, then? I thought you said I’ll recover faster than him.”
“You will. You’ll still need some time, though. Having half of your ability sucked out of you isn't an easy thing to recover from.”
“But that’ll affect the agency, won’t it? Akutagawa and I paired together are the main force for combat-”
“Kenji-kun will manage. Kyouka-chan’s training, as well. You two need time off, at least a month.”
Atsushi doesn’t want to believe it. He even looks to Dazai, who’s turned sullen.
“So the next month of my life is going to be lived in a hospital?”
Kunikida nods, “We’ll visit when we can. And the two of you have each other.”
Atsushi scoffs pitifully, glancing at his bedridden partner, “Yeah, if he even wakes up.”
Dazai grimaces, “You’ll be fine. He’ll be fine, too.”
And no, Atsushi doesn’t believe that for a minute, but he nods nonetheless. The last thing these two need is for him to throw a fit out of anxiety.
Dazai and Kunikida leave after twenty minutes of explaining the routine for the upcoming month.
Depending on when Akutagawa wakes up, they’ll both have checkups every three days, almost like rehab. During this rehab, they’ll learn how to use some of the aspects of their abilities again.
If Akutagawa doesn’t wake up, Atsushi must proceed on without him.
It makes him sick just thinking about it. He’s left the curtain open to glance at his partner now and then, but every time he does, he feels like retching.
Two years have passed since Akutagawa joined the agency, two years since he chose to turn his life around. Of course, Atsushi being eighteen and more naïve than he’d ever admit, was reluctant to even work with the former mafioso.
But over time, the man’s shown he can cooperate, and that he can trust. Atsushi learned how to trust him, too. He can say Akutagawa is somebody he wants to see live on, to continue to do good, and to smile.
They’ve also become friends .
Friends, which are more than partners. All the vile comments from before have turned into affectionate banter. And while Akutagawa’s patronizing behavior gets to Atsushi sometimes, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Atsushi only stops reminiscing when the door creaks open slightly. He sees a bunny plushie first, followed by Kyouka’s braided pigtails. Even in his moment of despondency, he tries to smile at her.
Her eyes scan over Akutagawa first, trying to avoid looking gloomy. Atsushi can tell she feels for him, too, despite their history.
“Hi,” she says, walking over to his cot, taking note of his stature. Atsushi’s got his knees up against his chest, arms draped over them.
“Hey. Aren’t you and Kenji supposed to be—”
“The President said we can skip training for today. Kenji has some other things to do, but I wanted to come see you.”
He nods, sighing lightly.
Kyouka gives him a concerned smile, “Are you going to be okay here?”
Atsushi shrugs lazily, “Don’t know. I’ll be in rehab as soon as Ryuu wakes up, but,” he tries so hard not to take another glance at Akutagawa, “they’re not even sure he will. So..”
The girl huffs, “He’ll wake up. All that talk about how none of us could ever possibly defeat him, and look at him now.”
She says it as a joke, but it’s a pill that’s too hard to swallow.
Ironic, isn’t it, Ryuunosuke?
Kyouka seems to notice his indifference, mumbling out an apology.
Atsushi frowns knowingly, “It’s fine. I’m just a pain in the ass to talk to right now, you shouldn’t have come.”
She shakes her head, “Nevermind that. I wanted to see you.”
The door creaks again when one of the nurses comes in, somewhat smiling, “Hi, Nakajima-san? Your biopsy results are back. Would you like to see them?”
He and Kyouka share a look.
The biopsy came back negative for any long-term diseases, which is the only good news he’s received all day. It’s two in the morning, Kyouka left a while ago. The nurses already told him he should head to sleep, his body would need to run on a schedule — it’s obvious he wouldn’t listen to them, yet they didn’t lecture him.
His lamp is on, dimly lighting up the area between his and Akutagawa’s beds.
Akutagawa’s lamp is off.
Atsushi wouldn’t be able to sleep, even if he tried. The last thing he wants is for Akutagawa to wake up and not know where he is, or why he’s hooked up to numerous machines. Eventually, he’d figure it out — especially after seeing Atsushi sleeping on the other cot.
Frankly, Atsushi’s just tired of Akutagawa having to go through things alone.
Especially after Atsushi had the privilege to be informed of where he was and how he ended up there.
It’s not fair to his partner, who’s equally injured.
He knows it’s against the rules to go near Akutagawa, especially in his state, but seeing him lying there helplessly has been striking at Atsushi’s nerves all day.
Atsushi ends up ignoring the rules.
He walks, barefoot, over to his partner’s cot, crouching down to study his features. Seeing Akutagawa’s bold features relaxed is a blessing, he finally doesn’t look stressed. It’s almost funny. Atsushi would laugh if he had the energy.
His legs shake as he tries to kneel on the floor, reaching for Akutagawa’s hand.
“You’ll wake up, right?” he mumbles, throat closing up at how desperate he sounds.
Of course there wouldn’t be one.
He briefly remembers Akutagawa asking him a question one morning last month, something close to If I died, you’d cry, wouldn’t you, Jinko?
His voice held mirth, and Atsushi admits, over the years, Akutagawa became quite the jokester, always trying to make one of the teens smile, or even trying to get a chuckle out of Ranpo.
The question felt serious, though. Despite the chortles from Tanizaki, scolding him with Don’t even consider such things, Akutagawa-san!
Atsushi didn’t answer him, too tired to even think about the proper answer back then.
But now, as he sits with Akutagawa’s bony hand in his, he knows he’d sob like a lost child if his partner ever passed.
He could already feel the tears from a mile away.
Despite being so determined to stay awake, Atsushi fell asleep at one point throughout the night. Fortunately for him, he made it back to bed before one of the nurses found him passed out on the ground.
