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Dr. Midorima Shintarou sighs as he hears his name paged to the emergency room. He glances at his wristwatch as he heaves himself from the desk where he has been finishing the paperwork for his last patient. He is eighteen hours into a twenty hour shift and, as much as he loves his work, he is exhausted.

Shintarou has already conducted six surgeries, aided in four more, and completed last week's referrals. He is reaching his limit and is in desperate need of coffee.
Unfortunately, the coffee pot in the nearest staff room has been unconscionably empty for the last twelve hours. Shintarou suspects the caffeine addicts in the Neurology Department are behind the theft, but he has been far too busy with his own affairs to berate them for their lack of professional courtesy.


Therefore he is rather preoccupied cursing his colleauges as he stalks down the hall to the operating rooms when one of the nurses (the nervous, brown-haired one whose name he could never remember) accosts him.


“Midorima-sensei, you're needed in Operating Theater Four.”


He nods and directs his steps toward the room.

“What is the patient's status?” he asked as he unwraps the fingers of his left hand.

“Critical. Gunshot wound to the abdomen. The bullet missed the lungs, but ricocheted and nicked the large intestine. Severe blood loss; he's entering hypovolemic shock.”


The nurse opens the door to the robing room for Shintarou to enter. He nods and begins to don his scrubs. “Anything else?”


“I don't think so, Midorima-sensei.”
Shintarou frowns as he slides his long, tapered fingers into his surgical gloves. “Izuki-sensei is assisting?”


The nurse nods erratically, “Yes, Midorima-sensei! I'm sorry for not mentioning it before!”


Shintarou grunts and makes to walk through the swinging doors to the theater. He is already considering whether or not to bother with the bullet or to take care of the intestine first when the nurse's voice arrests him.


“Sensei! I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, but um, your ...”


Midorima turns, sighing exasperatedly, to see the nurse pointing nervously at the pair of garish purple sunglasses perched on top of Shintarou's netted green locks.


“Hm. Thank-you.” He quickly removes the glasses (lest they interfere with his movement) and tucks them into the pocket of his surgical smock. From inside the room, he hears a loud beeping and a usually jocular voice shouting, “Get me that megane carrot, stat!”


***


Shintarou does not usually come into work after long shifts. As top surgeon at Tokyo University Hospital, he is entitled to certain privileges. One of these special privileges is a mandated rest period after arduous hours. It is not laziness that motivates this brief adjournment; he simply needs to care for his own body in order to provide his patients the level of care that is due to them. His superiors understand this (or they simply do not want to argue with their best physician, Shintarou neither knows nor particularly cares what motivates them to acquiesce to his demands) and schedule rounds to ensure that Shintarou is never on duty after he works shifts longer than twelve hours or performs especially taxing procedures. Needless to say, this special request has not been met with equanimity by his fellow surgeons.


However, the day after his twenty hour shift, Shintarou finds himself once again striding down the crowded corridors of the emergency ward. The gunshot patient has developed a pulmonary embolism and needs additional surgery.


As he walks past the In-Patient Ward toward the assignment desk, Shintarou fingers the Hantama-kun plushie in his lab coat pocket. The disturbing figurine is unfortunately essential today. Cancer's are only ranked seventh; if he had ranked any lower, he would have requested another surgeon take his place. Armed with his lucky item, however, he deems himself sufficiently prepared to undertake the follow-up operation on the troublesome patient.


The nurse at the assignment desk is the quiet Mitobe Rinnosuke. Shintarou appreciates Mitobe; he is diligent and kind, but rarely speaks. He contrasts drastically with the majority of the incessantly gossiping hospital staff. Shintarou strides up to the man, bypassing a chatty group of other nurses and orderlies. Mitobe looks up from the stack of patient files he is currently organizing and nods warmly.

Shintarou returns his greeting and receives a file and a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee (that Mitobe pulls from god-only-knows-where) as compensation. He inhales the heavenly smelling steam and conjures a tiny smile for the nurse. Shintarou is sure it looks more like a pained grimace, but the shorter man seems to understand and smiles in return.


Shintarou flips open the file on his way to the operating theaters. He knows the path so well from his three year residency and five year tenure that he can focus solely on the file before him as he walks. What he reads makes him frown deeply.


