(Kise pulls a piece of square origami paper across the table towards himself. It's a shade of orange, and has beautiful white floral pattern designs on it. He folds the paper to form a triangle, then proceeds with more complicated steps to create a crane.)
"Shintarou, how's Daiki's condition?"
The members of the Generation of Miracles gather right outside Aomine’s ward, peering in. The tanned man is on the bed, as if he is sound asleep - but he’s actually in a coma and even the senior doctors don't presume he'll wake up anytime soon.
Kise is right beside him. He is in a wheelchair, with an IV drip attached to his arm, but he's still grasping Aomine's own hand tightly in his. The blond doesn't speak, he doesn't cry. Kise just continues staring at Aomine's unmoving lids.
Akashi's voice gives them all a perfect reason to tear their gaze away from the painful sight. Midorima struggles to push his glasses up with his trembling left hand.
"He's still too sedated to give a precise diagnosis but it doesn't look good."
"Hm? What do you mean, Mido-chin?"
Midorima inhales sharply, then clears his throat. "Even the experienced doctors we have here said that it's probably impossible for Aomine to wake up ever again."
The sentence hangs around the group, making the atmosphere more heavy and depressing. It's approximately thirty seconds later that Kuroko breaks it by asking another inevitable question.
"Then what about Kise-kun? Wasn't he in the same car as Aomine-kun when the accident happened?"
"W-Well, Yanagi-senpai ran some tests and for the time being, Kise seems fine. Aomine protected Kise and took the brunt so Kise only has minor injuries, but-"
"But? Don't hide anything from us, Shintarou."
Midorima averts his gaze. It pains him to continue speaking. "-but ever since he woke up, he's been sitting beside Aomine's bed. He hasn't even spoken a word since then, or cried."
All four pairs of eyes turn back to look into the ward. They focus on Kise, noting how gaunt and worn-out he appears - then at the expression on his face.
“That’s it. Tetsuya, you’ll enter the room first. Ryouta opens up to you most, so make sure you understand what's wrong with him.” Akashi claps his hands together after he made the decision, and shoots pointed looks at each member in turn.
“Just make sure that you don’t aggravate his condition, Kuroko.”
“Good luck, Kuro-chin.”
“Thank you. I’ll do my best.”
(The next is a green paper, then a pristine white one. The pure white folded crane seems so holy, so sacred, that Kise spends a moment staring at it before setting it aside. He glances at Aomine - who is still asleep, and decides he has a long way left to go.)
Kuroko stands at the doorway to Aomine’s ward, observing the situation before his eyes calmly. He can feel Akashi and Midorima staring at him - he knows he has to speak, but he doesn't know how to start a proper conversation with Kise because the latter has always been the one to.
“Kise-kun... you haven’t eaten. Don’t you want to eat?”
The blond is silent, sitting on his wheelchair with his shoulders hunched. He doesn’t look up; he can’t hear Kuroko.
Akashi gives a soft rap against the door and Kuroko sucks in a deep breath before making his way behind Kise and glancing over his shoulder. There is a stack of square origami paper on Kise’s lap and he is working on one of them, folding. And folding. And folding.
“What are you making?”
There’s still no reply - Kise doesn’t even glance up. Kuroko is a little annoyed, even if he’ll never admit to it. The Kise he knows doesn’t wallow in guilt or sadness. Kuroko turns to look back at Akashi and Shintarou, then resolves to take a chance.
“Kise-kun, even if you don’t speak, Aomine-kun won’t wake up. Nothing will change.”
Kise’s hands stop their actions, and the paper he’s working on is suddenly torn into two. Something falls, then Kuroko notices the darker blue spot against the baby blue paper. More of such spots gradually appears, and Kuroko realizes it’s because Kise is crying.
The bluenet feels a pang of guilt and stretches a hand out to pat Kise’s shoulder, but withdraws it at the last moment.
“...Sorry for the insensitive words. Please just eat something or your body won’t hold. You still need to take care of Aomine-kun, right?”
