Kaoru had been to the hospital several times for various reasons throughout his life, and if he had learned anything from these visits it was only one thing. No matter which side he was on—patient or visitor—it never got easier with time.
In fact, as he got older, it actually became even more unsettling, with the oppressive white walls and the smell of sterilizing alcohol lingering in the air. The forced calm of the hospital staff and trained bedside manner was stifling, and the random bursts of mayhem as people rushed down the halls for emergencies weren’t much better.
Kaoru sat in the waiting area with his hands clasped together tightly in his lap with his eyes closed. He ran over his wedding ring with thumb over and over to ground himself.
Kojiro would be fine—he always was and all of the appropriate medical professionals had assured him so as well. It wasn’t a particularly difficult surgery and recovery would be quick since Kojiro was so young and healthy. Nonetheless, Kaoru couldn’t help but feel anxious no matter how many times even Kojiro himself had reassured him.
So what? Kaoru was worried about his husband after he had bailed hard on his skateboard and hadn’t stopped worrying since. Sue him.
Kaoru looked up to see Kojiro’s surgeon at the door. She motioned for him to come inside, smiling warmly. Kaoru followed her down the hall as she spoke, doing his best to pay attention as his heart hammered.
“Your husband’s procedure went well! He woke up just a bit ago, so the nurse is checking his vitals now,” the surgeon said. “I’ve already told him this, but he’s a little groggy so I’ll tell you, too. No major concerns—he just needs to be on bedrest for a week and no strenuous activity or heavy lifting for a month.”
“Yes, of course,” Kaoru nodded, feeling the relief settle in his chest like a long breath he had been waiting for. “I’ll make sure that happens.”
“Good! We’d like to keep him in the hospital for a few more hours just to monitor his vitals, but after that you should both be free to go home,” the surgeon said. They stopped in front of the entrance to one of the wards. “Will you be alright driving him home?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Kaoru assured him quickly, eager to see his husband again.
“Great! I’ll just let you in then.” She led Kaoru into the ward and towards the curtain closest to the window and pulled the curtain aside. “Nanjo-san—Sakurayashiki-san is here to see you.”
When Kaoru finally was able to step into the space behind the ward curtain, his heart finally settled when he saw Kojiro looking at him with a soft look. Even in the hospital gown with the breathing tubes in his nose, Kojiro still smiled brightly enough to rival the sun.
“Kaoru,” he greeted him, voice a little raspy with sleep. “You came for me.”
Kaoru couldn’t help but smile as he walked over to the visitor seat next to Kojiro’s bed.
“Of course I did, you dopey gorilla,” Kaoru said with all of the affection in his heart. “Who else is going to haul you home?”
Kojiro sighed in an almost dreamy way, and the beeping of the heart monitor faltered just slightly at the change.
“You’re always there for me,” Kojiro said. He tilted his head groggily from where he was propped up on his pillow to get a better look at Kaoru. In the process, his curly green hair fell into his eyes.
“You silly oaf,” Kaoru murmured. He reached up with his left hand to brush Kojiro’s hair out of his face. “You owe me big time for making me worry like this—what am I going to do with you?”
Kaoru pulled his hand back to sit down. In a single moment, Kojiro’s sleepy and dazed look became wide-eyed and shocked. He grabbed Kaoru’s hand before he could completely pull it away and stared at it like he had never seen it before.
Suddenly, Kaoru felt his heart drop to his stomach. Behind him, he could hear the nurse tending to Kojiro walk up behind him.
“Kojiro?” Kaoru asked, trying to keep his voice steady. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s this?” Kojiro asked, still staring at Kaoru’s hand like it was alien to him.
“What’s what?” Kaoru asked.
Kojiro’s hand was shaking slightly underneath Kaoru’s. The heart monitor was picking up speed, its beeping quick.
“Nanjo-san? What’s wrong?” the nurse asked from the other side of the bed.
Kojiro ignored the question, but finally looked up at Kaoru, eyes watery. “Kaoru,” he began. “When did you get married?”
Temporary amnesia—that’s what the doctors had told Kaoru. Not a normal side effect of the general anaesthetic, but also not an uncommon one. Since Kojiro had just woken up, it would take some time to jog his memory, but according to the experts, he would be fine within the next few hours.
The gist of it all was that Kojiro was okay. He just wouldn’t be able to absorb a lot of information at once for a while since he was still very disoriented. Kaoru didn’t know if he was going to cry from relief or the sheer stress.