He finds his body aching, especially his joints, when he awakens. There's a set of pills placed in a small cup for him to take after breakfast. His mind takes a while to start back up after his slumber, before he realizes the curtain’s been drawn slightly.
Atsushi glances at the door, which seems shut, before he gets up to yank the fabric back.
Akutugawa’s IV is still attached to his arm, but he’s been taken off the ventilator.
That could only mean something good, right?
It’s a disappointment, seeing him the same way he was last night, but there’s still hope he’ll wake up soon. Atsushi’s always been one to hang onto glimpses of hope when he sees it.
He thinks the day is going to mangable, at least, but that proves false when he steps outside of his room.
The nurse at the front desk takes a glance at him, “You’re not allowed to be out here, Nakajima-san.”
Atsushi can feel his brows furrow unintentionally, “But.. I got cleared yesterday?”
She shakes her head, sighing as she gets up from her desk to escort him back inside the room. He’s practically manhandled onto the bed until he’s properly sat down.
“One of the specialized doctors, I’m pretty sure she works at your agency, told us she needs an x-ray of your joints.”
Atsushi swallows thickly, “I already did one.”
She’s fed up, he can tell by her frustrated exhale, “Have your joints been aching?”
He nods sheepishly.
“Those could be from sprains that we didn’t pick up on. It’s mostly for your thighbones, so stay off of your feet, okay? You don’t have any reason to be walking around anyway.”
Atsushi sneaks a peek at Akutagawa.
“Yeah, I guess I don’t.”
The nurse smiles, content that she’s done with her explanation.
She’s about to walk out when Atsushi calls after her.
“Wait!” His voice cracks, and he would be embarrassed if his question wasn’t so urgent.
She looks back, hand on her hip.
“What’s.. his status? Is he alright?” Atsushi gestures to his limp partner.
The nurse merely hums, “He’s fine. We took him off the ventilator to see how he does without it, but due to his lung disease, we’ll probably have to put him back on it just for cautionary measures.”
Atsushi nods, giving her a little smile before she heads out.
Great, now he’s lonely and bedridden.
He looks at his bag that Kunikida left on the couch yesterday, containing a change of undergarments and other hygienic pleasantries. His phone’s in there, too.
And he knows he might get in trouble for walking around immediately after being told he shouldn’t, but it’s only a quick grab, right?
He ends up retrieving it safely, holding it carefully in his hands.
There’s no need to disrupt Kyouka and the others, he’s already been enough of a burden to deal with.
He scans his messages, no new notifications to look at.
There’s a voicemail, though.
One he forgot to open, seeming it dates back about two months. He digs his headphones from the pockets of the bag, plugging them into the headphone jack.
Voicemail — 05/09/XX
Ryuunosuke Akutagawa 0:13
He sighs, pressing play.
“ Do you know how to answer your phone? Anyway, when you get this, tell me if you want a grilled chicken sandwich or pizza from the Italian place down the street. I’m trying to be nice, don’t make me regret it.”
And just like that, it ends.
He remembers that day.
Atsushi hadn’t ended up picking up the phone or seeing the voicemail, yet Akutagawa didn’t complain, getting him the grilled sandwich regardless.
They ate lunch in the back of the break room, silently munching on their respective foods.
Atsushi sighs, pulling his headphones out of his ears rather harshly.
I can’t keep sitting around and moping.
Two days of Atsushi staring at the walls, wishing they would start talking to him.
The nurses were nice for the most part, they kept him fed and took good care of him. Tanizaki and Naomi came to visit, but their antics seemed even weirder when Atsushi really observed them closely.
On the third day, he wakes up, expecting the same routine to proceed.
Wake up, roll around in bed until they give you the okay to eat and use the bathrooms, scroll through your dry phone, look out the window for two hours, talk to yourself, take your pills, take off the lights, go to bed.
But, as he blinks his bleary eyes open, he spots somebody sitting up in the cot adjacent to his.
There’s no way.
Atsushi springs up, nearly falling off of the bed in the process, and yeah, it’s sure as hell Akutagawa.
He’s sitting upright, back slouched as he picks at the food on his tray.
“Am I seeing this right? Is this a dream?”
Akutagawa looks over at him, and Atsushi doesn’t want to think he imagined the upward quirk of his lips. His partner shrugs, discarding the food.
“I’m not sure. You should come over here and pinch me to make sure I’m real.”
“I think I’m supposed to pinch myself.”
“Works either way.”
Atsushi squints, scooting off the bed onto his wobbly legs to sit on Akutagawa’s cot.
He leans into his personal space, pinching at the bit of chub on his cheek.
“Don’t yell so loudly!”
Akutagawa scoffs, nudging him, “Then maybe don’t pinch me so hard!”
Atsushi muffles his laugh into Akutagawa’s shoulder, sighing out.
He woke up.
Akutagawa’s still not keen on physical touch, but Atsushi guesses some things never change. It’s too intimate to give him a hug, but it’s too rude to not mention anything about his former ill state.
Atsushi’s confused about how he should feel.
Or what he should do.
Akutagawa exhales when Atsushi distances himself, crossing his legs once he’s fully on the cot.
“When did you wake up?” he asks softly, not meeting his partner’s eyes. Akutagawa doesn’t seem to pry, just shifting to a more comfortable position.
“About an hour ago. They told me everything I need to know,” he pauses, “Did you wake up yesterday?”
Atsushi grimaces, “No. Four days ago, actually.”
That makes the latter falter in his words, “Four?”
He just gives Akutagawa a short nod.
The two of them sit in silence, listening to the phone ring by the desk outside their room.
“You’re... okay, though, right?”
Atsushi chews at his bottom lip, finally lifting his head to meet Akutagawa’s eyes. They don’t tremble, they’re actually set still in anticipation.