Kise remains silent; Kuroko sighs.
“Get well soon, Kise-kun.”
(Kise barely notices when Kuroko leaves. He wipes his tears away and continues to fold crane after crane - making mistakes, smoothing out creases, inflating them - the entire night.
He’s inexperienced. He still can’t fold them perfectly, but he presses on, because it’s his fault Aomine is in this state. If he hadn’t been so insistent about them going out to celebrate their anniversary, if he was satisfied with just a simple celebration at home like Aomine proposed. If only...)
Momoi arrives in the hospital late that night, after a long flight back from America. Her hair is in a mess, her makeup ruined, and she dashes straight towards Aomine’s ward yelling “Dai-chan” but Midorima blocks her way.
“It’s way past visiting hours.”
Momoi pants harshly but makes no move to push past Midorima. She knows Midorima is not here to stop her because of the rules but because he knows she wouldn’t be able to take seeing her childhood friend in his current state. “I know of Dai-chan’s condition already... How’s Ki-chan?”
“Fine? Define ‘fine’!” Momoi demands and Midorima cringes. He hates this about her - hates how she is as perceptive as Kuroko, if not more. He hates how Momoi simply labels it off as a woman’s intuition.
Clutching today’s lucky item in his hand, he invites her to join him at the pantry so they can discuss this in further detail. Midorima tells her how Kise hasn’t slept for three whole days, rejecting food and water, and spends all his time folding paper cranes.
Momoi grimaces at the mention of cranes and covers her face with her hands.
“It’s my fault. Because I told Ki-chan of how my classmate back in elementary school was healed after everyone in the class pitched in to fold a thousand cranes for her, Ki-chan, he’s... Even though I told him it’s only a coincidence, he remembered that story and...”
And suddenly Midorima understands. He understands what Kise is feeling - that sort of undying hope and desire for your partner to wake up and look at you once more. The desire for him to call out your name. The desire to play another match with him again.
Midorima clenches his fists and bows to Momoi curtly before dashing out of the pantry and back to his office. The photo on his desk of Takao smiling while still dressed in Shuutoku’s jersey hogs his attention for several seconds before Midorima tears his gaze and bends to retrieve a new notebook and pen from the drawer. Then he runs back towards Aomine’s ward, pushing his way past a still-crying Momoi.
(Kise doesn’t know how long it has been, he can’t feel anything. He knows something is terribly wrong but he doesn’t find enough in himself to care. It’s as if he’s detached from the globe and all he’s capable of considering is Aominecchi, Aominecchi, Aominecchi, guilt, cranes, and time.
Midorima’s eyes glint with a new-found resolve as he bursts into Aomine’s ward. As expected, Kise is still beside Aomine and still folding the cranes - still closed off to reality. Midorima strides up to him and throws the notebook and pen down before Kise.
“I have enough of this, Kise. Stop moping around!” He tugs at Kise’s collar roughly and ensures Kise stares straight at him as he speaks. The dullness of the amber eyes unnerves Midorima but he refuses to deter. “Look at Aomine. Look. At. Him. He’s still alive isn’t he? Bandaged, injured, barely hanging on, but he’s still alive, isn’t he?”
Kise turns slowly. His eyes take in Aomine’s form - the feet, the hands, the torso, the chest, the lips, the unmoving lids - and tears start to build up at the corner of his eyes, threatening to fall.
Midorima grits his teeth.
“Kuroko, Momoi, Murasakibara, and even Akashi are all equally affected by Aomine’s current state. You may say that it’s probably not as bad as you have it, but your pain - I understand it.”
The blond turns his head slowly back to Midorima.
“I know how it feels to lose someone precious to you. The feeling of how you want to be beside him every single second despite knowing that you can’t do anything, and despising yourself over your lack of power. And that’s why I decided to become a doctor after Takao’s death - because I can’t bear to see more people suffering in that same manner.”