The hospital staff finally left them alone after explaining this to Kaoru and checking that Kojiro really was okay. Still coming off of the effects of the anaesthesia, Kojiro didn’t seem to understand their conversation at all. When Kaoru returned to the visitor’s chair, Kojiro was practically pouting.
“How are you feeling?” Kaoru asked with an even tone. He fidgeted slightly with his wedding ring. “Do you need water?”
“When did you get married, Kaoru?” Kojiro asked stubbornly, frowning so hard Kaoru wanted to reach out and pinch his cheek.
Instead, Kaoru just resisted the urge to chuckle and sat down next to Kojiro, whose eyes followed his every move. Now that Kaoru was thinking about it, the first anniversary of their wedding was coming up soon. It happened so quickly and yet so slowly.
“It must be almost a year now,” Kaoru said.
“Wh—a year?!” Kojiro exclaimed.
“Calm down—you’re going to have a heart attack, old man,” Kaoru said. He reached over to the table over Kojiro’s bed to pour him some water. Kojiro begrudgingly took the cup, though he pouted like a child.
“You didn’t even invite me to your wedding?” Kojiro asked.
Kaoru sat back down, watching Kojiro with an amused smile. “You were there,” he said.
Kojiro’s frown turned impossibly deeper, brows furrowed in thought. “I was?”
“You were. Right up at the front next to me,” Kaoru said. He hoped Kojiro might get the hint, but that only seemed to make him more distraught.
Kojiro looked sadly at his water. “Oh… like your best man?”
Kaoru sighed. “Drink your water, dear.”
Obediently, Kojiro took little sips of his water, and he seemed to become a little less groggy though he still wasn’t quite there. When Kaoru took Kojiro’s empty cup, Kojiro’s eyes followed his wedding ring.
“Who is he?” Kojiro asked, voice a little more quiet. “What’s he like?”
At this point, it would probably be a good time for Kaoru to just tell Kojiro that it was him . That they had been married for almost a year and together for even more. It was a logical segue into the topic, after all.
And yet, as Kaoru watched Kojiro confound and confuse himself into a jealous, pouty fit, Kaoru was surprised to find that he actually found it… rather endearing. After they started dating, Kojiro insisted to Kaoru that he had been hopelessly in love with him for years and that Kaoru was just unbelievably dense. Kaoru had brushed it off as Kojiro’s usual exaggerations, but now that he was seeing it for himself while fully aware, Kaoru couldn’t help but wonder—was he really that oblivious?
Either way, it was kind of funny. Kaoru couldn’t wait to make fun of Kojiro for this.
So Kaoru folded his hands into his lap, doing his best to conceal his amusement.
“He’s a big, dumb gorilla,” Kaoru said. “He’s a shameless flirt and a show-off. He knows just how to piss me off and is incorrigibly stubborn.” Then, Kaoru’s lips curled into a soft smile. “He’s also kind and very empathetic. He’s always there for me when I need him and I trust him more than anyone. He’s not a bad cook either—and it helps that he’s somewhat handsome.”
Kojiro looked a little confused. “I can do all of that for you, too,” he murmured. Then, he settled Kaoru with a firm look. “I don’t like him—he sounds like a dick.”
“He’s a huge dick,” Kaoru agreed. “One of the most annoying people I know.”
Kojiro nodded in agreement. “You should divorce him.”
Kaoru couldn’t help the bark of laughter that slipped past his lips. He coughed, trying to regain his composure as he covered his mouth with the back of his wrist.
“Is he a skater?” Kojiro asked.
“Is he any good?”
Kojiro nodded again. “I’ll challenge him to a beef!” he declared. “If he loses then he has to divorce you.”
Kaoru gave an affected hum of thought. “I don’t want to divorce him though,” he said.
Kojiro looked at him, befuddled. “Why not? You can’t be married to someone who can’t beat me in a beef!” Kojiro said, as if it were perfectly logical criteria.
Kaoru reached out to take Kojiro’s hand in his own. He ran the pad of his thumb over Kojiro’s knuckles. Kojiro’s hand was a little colder than usual in the same arm where the nurses stuck the IV, but the callouses from skating and cooking, the way his hand dwarfed Kaoru’s—it was all still the same comforting hand that grounded him every time.