“I’ve got a few sprained joints. And my ability’s broken. It could be worse, so I guess I’m fine.”
Akutagawa nods, eyes traveling down to Atsushi’s legs. They’re currently covered in sweatpants, having been given the clear to wear something other than the hospital gown.
“You’re stuck with me for a month, you know,” Atsushi speaks up, trying to snatch his partner’s attention away from his injuries.
Akutagawa smiles, barely, it’s just a slight upturn of his lips, tracing down the slope of Atsushi’s clothed calf with his index finger, “I think I’ll manage. You’re not as annoying as you were when you were eighteen.”
His partner receives a scowl, and a light smack to the shoulder.
That night is drastically different from Atsushi’s other nights at the hospital.
Usually, he’d walk over to Akutagawa’s bed and say goodnight, despite the latter being unable to hear him, and turn off the lamp before letting his head hit the firm hospital pillow.
Tonight, they’ve strategically planned out hanging out on Akutagawa’s side of the room, just so the nurses don’t get too nosy. The curtain’s already drawn, and Atsushi’s mushed next to Akutagawa, both of them barely fitting on the single cot.
“You’re starting the rehabilitation process tomorrow, correct?” Akutagawa asks, head tipped back to stare at the ceiling mindlessly.
Atsushi nods, “Yeah, I..” he trails off. He doesn’t feel like getting into his worries and troubling his partner on his first day back.
Maybe this isn’t the best conversation to have.
Of course, he’d ask.
Atsushi lets out a small scoff, combined with a chuckle, “It’s nothing.”
There are a few calm moments before Akutagawa picks his head up, shifting to lay on his side, bracing his weight on his arm. He’s staring up at Atsushi through hooded eyes.
“I’ve only been gone for four days, all your trust in me faded that quickly, Jinko?”
It’s a new low, even for Akutagawa, but he’s right.
Atsushi can’t start bottling up everything he’s feeling, especially not at a time like this. It’ll have a negative impact on both of them. Akutagawa doesn’t deserve to deal with his tantrums.
He sighs, shifting on his side to face Akutagawa, too.
“In rehab, they’re going to have specialists see us, and to regain power over certain aspects of our abilities, we need to try to use those aspects, right?” he pauses to watch Akutagawa nod in agreement.
“Well, for my regeneration aspect, they’re going to have to.. hurt me, aren’t they?”
Atsushi’s voice shakes while saying it, it’s almost pitiful how reliant on his ability he’s become to escape pain. He’s been through a hell of a lot, even as a kid, and he’s never had a low pain tolerance — but then again, he hasn’t been hurt in so long.
Aches and pains, yeah. Exhaustion? Totally.
But experiencing ripe, jarring, vile pain?
He hasn’t felt something like that since he joined the agency three years ago.
Akutagawa seems to think it over, nibbling on the soft inside of his cheek. He offers Atsushi a few comforting rubs on thigh to soothe his anxiousness.
“I doubt they’d go as far as to amputate one of your limbs since there’s no guarantee that it’ll regrow. Minor injuries seem wiser to start with.”
Atsushi nods, “Do you think they’ll work their way up to torture?”
His partner meets his eyes reluctantly with a look that says it’s possible.
The younger of the two dismisses his side of the conversation, “Did they find out what part of your ability you need to remaster?”
Akutagawa headily exhales, “Movement control. So, technically I need to relearn how to use my whole ability.” The gaiety of his tone is oddly concerning.
Atsushi pauses, guilt starting to churn in his stomach.
Akutagawa gives him a strange look, “For what?”
“That this happened to us,” he swallows thickly when Akutagawa rolls his eyes.
“Don’t do this again, Atsushi.”
Atsushi frowns inwardly, “But this time it really was my fault, the last thing I remember is being thrown into a wall — I couldn’t help you like I was supposed to, and we both ended up getting hurt because-”
Akutagawa rolls over with a sigh, facing away from him.
“Ryuu — ?”
“This isn’t your fault. Go to bed. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
He bites his top lip, chest starting to ache, “Sorry.”
He sits there tensely, waiting for Akutagawa to roll back over and accept his apology, or talk to him some more and drop the topic, or even say goodnight.
Is he upset?
Usually, Atsushi would use anger as his first defense mechanism. If he were in the right headspace, he would’ve stomped off to his side of the room fiercely, huffing and puffing as he tried to sleep.
But all he finds himself doing is sitting there, his lip starting to quiver because he only just got Akutagawa back this morning, and he’s already gone and made the latter mad at him.
“Are you upset?” His voice is so brittle for a twenty-year-old.
Akutagawa seems to tense abruptly, tilting his head slightly to glance at him.
Atsushi knows his nose has probably already turned bright red, even though tears haven’t begun to slip out yet.
The elder’s jaw clenches as he rolls back over, “I’m not upset. I’m just tired of you blaming yourself every time we end up in a negative situation. C’mon, don’t cry.”
Atsushi’s lip only quivers harder when he hears that, his tears starting to blur his vision. He doesn’t know whether it’s from feeling so lost and alone for the past few days, or knowing that it’s going to take some time for both of them to recover fully — or maybe he just wants an excuse to finally cry.
He feels his uneven breaths wrack his body as he eventually lets his walls down, slumping in on himself to let out a few watery sobs.
This is what he’s been feeling.
This is what he felt every time he caught a glimpse of Akutagawa looking so helpless on his cot, or when Kunikida and Dazai first left him alone in the hospital room, or even when he listened to that voicemail.
He’s been wanting to cry for the longest time, but there was nobody to hold him and tell him it would be okay. It makes him feel needy, wanting somebody there for him, especially because it used to be just him.