He knows this man. Rather, Shintarou corrects himself, he has operated on him twice before. The previous injuries were also serious: a knife wound to the sternum and a series of second degree chemical burns in disturbing patterns. The recent gunshot wound is his worst injury yet, taxing even Shintarou's manifest talents, and now the he has developed a post-surgical condition. Clearly, Shintarou thinks, the man has not observed his fate closely enough.


Shintarou closes the file and enters the robing room once more, the smell of strong antiseptic assaulting his senses and making his eyes water behind his wire-rimmed glasses. He tucks Hantama-kun into the pocket of his surgical apron and is just tying his face mask when the door to Operating Theater Seven opens to reveal the resident anesthesiologist.

Shintarou recognizes the unusual blue hair and large eyes even through the surgical mask, but he does not recall ever seeing the stoic specialist smile that widely before (or at all, if he really considers the matter).


“Kuroko,” he greets lowly. Cancer's compatibility with Aquarius is exceptionally low today.

The smile disappears from Kuroko's face, but his luminous eyes still seem to dance with delight. Shintarou pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, unnerved.

“Midorima-san,”replies Kuroko in his usual monotone, “Domo.”


Silence descends as Shintarou finishes tying his mask and donning his booties and Kuroko proceeds to shed his surgical garments. Shintarou feels decidedly awkward. Though they attended medical school together and served their residency in the same hospital, he has never been close to the man across from him. The blue-haired anesthesiologist makes him uncomfortable. It is not as though he is frightened by the man. It is simply that Kuroko's easily dismissed presence and blank visage make Shintarou feel as though the other could always be watching him, seeing through his words and actions from the shadows. Kuroko's eerily vacant eyes make it impossible for Shintarou to return the action accordingly, which mildly disconcerts the surgeon.


Shintarou finishes dressing quickly and strides toward his destination, clearing his mind of such trivial personal matters and preparing for the impending procedure. It is crucial to be in the correct mindset for surgery; even a slight distraction in his attention could have disastrous ramifications for his patient (especially on a day when Cancer's rank was middling at best). He has just reached the door to Theater Seven when Kuroko calls out to him suddenly.


Shintarou turns to the other man with an exasperated huff.

“Yes?”


Kuroko is looking at the door to Theater Seven with a strange light in his eyes. “You are assigned to Room Seven?”


Shintarou stares at him blankly. He has never taken Kuroko for an idiot.


“Obviously, nanodayo.”


Kuroko looks at Shintarou and then back at the door. Shintarou taps his foot impatiently, but all Kuroko says is, “Be careful with this one, Midorima-san.”


Shintarou looks at him in obvious bewilderment.
“Of course.”


Kuroko nods and turns away from him, evidently finished dispensing his inane advice. Shintarou shakes his head as he enters the quiet of the operating room, clearing his mind of the strange interlude and preparing for the oncoming ordeal.


***


Post-surgical rounds are the part of his profession which Shintarou cares for the least. He is not a terribly sociable person at the best of times and the patients with whom he communicates are often distraught or anxious. The combination usually results rather poorly, as hysterical and irrational patients have the unfortunate effect of annoying Shintarou rather than gaining his sympathy. His less professional colleagues have nicknamed him “The Bed-Emptier.” His superior's simply remark that he has a “less-than-exceptional bedside manner.”


Shintarou himself does not see the issue. His job is to heal his patient, not to babysit them and their wailing loved ones. He performs this duty excellently, as is widely acknowledged. He simply does not have the time nor patience to cajole patients into doing what is best for their own health. If they are unwilling to be a party to their recuperation it is their own fault that he has to take more forceful steps to ensure their recovery.


Shintarou's dismal record with patient care eventually (after the third threat of a lawsuit) exempted him from regular rounds of rotations. Four days after his twenty hour shift, however, Shintarou is stalking from room to room in the Post-Op Wing. Cursing the negligent Dr. Imayoshi (how dare he take a vacation during the summer months; July was a peak month for personal injury and workplace accidents, as everyone knows), Shintarou angrily slams the folder of his most recent patient onto the nurses' desk. The four nurses chattering behind it jump in alarm and glance nervously at one another.


He glares at them, grabbing his coffee and taking a calming sip of the sweet, life-giving nectar. With each passing year at the hospital he grows more incredulous that his father survived forty years as a oncologist drinking only green tea.


“Almost done, Midorima-kun?” calls a deep voice.