Midorima loosens his grip around Kise’s collar and allows the latter to fall back onto his wheelchair.
“I’m not telling you to give up hope. I’m not telling you to stop folding those cranes, because Aomine is still alive. There’s still hope. But you should look at how everyone is beside you, and notice how different your condition now was from mine. You can still live the life Aomine saved to the fullest and he’ll still be able to see.”
Kise numbly reaches out for the notebook and the pen.
‘I know. Sorry for making you remember about Takaocchi.
Thank you, Midorimacchi.’
Kise offers a smile and Midorima turns, pretending to stretch when he actually wipes at his tears with his sleeve.
Kise notices this and smiles again.
(It’s as if his world is a little brighter and bigger after he obtains the notebook and pen. It widens up merely a little but enough to allow his friends to join him - and suddenly he notices how each of them are affected by Aomine’s condition, even if they attempt to hide it subtly.
He’s not the only one suffering, Kise realizes.
And suddenly, the pain becomes just a tad bit more bearable.)
Two hundred and seventeen.
It’s two weeks after Midorima spoke with Kise that he’s suddenly summoned to the Director’s office and told that he isn’t allowed to be near Kise during working hours.
“Yanagi-sensei has been complaining that you’re hanging around Kise Ryouta too much. He said that it’s his patient, and you’re not in charge of him. Also, the patient which you are in charge of is complaining about the lack of appetite lately. Don’t you think that you should be doing something about that instead, Midorima-sensei?”
Midorima doesn’t reply but simply turns to leave. It’s not as if he can object, especially when he spots the smirk Yanagi shoots him. This is how the society works, Midorima tells himself sternly. No one can actually keep work and private life completely unrelated. The director and his son is a perfect example.
Midorima only enters Kise’s ward after five in the evening. The blond’s room is clustered with gifts which Midorima could, oddly enough, easily determine which was from who.
Kise waves at Midorima, getting his attention, then proceeds to show him the words he scribbled.
‘Midorimacchi looks furious, what happened?’
“Nothing much. How’s Aomine’s condition, and where’s the rest?”
‘Well, Aominecchi is still as usual. Akashicchi said he has a Shogi match to attend, Murasakibaracchi’s course in France begins today so he’s on a plane now, Kurokocchi has already left for America with Kagamicchi last night and Momoicchi went home for a change of clothes before she comes back to take care of Aominecchi later tonight.’
Midorima scans through the lines of words swiftly. “I... see.”
‘There really is something wrong with Midorimacchi. Come on, tell me! Tell me!’
Midorima clicks his tongue in annoyance. “Maybe I shouldn’t have given you that notebook. You’re becoming as annoying as you are back when you can speak.”
It’s like a taboo to mention of Kise’s psychological wound which causes him to temporarily lose his voice. Kise cringes and holds his head, writhing in pain. Midorima flinches at the realization of his mistake and tries to apologize.
Then he notices that Kise is having a nosebleed and dabs at it with a wad of tissue. But there’s something wrong with the blood. There’s two distinct shades to it - as if it’s watery.
Midorima’s eyes widens almost comically as he recalls that Yanagi never actually did a full body check for Kise. There was one part which he left out because there were no visible injuries and objects around the accident site which might have hurt it.
(Kise knows he’s dreaming. Either that, or he’s dead - because his surroundings are all a shade of comforting gold and he inevitably smiles. The migraines which he’s been suppressing lately seem to all be gone too, replaced by the comfortable thudthudthud of a bouncing basketball and the squeaking of sneakers.
“Oi, Kise! Let’s play one-on-one!”
Kise turns, staring at the form of the tanned man he respected, admired and loved so dearly, running away from him. He doesn’t follow.)
Four hundred and eighty-five.
‘I don’t want to undergo treatment. ‘I don’t need it. It’s not painful at all, you guys are exaggerating! Things like that wastes time. I’ll die anyway, right? Instead of treatment, I want to see Aominecchi. Let me see him!’