It’s pathetic knowing his younger self is stronger mentally than his adult self will ever be.
“Oh,” he hears, it’s more of a sympathetic exhale.
Akutagawa maneuvers Atsushi towards him, having the latter’s chin propped up on his shoulders, arms slung around his neck as he sniffles.
They’re too close in proximity, more intimate than both of them would’ve liked, but maybe intimacy is the right call in this situation.
Atsushi’s just thankful that Akutagawa’s the more emotionally stable one out of the both of them. It would’ve been such a mess if both of them couldn’t stop sobbing.
It takes a few minutes for him to stop crying and properly calm his breathing. Akutagawa pulls Atsushi outward to look at his face.
His lips are jutted out, it’s probably the most unattractive thing ever, but Akutagawa just chuckles, wiping at any stray tears with his two thumbs.
“Isn’t that a pretty face?” it’s whispered with a teasing smile, like it’s only meant for him to hear, despite their room being just the two of them.
Atsushi frowns, sniffling as he hides his face into Akutagawa’s neck, “Not funny.”
His partner smiles, he can feel it against his cheek, “I think it’s very funny.”
“That’s because you’re an asshole.”
“An asshole who could be sleeping, but is choosing to take care of you.”
Atsushi tries to think of a comeback — and fails.
I can’t argue with that.
He’s a nervous wreck when the nurses come in for the first time the next morning.
Akutagawa’s scheduled to have his sessions for rehab later, so he’s on his side of the room, snoring peacefully on his cot. Atsushi can only watch his partner’s sleeping face twitch now and then while he waits to be taken to his first session.
They come in quietly so they don’t wake Akutagawa, giving Atsushi unnecessary crutches.
He complies and takes them — just to make everybody’s life a little easier.
It turns out he’ll complete his sessions at the other end of the hospital, where Yosano and the President reside.
Atsushi glances around when the nurses leave him in there with the both of them, “Where are the specialists?”
Yosano chuckles, urging him to sit down, “ We’re the specialists. I’m still a doctor, and he’s still knowledgeable when it comes to ability users.”
Atsushi gives them both a worried glimpse, “This won’t be that painful, will it?”
Yosano clicks her tongue, “Hard to say. If you’re concentrated enough, it should go smoothly.”
Fukuzawa hums, “The ability will recover by itself. All you need to do is be its vessel.”
Atsushi nods, he can do that.
They start with cuts on the tender parts of his body, to see how quick the recovery would be. Yosano takes his finger, slicing the flesh with her scalpel, fresh blood rising to the surface immediately.
Atsushi cringes at the sting, but keeps quiet. The recovery time is three minutes.
Before, a small cut like that would’ve taken less than thirty seconds to heal.
Fukuzawa tells him to test his speed. There was room made to do so, tables and chairs moved aside. His legs feel unsteady when he stands, but he perseveres. Atsushi goes lunging for the other side of the room, only to meet it halfway.
He looks to Yosano for guidance, who just shrugs at him, “What’re gonna do, kid? That’s why this is rehab , you can’t expect to get it right the first time.”
So he tries again.
And again, again, and again.
Until he barely reaches the other side.
He breathes like he’s being strangled by the end of it, hands and knees on the floor. Yosano and Fukuzawa share a look while he’s on the ground.
“That’s enough for today. You did well. I’m proud of you for making an effort.” The President never really smiles, but he gives Atsushi a small bow.
Atsushi can only return it before he’s using his crutches to get back to his room.
Akutagawa’s still laying down on his cot, eyes wide awake, watching as Atsushi struggles to walk on his own two feet.
“You need help, Jinko?”
Atsushi waves him off dismissively, bracing himself on the wall. He swallows, eyes closing momentarily. He needs to collect himself. He shouldn’t be roughed up over something that small.
Then, he’s on the floor, legs deciding to give out on him. It’s embarrassing, the way he doesn’t even make an effort to stand.
Akutagawa’s already on his feet, walking over to him.
Atsushi avoids his stare.
“Did they push you too hard in there?”
It’s humiliating enough that he couldn’t even reach the other side of the goddamn wall when the room wasn’t even that big. It’s even more shameful that he’s so weak after his numerous failures.
“Or did you push yourself to your limits?”
A scoff, “You already know what the answer is. Don’t play dumb.”
Akutagawa glares at him, reaching to pick him up. Atsushi bats his hands away, “You’ll strain your muscles! I can get up just fine on my own, go eat breakfast or something—”
“You know, one of these days, I’m bound to get angry at you if you keep refusing my help. You’re the one always bitching about us working together, helping each other,” Akutagawa takes Atsushi’s jaw in his hands gently, “so let me help you. Please.”
Atsushi feels too many things at that moment. His limbs are killing him, telling him to accept the offer, but his brain is telling him no, don’t accept the offer! Be stubborn!
And there’s also a stutter in his chest that he’s choosing to ignore for the time being.
Atsushi turns his face away from the latter’s, “Fine. Just don’t hurt yourself.”
Akutagawa hoists him up with a grunt, mumbling a small wasn’t planning on it.
He’s set down on the bed gently.
“Did you eat before you went?” Akutagawa asks, heading over to his bag to rummage through it.
Atsushi shakes his head, “Nope.”
Akutagawa sighs, “Of course you didn’t,” he glances up towards his partner, “Eat my share when they bring it. I don’t get hungry this early in the morning.”
“You’re such a hypocrite.”
Akutagawa gives him somewhat of a smile before he goes out to ask permission to use the bathrooms, “The greatest hypocrite you’ll ever meet. Eat up, alright?”
He takes his leave, also leaving Atsushi with a very fragile head and a very confused heart.
Akutagawa’s first rehab session was expected to go well. Atsushi sent him off with a good-natured smile and a thumbs-up, mainly because he never considered the possibility that his partner wouldn’t be able to handle it.