Shintarou refocuses on the world around him, drawing himself out of memories dripping with the earthy scent of matcha cut with antibacterial soap, to glare at the approaching figure of Hyuuga Junpei. Hyuuga is several years older than Shintarou, his dark hair not yet grey but thinning quickly, his glasses hooding eyes sharpened with experience. Shintarou respects him; he is a reliable physician, though, not as accurate with a diagnosis or as precise with a scalpel as Shintarou.


“Yes, fortunately.”


Hyuuga rolls his eyes. “Thought they took you off on-ward rounds,” he scoffs, placing his own pile of charts on the nurses’ desk for re-filing. Shintarou looks on in envy.


“I was called to temporarily treat Imayoshi-senpai's patients,” he replies steadily before taking another sip from his mug.

Hyuuga glances at him, does a double take to examine the mug. His face turns red and splutters incomprehensibly as Shintarou looks on.


“ARE YOU SERIOUS!? WHY ARE YOU CARRYING THAT AROUND?”


Shintarou looks at his mug, puzzled. “It's my lucky item, nanodayo.”


Hyuuga splutters once again, something about “crazy horoscope freaks” Shintarou thinks, and leaves, scattering the nurses like frightened pigeons. Shintarou watches him depart and then retrieves the last chart of his round.


He sets his coffee on the narrow desk and opens the file for review. He is surprised to see it is the same man upon whom he performed surgery three days prior. Readjusting his glasses, he skims the file's contents.


The man is recovering well. His surgical wounds show no sign of infection, nor do any of the additional minor wounds for which he had been treated. He had no broken bones this time. His appetite and bowel movements appeared to be regular, indicating his intestines were functioning normally after their recent repair.


The only discouraging element of the chart was his patient’s apparent refusal of pain relief medication. He would only allow himself to be treated with topical numbing cream, a measure Shintarou knew would leave him in significant discomfort.

What needless suffering, he surmised irritably, snapping the folder shut. He would remedy the situation immediately.


Shintarou marched down the cold white halls with his coffee in his right hand and the patient's file tucked under his left arm. The patient was located in one of the recovery rooms closest to the Emergency Wing as he was one of the most recently admitted patients to the Postoperative Area. As Shintarou walked purposefully toward the door to room 610, he heard voices echoing loudly around the hallway.

Laughter and good-humored chatter seemed to originate from his destined door, trickling from his patient's room into the pristine corridor, making passersby smile curiously. Shintarou's frown deepened.


He flipped the tabs to red outside the door and entered the room, ready to rebuke the noise-maker responsible for disturbing the healing peace of his hospital.


“And then I said, ‘What pineapple?’ and I swear his eyes popped out of his head!”


If possible, Shintarou's frown deepens even more at the scene before him. Three orderlies and two of the younger nurses were gathered around the beds of the room's two occupants, laughing and smiling. The two patients themselves are sitting up in their beds, clearly not resting as they should be, and smiling just as sickeningly brightly as the irresponsible staff. The hubbub appears to center around the patient closest to the window as the staff loosely circles his bed and the other patient lies on his side to join in the jocularity. As such, no one witnesses his disapproving entrance.


“Cease this ridiculous behavior at once,” Shintarou calls loudly, his fist clenching around his mug in anger. The laughter abruptly ends as the staff fearfully turn to face him, their faces paling. They are correct to be frightened. He glares from behind his glasses, the lenses becoming opaque in a way he knows is disconcerting.


“I do not know what brought on this unprofessional displa--” he begins calmly, but is interrupted by the instigating patient.


“Ah, ari ari, sensei! Don't be angry with them! It was me! Furihata-san asked me a question and then I asked Koganei-san because I didn't know the answer. But what he said reminded me of this time I was in Osa--”


“Quiet,” barks Shintarou. His head is already throbbing and he knows the vein on his forehead will be prominent by now.

There is not enough coffee in the world for him to be able to deal with this on top of his god-forsaken rounds.


“All staff, leave immediately. I will deal with you later, nanodayo,” he declares darkly.

Shintarou is almost trampled by the rapid evacuation of colorful scrubs that occurs. He adjusts his glasses with satisfied finality as the last nurse flies from the room. He glances at his chart and calls, “Takao Kazunari?”


Shintarou looks up at the snicker that echoes in the barren white room following his question. He glares first at the nearest bed, but the man who occupies it is hiding under his covers, his brown hair and nondescript features blurring with the speed of his denial.