Kise doesn’t hesitate before scribbling that chunk down and handing the notebook over to Midorima.
The blond is pouting and visibly sulking at a fuming Midorima before the latter relents and pushes Kise to Aomine’s ward. Along the way, Kise continues folding the cranes. He doesn’t stop, not anymore, because he has no more time to waste.
Midorima understands and doesn’t stop him. He’s in no position to do so. All he can do is to ring up the other members and tell them of Kise’s current condition and decision.
(Kise doesn’t know how long he spent sitting beside Aomine’s bed. It feels like when he was first hospitalized - he doesn’t see, he doesn’t hear, and this time he doesn’t mind. All he does is continue folding. Because at this point, it’s all that matters. Aominecchi is still in a coma and his own time is running out.
Seven hundred and twenty-five.
Midorima grits his teeth against the pain as Akashi presses an alcoholic wipe against his wound. It’s a scratch mark, raw on his skin.
“You’ve done something stupid, Shintarou. Why would you pick a fight with another doctor?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Midorima spits, then clenches his fist. “And he’s the incompetent one who never performed a head CT scan for Kise even though it’s the most obvious thing to do after a traffic accident. And he dares to drag Takao into this.”
Akashi sighed, reaching into the first aid kit for a band-aid. “What did he say about Kazunari?”
“That bastard was asking if I was pissed over Kise’s condition because the same f-fucking thing happened to Takao.”
Akashi chuckles at Midorima hesitance to use cuss words. It’s enough to shake an irate Midorima out of his ire since it’s not often that Akashi laughs. “That’s not a good enough reason to hit someone, Shintarou. Besides it’s perfectly fine if you’re this concerned because this incident reminds you of Kazunari’s.”
The green-haired man opens his mouth but Akashi interrupts him and subtly reminds the latter why he’s here today. “How’s Ryouta?”
Midorima isn’t stupid. He knows what Akashi is asking - whether it’s true if Kise cannot be cured.
“It’s a little too late. And the hospital is refusing to take responsibility because it has nothing to do with the accident. It’s something that developed on its own after the accident. But we’ve scheduled his first treatment session two days later, even if Kise himself refuses it.”
“And Daiki is?”
“Seems like we’re back to square one then.”
Akashi holds out a band-aid which Midorima stiffly accepts and proceeds to cover his wound with it.
(It hurts. It’s like all the pain which he hadn’t felt in the past few days are coming back to him all at once. It’s excruciating. Stifling. Suffocating. Kise swipes everything off the table then grips his head with both hands, mouth open in a silent scream. His voice refuses to come out and the button he has to press to call the nurse is located too far away.
Kise shakes his head fervently, opening one eye through the haze of pain to spot Aomine’s still form. He reaches out to the piece of paper that is fluttering to the ground.
Just one more to go.
He’ll be able do it, right?
For Aominecchi, he’ll be able to...)
Nine hundred and ninety-nine.
Momoi places the pristine white crane on the right of Aomine’s pillow and withdraws her hand, wiping at her tears. Kise lies right next to Aomine, his body covered by a white piece of cloth, and a card attached to his hand with the time of his death written on it.
“What did you think Ki-chan wanted to wish with these cranes?”
Akashi and Midorima turns to face Momoi upon hearing the question. Only the three of them are present - with Murasakibara and Kuroko still on board a plane back to Tokyo.
“Ryouta probably wants Daiki to wake up again.”
Midorima reaches below the white cloth to pull the last unfinished crane from Kise’s grasp and smoothen out the creases before continuing from where Kise left off.
“No, I’m sure what Kise really wanted was to play basketball with Aomine again. He wants Aomine to play again... Because it was the same for me and Takao.”
Midorima sets the paper crane down on Aomine’s chest, right above his heart.
Akashi blinks at it - dark blue with yellow hearts as patterns - and for once, he admits his mistake.
“Is that so...”
The fingers on Aomine’s left hand twitches.