That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.
Atsushi’s lazing around after taking his painkillers, scrolling through his phone, playing a random game.
He hears a thump right outside his door, the noise gaining his attention.
“Ryuu?” he calls out, but he receives no answer.
After staring at the door for a few moments, Atsushi sets his phone down, walking over to the wooden door, swinging it open with a creak.
He startles at the sight of Akutagawa sitting against the wall, sleeves rolled up to reveal open wounds littering his arms. He’s practically gasping for air, staring at the ceiling blankly. He seems so out of it, like he’s not even himself.
“Ryuunosuke,” he breathes out, hurrying to assist him. There’s the faint sound of heels clicking down the hall, which he only dully notes.
He looks to the desk only to see it’s empty, the nurse missing from her usual spot.
Oh, that’s just great.
“Come on,” he attempts to haul the man up by the arms, but he only grunts, staying still. “Ryuu, come on,” and believe him, Atsushi’s trying so hard, there’s nothing more he wants than to get the latter back in bed so he can rest , but Atsushi isn’t fully recovered, either.
Akutagawa swallows, glazing over Atsushi’s features with droopy eyes, “Get help.. you’re not strong enough.”
“I would, trust me, but the nurse isn’t even here, Ryuu, you’ve gotta make an effort—”
“Stop, you’re gonna.. hurt yourself..” Atsushi looks up at his partner as he struggles to get the words out.
“Atsushi, stop.” Yosano’s voice echoes throughout the hall, her steps getting louder as he walks towards them. The nurse from the desk trails behind her.
She must’ve ran to get Yosano-sensei.
“Go back inside. We’re taking him to get cleaned up. You better be sleeping when I get back.” Her tone leaves no room for argument, even though Atsushi wants to argue.
She gives him a look when he opens his mouth, one that says try me.
He takes one more glance at the man latched onto him before stepping back.
Yosano sighs tiredly, “Thank you. Now, go.”
The last thing he sees before stepping back into the room reluctantly is Akutagawa being propped up on Yosano’s shoulder as the nurse helps her carry him to an unknown area, his bloody arms hanging limply.
He sits down on his cot, his legs starting to ache again.
This time, he makes a promise that he won’t fall asleep.
So he waits for Akutagawa to come back.
And waits some more.
But he never does, not even past three in the morning.
Atsushi falls asleep with an aching chest.
Yosano ends up shaking him awake two hours later.
She looks exhausted, eyebags not even covered up by the little bit of concealer she has on.
Atsushi gives her a small smile, which she returns.
He’s disappointed to see the space on Akutagawa’s bed when he glances over. Yosano catches his attention by suddenly sitting down on his tacky bed, expression molded into something sympathetic.
It makes Atsushi’s stomach churn nervously.
“What happened?” he asks groggily.
“He’s stubborn,” she starts, straight to the point, “he wouldn’t stop when we told him to and ended up hurting himself. Those cuts were from his ability. He wore long sleeves so we wouldn’t be able to see them.”
Atsushi brows furrow, “So he knew.. that he’d get cut?”
Yosano shrugs, “Who knows what that kid theorizes about. But he was right, and he was smart about it. I only let him go because I didn’t know he’d be in such bad shape.”
He doesn’t have any words.
Akutagawa’s always been known to take on a heavier load than he can handle… but to go to that extent? Atsushi never thought he would even consider doing something like that.
“I didn’t only come here to tell you that, though.”
Atsushi perks up, grunting with curiosity.
“ You are also playing a huge part in him overestimating himself, and you’re hurting yourself while doing it,” she puts a warm hand on his shoulder, “you can’t keep rushing to his side right now. Normally, I’d be all for you two cooperating. But you’re injured, Atsushi. You can’t keep helping him like you’re his personal aid.”
Atsushi stares at her with something close to an objection, ready to argue once again.
“I know you two care about each other, and I know it’ll never be something that the rest of us understand. But let Akutagawa do this for himself. He can only get better if you’re getting better too.” she smiles, “If you go down, he’s going right down with you.”
She’s not wrong. That’s what Atsushi hates about this topic, nobody’s ever wrong. It’s true, all the times Ranpo has said Akutagawa would walk straight into a pit of raging flames if it were to save Atsushi.
There’s a certain guilt that comes with knowing that.
He inhales shakily, “Fine. He’s not going to make it easy, though. He hurts himself to help me, too. He won’t want to stop doing it, either.”
Yosano nods, “I never said it’ll be easy. You both have to try — for once, to look out for yourselves. This isn’t a battlefield, it’s a hospital. Be his emotional support, but don’t take the fall for him.”
Atsushi gives her a melancholic smile, “Will I get to see him tomorrow?”
“Of course, he'll be back in here when he wakes up.”
Atsushi sees her despondent quirk of lips and thinks tomorrow will be a better day.
The next day is better.
As soon as he sees Akutagawa, the man opens his wounded arms for a hug, and Atsushi embraces him like he’s a long-lost lover.
Yosano watches them with a fond smile on her face, commenting that their next rehab session would take place three days from then.
A day goes by with them taking it easy — until Atsushi notices something out of the ordinary.
It happens so subtly that he almost misses it.
He’s reading some article about the mafia when Akutagawa wakes up from his midday nap. Usually, the latter would stay in his bed and fling his socks at Atsushi’s head to get his attention, but this time , he walks right over to Atsushi’s cot, gesturing for him to scoot over.
The younger of the two does so, making room for him. Akutagawa plops himself right down next to Atsushi, burying his face into Atsushi’s neck. Atsushi stares down at him, thinking this is all some very weird dream (that he never wants to wake up from.)