“I love him,” Kaoru said so softly he barely heard himself say it.
Suddenly, Kojiro looked absolutely stricken. His eyes became wet and he shifted in his hospital bed, his other hand coming over to grasp Kaoru’s.
“Kojiro—“ Kaoru began, ready to finally put an end to his little game at the sight of Kojiro’s teary-eyed look. However, before he could say anything, Kojiro interrupted him.
“I can treat you better than him,” he blurted out. “I can cook, too! And take care of you!”
“I’m hot, too!” Kojiro stated, puffing out his chest slightly, which looked extra ridiculous since he was slightly slumped against the fluffy hospital pillows. “And I love you, too! I don’t know this guy, but I bet I love you way more! And—okay, I’ll stop complaining when you eat at the restaurant for free—“
“Oh, you idiot,” Kaoru said, with all of the love in his heart and a smile that threatened to burst into laughter. “Look at your hand.”
Kojiro stopped and looked down at where their hands were intertwined. His gaze was still fixed on Kaoru’s wedding ring, but then it slowly slid over to a matching ring on his own finger.
Kojiro was silent for a long moment, and then looked up at Kaoru, absolutely flabbergasted. “I’m married?” he asked.
“We’re married, you buffoon,” Kaoru said, rolling his eyes. He held their hands up so that their palms and fingers were lined up. Their rings shone together, pressed against one another, beautiful even in the suboptimal hospital lighting. “I’m your husband.”
The way the news dawns on Kojiro was gradual. He stared at their joined hands for a long moment. The beeping of the heart monitor had calmed down as Kojiro processed this revelation, but as each second passed, it began to pick up again. Kojiro’s eyes flickered up to meet Kaoru’s, still a little wet.
“We’re married?” Kojiro asked. The question is soft, tentative—as if asking too loudly would take it away.
“We’re married,” Kaoru confirmed.
Kojiro’s eyes were still sleepy, but they widened slightly. Slowly, his lips curled into a smile as he gripped their hands tightly together. “You’re my husband?”
Kaoru’s chest felt light. “I’m your husband,” he said, feeling the childish giddiness of his first love all over again.
“You’re lying,” Kojiro said. When Kaoru shook his head, his smile grew wider. “Holy shit. We’re married. How did I get so lucky?”
Now, Kaoru couldn’t help but laugh as Kojiro began to fiddle with their hands, looking at their wedding rings with a new wonder.
“Did you propose?” Kojiro asked, eyes wide.
“You did,” Kaoru said. “Ruined all of my proposal plans when you just brought it up at the restaurant.”
Kojiro gasped. “I proposed?!” Kojiro asked incredulously. “I wouldn’t—I’m too scared to propose!”
“To your credit—you did botch it up and spilled wine everywhere,” Kaoru said, smiling at the memory of Kojiro leaping with joy when Kaoru had said yes and knocking over the wine bottle and Kaoru fisting his hand into Kojiro’s wine-stained shirt and pulling him in for a kiss. “Absolutely clumsy ape.”
Kojiro laughed, pink dusting his cheeks. “Give me a break, babe—I just like you too much.” Then Kojiro paused. “Do I call you ‘babe’?”
“Sometimes,” Kaoru said.
“What do you call me?” Kojiro asked.
“Idiot,” Kaoru said without missing a beat. Kojiro chuckled as Kaoru carefully shifted their hands so he could hold Kojiro’s against the bed. He could feel Kojiro’s body slump a little—his eyes drooping even in the excitement as the painkillers lulled him to sleep once more. “Moron. Gorilla. Sweetie. Husband.”
“Husband,” Kojiro repeated, letting the word roll off his tongue like a meal to be savored. “Husband… I like that.” Kojiro let out a soft sigh, sinking into the cot.
For a moment, Kaoru thought he fell back asleep when suddenly he heard, “Do we have kids?”
Kaoru felt his whole face grow hot. They had briefly discussed things like children, though not significantly. They were both generally open to the idea, but still young—it seemed like a lot of responsibility.
But after spending time with the kids at ‘S,’ Kaoru had realized that, unexpectedly, he did like kids. And even more so, he liked seeing Kojiro with kids. Kaoru was more emotionally unavailable and he wasn’t sure if he’d turn out to be a good parent, but he knew Kojiro was would be a wonderful father.
“Not… yet,” Kaoru said quietly, feeling a bit vulnerable.