His partner ends up going back to sleep, and Atsushi’s left wondering what his sudden change of mood is about.
It’s only when they’re eating dinner that the latter gives Atsushi some clue about the earlier incident.. which nearly sends Atsushi into cardiac arrest.
“You know,” Akutagawa starts quietly, munching on his food, “I meant to thank you for trying to help me the other day, after the… incident. I’ve been trying to show my thanks with skinship, but...”
Atsushi only gives him a warm smile, trying to not garble down his food like a starved man, “Oh, you don’t have to! It’s no problem. I got scolded for it afterward, but it was worth it.”
Akutagawa scoffs, his lips turned upwards, “The scolding was worth seeing me in pain, Jinko?”
The younger of the two smiles brazenly, nodding.
“I didn’t know you got off on seeing me all roughed up.”
Yeah, Atsushi’s food goes flying down his throat, making him go straight into a coughing fit. He doesn’t know whether it’s from shock , because normally — Akutagawa wouldn’t even think of saying something like that, did that rehab session mess with his head—
He doesn’t even realize Akutagawa’s talking to him until his coughing wears off.
“Woah, Woah,” he’s got a hand on Atsushi’s back, a stupid grin on his face, “you okay?”
Atsushi wants to die from how embarrassed he is.
“I’m fine..” he’s looking anywhere but at his partner, even inspecting the fucking floor is better than having to meet his eyes.
“Hey, look at me,” and then there’s a finger under his chin, tilting his face towards Akutagawa’s. He’s forced to look at those amused orbs.
“There you are,” he says, his tone just short of a whisper, “When did you get so modest? You used to be so fun to joke around with.”
Atsushi glares at him, smacking his hand away gently, “Modest, my ass. You’d die if I said something remotely sexual out of the blue.”
Akutagawa rolls his eyes, “You know I wouldn’t.”
“I know you would.”
“Alright, then do it. Say something remotely sexual.”
Another glare gets thrown his way, “I can’t do it now, you’d be expecting it.”
Akutagawa has those cat eyes scrunched up in a smile, “I’m just kidding with you. I’d never make you..”
Atsushi’s smart enough to fill in the missing blanks, “I know you wouldn’t. It’d be fun to see you squirm, though.”
He’s pretty sure his heart soars out of his chest when Akutagawa just chuckles, shaking his head.
At the start of their two-week mark at the hospital, Atsushi makes a huge improvement.
His momentum is getting back to normal, and his recovery time is currently a minute and twenty-seven seconds, which is the closest he’s gotten to the original time.
As for regeneration, they haven’t amputated any of his limbs yet, which is great news!
Akutagawa’s getting better at controlling Rashomon, but his progress is a bit slower. That much was expected from the beginning, though. Atsushi has respect for the man’s efforts, no matter the rate of his progress.
It isn’t until Tuesday of their second week at the hospital when they get an unexpected visitor.
Atsushi’s back is pressed against Akutagawa’s chest as they share the book that Kyouka dropped off for them the other day, at their request.
Atsushi honestly doesn’t give two shits about this piece of junk, it’s sort of boring. But Akutagawa seems to be enjoying himself, asking Atsushi ever so often if he’s finished reading so they can flip to the next page.
They’re in the middle of turning to the next chapter when there’s a knock at their door.
Their nurse chimes in with a smile, “There’s somebody here to see you two, be nice, alright?”
Atsushi was expecting Kyouka, or maybe even the Tanizaki’s, but no.
It’s the infamous redhead from the Port Mafia, coming to check in on his former colleague and close friend.
“Ah, Chuuya-san.” Akutagawa grins, sitting up a bit straighter. He doesn’t pull Atsushi up with him, for some reason.
After leaving the mafia, the only people Atsushi knew of that Akutagawa kept in contact with was his sister, Gin, and this guy , Chuuya Nakahara.
Atsushi has only heard positive things about him from his partner (and not-so-positive-things about him from Dazai, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
“Hey, I don’t wanna impose on whatever.. this is,” he chuckles, gesturing towards their rather unconventional position, “but I heard you two got into a big accident, so, I decided to visit like a nice friend.”
Akutagawa scoffs, “As if you could ever be nice.”
The executive scowls, “Watch your mouth, it’s easier to break all your bones when you’re weak, you know.”
Atsushi’s stuck watching them glare at each other before Chuuya finally breaks, rolling his eyes and beckoning his former colleague over for a hug.
A primal part of Atsushi wants to pull him back and stay pressed against his chest, but he goes against it. Chuuya came all the way out here to see Akutagawa, why ruin their moment?
Akutagawa reluctantly scoots off of the cot, and Atsushi has to physically look away from the sight of them hugging.
Part of him is admittedly jealous, for some reason. The other part is bitter, tempted to cross his arms and give Akutagawa the silent treatment for the rest of the day. Atsushi has to remind himself that he’s an adult , and he can’t be acting like a toddler to get his way.
Chuuya reaches over to ruffle Atsushi’s hair, greeting him with a lazy grin. Atsushi feels a slight twinge of guilt, but also feels his jealousy amplify.
This guy has it all, doesn’t he? The clothes, nice hair, the most perfect smile ever.
Yeah, maybe Atsushi’s a little insecure from not being able to look his best while staying at the hospital. It’s not his fault Kunikida gave him limited supplies to fancy himself up with.
Akutagawa doesn’t seem to notice anything’s wrong though, smiling and joking around with Chuuya, giving him updates on how his recovery has been going.
Oh, yeah? Okay, fine, then have Chuuya come save your ass when you’re lying on the floor with open wounds. See if I give a shit.
His internal brooding doesn’t stop until Chuuya notices something’s off with him, “Atsushi-Kun, you okay? How’s your recovery been?”
Atsushi almost glares at him before realizing that he’s supposed to be hiding his evil pondering, “Oh, I’m great! Yeah, recovery’s been just fine.”
He may have overdone it with the cheerful tone.
Akutagawa gives him a look, which he outright ignores.
He’s a bit embarrassed at how childish he’s being.
It’s better if he doesn’t interrupt them at all. Sighing, he rolls over to face the wall.
Chuuya doesn’t stay for much longer. Atsushi feels nothing but pure guilt when he leaves. He probably made the poor guy uncomfortable.
“What’s up with you?”
Atsushi tenses, shrugging. He’s still facing the wall as Akutagawa climbs back into the hospital cot with him.
“Not feeling well?” he pries, leaning forward to check Atsushi’s temperature with the back of his hand.
I’m just jealous because I want your attention, no big deal.
God, sometimes he can’t even believe he’s twenty years old. His eighteen-year-old self would have mocked his juvenile behavior.
“Fine, be like that, then.”
He’s suddenly being lifted, with some obvious struggle, because this is Akutagawa we’re talking about. He’s turned around, somehow ending up on Akutagawa’s lap, facing his partner at eye level.
“You were fine before Chuuya-san came here,” he states matter-of-factly, eyes glazing over Atsushi’s frown.
Atsushi goes to pull away, preparing some lame excuse — like going to the bathroom, or something. The semi-tight grip on his wrists prevents him from making a move.
“What?” he groans, annoyance bubbling up within him.
“I’m just asking what’s wrong, Atsushi.”
The younger of the two sighs, giving up. He doesn’t have the energy to keep being jealous over somebody who isn’t even his.
Akutagawa sees Atsushi strictly as a partner, anyway.
He probably doesn’t even think I’m pretty.
Atsushi scoffs inwardly at that.
“Sorry. You were just.. we were doing something, and — I’ve been really needy for attention lately,” he pitifully chuckles at his words, “it just hurt how you dropped me to go pay attention to somebody else.”
Atsushi knows he sounds bitter, and like he’s guilt-tripping, and he probably is , but he’s too much of a mess to care.
He feels like staring at his reflection in the mirror and cursing at it right about now.
Akutagawa hasn’t said anything yet, and Atsushi’s really starting to feel like shit.
“I’m sorry, I know Nakahara-san’s important to you—”
“You’re important to me, too.” the latter says gently, like he’s dealing with pieces of broken glass.
Atsushi doesn’t know what to say.
“Yeah, but, I mean, it’s a given that he's more important than I am,” he gets choked up when he says it, biting at his lip to keep himself from shedding any tears.
Crying two times since you got here? Great job, Atsushi, you’re making yourself look like a fucking fool!
Akutagawa’s expression is almost pained, merely pulling Atsushi in so the latter can hide his quiet tears into Akutagawa’s chest.
“Neither of you are more important than the other,” he comments, “but in terms of who I cherish more, you definitely take the spot.”
It’s enough to make him settle down.
Atsushi listens to Akutagawa’s heartbeat as he starts to fall asleep, hearing the sounds of the rain hitting the window softly.
Atsushi knows he’s going to have to buckle up for these next few rehab sessions.
Yosano already told him that they’re going to start moving up the level of pain they’ll be inflicting on him gradually.
Now, he’s sitting still as Yosano gives him a pointed look. He nods, grinding his teeth together as she takes her scalpel, digging it into his skin. It hurts so badly, but he’s not supposed to move.
The President sighs in relief as Yosano pulls away.
She glances up at Atsushi, “You think you can handle another one?”
No, but I’ll try.
Within a few minutes, he has two bleeding gashes on both of his thighs.
He’s proud of himself, for the most part. From tiny cuts on his fingers to lacerations on his thighs? That’s a huge improvement. Plus, his recovery time is one minute, ten seconds, seventeen seconds faster than the last time.
All his pride is washed away later, when he’s got his shorts on right after a shower.
Atsushi usually tries not to be too self-conscious about his body, he thinks his scars usually represent his strength — but the scars left on his thighs have a different story. They’re there because he’s recovering, not because he fought through an attack and won.
It makes him feel weak.
Akutagawa isn’t paying him any mind at the moment, still absorbed in the essence of his book.
Atsushi throws himself on the cot, inspecting the cuts.
They’re healed, there’s no scabbing, but the marks are still prominent.
He can see Akutagawa peeking at him from his peripheral, “Hey, why’re over there by yourself? Come here.”
And for the first time, Atsushi hesitates.
It’s not that he’s ashamed of the scars, per sé, but they’re not the prettiest either.
“Yeah, let me just.. change real quickly.”
“You just showered,” he says in a chuckle.
I can’t really argue with that, can I?
Atsushi groans inwardly, sighing as he walks over to his partner’s cot. He crosses his legs, facing Akutagawa.
The latter glances at him before letting himself get engrossed in the pages of his book once again.
“How was your session?” he asks.
Atsushi eyes his thighs, “It was alright.”
“They didn’t go a step further?”
The younger of the two grunts, “They did.”
Akutagawa’s sharp eyes leave the pages and land directly on his exposed thighs. Atsushi can only swallow thickly as the latter grimaces, sliding the book under his pillow.
“These are big. They look healed, though.”
Atsushi chuckles, “That’s the only good thing. They healed quickly. Quicker than last time, at least.” Akutagawa looks up to give him a smile that says you’re getting better.
Atsushi smiles back tightly, watching as the latter takes his rough fingertips, tracing them over the fresh scars. Atsushi winces, feeling the least bit of pain from the pressure applied over them.
Akutagawa takes his attention away from his thighs, focusing it on all of Atsushi, now. Atsushi can feel his cool breath fanning over his face when he says, “I don’t think you know how pretty you are.”