Kojiro opened his eyes and they looked upon Kaoru with an expression so fond, Kaoru feared he may melt. Kojiro ran his thumb slowly back and forth over Kaoru’s knuckle.
“Kaoru, we should have kids,” Kojiro said, words slightly slurred together with sleep. “We should have kids. I want to have so many kids with you—like twenty kids. You’d be such a good dad.”
Kaoru’s ears burned at being so thoroughly seen by someone who was drugged out of his mind. “Go to sleep, you fool,” he said. “We can talk about this when you wake up.”
“Will you still be here when I wake up?” Kojiro asked. His eyelashes fluttered, like he was struggling to stay awake.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
“Kaoru,” Kojiro said. “This isn’t a dream, right?”
“It’s not,” Kaoru assured him. He curled their fingers together and pressed his lips to Kojiro’s fingers as his husband finally closed his eyes. The heart monitor beeped evenly in the background as Kojiro slipped into sleep. Kaoru’s lips moved against his fingers. “It’s way better than a dream.”
Kojiro was going to die. If embarrassment didn’t kill him first, he’d find a way.
On the wall of their living room, a projection of him lying on a hospital bed smiled. “ Holy shit. We’re married. How did I get so lucky?”
Kojiro’s whole face was tomato red as he said, “Carla—turn off the projector.”
From the couch, their group of misbehaved guests booed as the projection blinked off of the wall. Kaoru was the first to turn around to face him, a sly smile on his face.
“Welcome home, sweetie,” Kaoru said, with extreme malice.
“Why?” Kojiro asked.
“C’mon, Joe—we were getting to the good part!” Reki complained as Langa nodded eagerly next to him.
Miya wrinkled his nose. “It’s okay, I think we were getting to all of the mushy stuff anyway.”
Hiromi smirked over his can of beer at Kojiro. “So you cry too, huh?”
“We are not having a moment of solidarity right now,” Kojiro said. “Isn’t it late? Don’t you kids have to get to school?”
“It’s a weekend!” Reki protested.
“I’m in my twenties!” Hiromi chimed in.
“And you’ve all overstayed your welcome,” Kojiro said, with no real bite to his tone as he walked over to them on his crutches. “Go home—some of us have work in the morning.”
They all moaned and groaned, but nonetheless shuffled towards the door. The kids and Hiromi all bid Kaoru and Kojiro goodbye and the couple waved, promising to see them at ‘S’ next week. As the door closed, Kojiro turned to Kaoru, who was still looking at him like the cat who caught the canary.
“You’re a menace,” Kojiro said.
Kaoru put an offended hand over his chest although his expression didn’t change. “Oh, so last week you were ‘so lucky’, but now I’m a menace?”
“Both can still be true,” Kojiro said.
“I suppose I can settle with that,” Kaoru said. He stepped into Kojiro’s space and wrapped his arms around Kojiro’s waist.
Kojiro leaned his head against Kaoru’s, closing his eyes. He could somewhat remember waking up in the hospital, although the details were fuzzy. At the very least, he did remember one thing.
“It was nice,” Kojiro said. “To realize you loved me back again. I thought that would be the highest moment in my life—didn’t realize I could experience it all over again.”
Kaoru peeled away slightly, raising at eyebrow at Kojiro. “Not our wedding day? Or your proposal even?”
Kojiro shook his head. “I mean, those were great,” he agreed, “but the feeling of realizing that everything you thought could never happen actually could happen—something you wanted so bad it was basically a dream come true… I don’t think anything could really compare.”
Kaoru rested his chin against Kojiro’s chest, running his hand up and down his back. “I think I understand the sentiment.”
Kojiro smiled softly. “I knew you would.”
They stood in that moment of understanding, feeling warm comfort settle in their cores. Despite his embarrassment, Kojiro figured he wouldn’t react any other way—he had been in love with Kaoru for longer than he could remember, and that wouldn’t change for as long as they understood each other and for as long as Kojiro could hold Kaoru in his embrace.
After a moment, Kaoru’s lips parted again.
“So… twenty kids, huh?” he said, smirking.
Kojiro turned pale. “Okay, that’s extreme,” he admitted. After a thoughtful pause, he continued. “But… is that bad?”
Kaoru laughed. “Maybe not twenty, but…” Kaoru shifted, pressing his cheek to Kojiro’s chest. “We can work something out.”