There’s nothing to say. His stomach is filled with butterflies, and his heart’s erratic beat is making it a bit harder to hear, or see, or think clearly.
Akutagawa’s looking at him with something close to restraint, like he’s thinking about doing what Atsushi wants him to do.
(Which is leaning forward and finally pressing their lips together, because he’s tired of pretending he’s not falling in love with this bastard.)
His expression gives Atsushi hope, like maybe this whole attraction hasn’t been one-sided all this time.
“Ryuu?” he breathes out, still buzzing with anticipation.
“Yeah?” Akutagawa’s still hovering close to him, Atsushi’s hands in the light grip of his.
There’s a bang at the door that startles both of them, jumping away from each other on instinct.
The nurse from the desk stands there, unimpressed, with her hand on his hip, “I don’t know what you two are thinking of doing, but you can’t do that here. Akutagawa-san, start getting ready for your session. The doctors want to see you a bit earlier today.”
Whether Atsushi wants to fling a pillow at her or shrivel up into a dry leaf and die, he doesn’t know.
She leaves them in silence, with Atsushi trying to bury himself under the covers.
Akutagawa has a palm on the back of his neck, rubbing the tension away stiffly.
“You should go.”
His partner exhales heavily, “You’re right. Uh, I’ll see you later.”
Atsushi just grunts.
Why do the heavens hate me so badly…
Akutagawa comes back from his session a bit later, after the sun’s gone down. He looks more worn out than usual.
“Hi,” he greets shortly, tossing his socks onto the miniature couch at the corner of their room.
“Hi. How was it?”
Atsushi chews on his bottom lip, waiting for Akutagawa to say something else, but nothing comes. The latter flops down onto his cot, sighing like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.
“ ‘M fine.”
He’s not fine, quite obviously. Atsushi notices the way his brows are furrowed, how his stature is tense, his shoulders stiff. Atsushi frowns.
It’s not fair that Akutagawa’s his emotional support, but it’s never the opposite. His partner deserves to have a lending hand, too.
Atsushi slides his slippers on, sitting on the edge of the latter’s bed.
Akutagawa closes his eyes, huffing out of something close to annoyance, “ Nothing , Atsushi, piss off.”
It takes some time for him to say anything else, trying to refrain from counteracting with something aggressive — it’ll end up hurting the both of them in the end.
“It’s okay if you don’t feel like sharing, but I'm here if you want a hug. Or if you want to take your mind off of it, we can talk about something else.”
Akutagawa keeps his eyes shut, “My progress isn’t going anywhere,” he chuckles bitterly, “it’s already been two and a half weeks, I’m supposed to be getting better by now.”
“They said your recovery would take longer.”
“Yeah, because I’m inadequate. This ability is more of a curse than anything.”
Atsushi frowns, “Don’t say that..”
“But it’s true! If I weren’t gifted, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have to go around completing orders for everybody, and I wouldn’t have to be partners with you, to see you get hurt time and time again, and knowing I can’t do anything about it because I’m the weak one.”
Silence washes over them abruptly.
Atsushi wishes the latter could see himself in a better light. He wishes Akutagawa could see himself how Atsushi sees him, even.
Akutagawa doesn’t snap at him, just complying tiredly.
“Look at me,” and Akutagawa does hesitate, but Atsushi can look past that. He’s been in this exact position before.
“Recovery is never easy, regardless of the circumstances,” he starts, “it’s the lack of progress that’s messing with your head. If you weren’t gifted, you wouldn’t be able to help people. And all the times I got hurt, it wasn’t your fault. We have to look out for ourselves sometimes, or we’ll both end up hurt.”
Akutagawa merely shrugs.
“You’re not weak, and your body isn’t frail , you’re technically your ability’s vessel, right? You have to be strong to be a vessel for something as powerful as Rashomon.”
Akutagawa just keeps looking at him with dilated eyes, lips twitching into a small smile.
Atsushi huffs out a chuckle, “You get it, right? So, don’t be too down on yourself. You’re getting better.”
“Are you okay with me trying something out?”
Atsushi blinks blankly, taking a moment to process the change of topic, “Uh, sure. I think. If it’s about your ability then just don't push yourself—”
Akutagawa kisses him.
It’s not expected at all , and the noise that Atsushi makes is extremely embarrassing. Akutagawa’s lips are chapped, firm against his own, cutting him off mid-word. It would be chaste if it weren’t so passionate, Atsushi’s hands coming up to cup the latter’s cheeks.
They pull back with a string of saliva hanging between them, cheeks tinted red for several reasons.
“That was okay, right?” it’s an insecure whisper, something he’s only heard when Akutagawa’s seriously doubting his skills. Now, it’s different.
Is he doubting Atsushi’s feelings for him? What a fool.
Atsushi can’t help but smile, “More than okay,” gentle hands squishing his cheeks together slightly. Akutagawa looks almost relieved, it’s amusing. Atsushi would let out a chuckle if he wasn’t so awestruck.
With a little hesitance, he brings his partner’s face closer once more, pressing a proper, chaste kiss square on his lips. Akutagawa smiles into it slightly, making it all the better.
Atsushi rests his forehead against the latter’s when he pulls away, “How long have you..”
“That’s for me to know and for you to never find out.”
Atsushi juts his bottom lip out slightly, replicating a pout, “You’re still an asshole.”
Akutagawa gives him a short chuckle, breathing in Atsushi’s scent like it’s the only oxygen he needs, “Let’s try to get better, alright?”
Atsushi nods, reaching for his hand to intertwine their fingers, “Yeah.”
So, at the two-and-a-half-week mark of being stuck miserably in this hospital, Atsushi’s still working towards his recovery, and working towards new and better beginnings with his partner.