“I-I'm Furihata Kouki,” he splutters.


Shintarou feels dread pool in his stomach as he turns to the other bed. The man lying there does not show any sign of the physical discomfort befitting one who has been recently shot and will not accept pain relievers. Instead, he is reclining on his inclined bed, hands cradling the back of his shaggy black head, and his face is one of absolute glee.


“That's me, sensei!" calls tha patient with an enthusiatic wave. He scans Shintarou with a sharp gray-eyed gaze and grins widely. "If I had known my doctor was so adorable, I would've cleaned myself up a bit!”


Shintarou chokes on his own spit.


He feels his face becoming warm from anger and a feeling he vaguely remembers from his high school days as embarrassment. He splutters.

“What?”


The black-haired devil's steel-blue eyes gleam as he grins, “Aw, now I really wish I had at least combed my hair! Sensei's angry face is so cuuuuuute! Go ahead, sensei, tell me I've been a very bad patient and I need to be quiet or I don't get a physical examination!”


A disembodied giggle is heard from the beneath the sheets of Furihata's bed and Shintarou glares in that direction before rounding on his patient. He is clutching his clipboard so tightly that he can feel the hard edge of the plastic cut into the skin of his palms. He hasn't felt so outraged since medical school when his professor told him he didn't have the social skills required of a great surgeon. He feels a familiar indignation build up in his chest and he stares down at his patient with the heat of a thousand suns.


“Cute? This is too familiar, nanodayo,” he exclaims, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose once again. “I am your doctor, you fool. I saved your miserable life four nights ago, nodayo.”


The grin remains on the patient's face, but something other than mirth glimmers in eyes that widen a fraction.


“Haaaaaah, so you're Midorima Shintarou-sama. I was wondering when I would get to meet you.”


Then his grin widens.
“Don't worry, Shin-chan, I flirt with all my friends! You're safe from my wild ways, I promise!”


Shintarou becomes, if possible, even redder. He knows he is making a scene the likes for which he had just chastised the nurses and orderlies, but he can't seem to help himself.


“‘Shin-chan?’” he thunders, hiding his blush behind his hand. No one has ever called him by such a familiar name. “This is too much, Takao Kazunari! And we are not friends, nanodayo!” The man clearly does not understand the concept of a doctor-patient relationship.


Takao Kazunari laughs and his eyes sparkle, “Maybe not yet, Shin-chan!”


“Don't call me that, nanodayo!”


Takao laughs even harder at that. Tears leak from the corners of his narrow eyes and he hunches over with chortles.

Suddenly, he chokes on a laugh, the color draining from his face. His hands fly from the back of his head to his lower half, the abrupt movement seeming to jolt him with pain once more.


Shintarou is at his side in two strides.


“Fool,” he hisses as he gently pushes the man back to his reclining position with his free hand. He sets his coffee and his clipboard on the bedside table and pulls back the blankets.


“Ahhhh, gomen, sensei! I didn't mean to cause you any more trouble,” his patient gasps with a grin. The dancing eyes are filled with pain.


“Shut up and let me look at your abdomen, Takao,” he grunts, letting patient protocol fall by the wayside. Clearly, Patient Takao will need vigilant observation and a firm hand.


Takao pulls his hospital gown up gingerly, exposing blue, hospital-issue boxers and an abdomen bandaged from waist to mid-trunk. Midorima scans the bandages, unwinding the cotton wrappings with efficiency borne of long years of practice.


“You have not torn the stitches. Did,” he darts a brief glance at his chart, “Kasamatsu-sensei not tell you that you must refrain from excessive movement?”


It is not like Kasamatsu to forget such an important instruction, Shintarou thinks vaguely as he continues to carefully inspect the skin around Takao’s wounds.


Shintarou is well-acquainted with the damaged area. It has been only four days since he, with the aid of Izuki-senpai's keen vision, repaired a large gash in Takao's intestinal walls and extracted a bullet from his flesh.


The wounds look different in the white light of Takao's room, however. The roughly circular dent in the lower left side of Takao's stomach looks even more raw and red in contrast to the milky white of his stomach. The neat incision four inches below it, replete with eleven exacting stitches, seems to leap across his patient's muscled abdominal area like an unnatural growth.


Shintarou frowns. He has always considered his work to be beautiful. He has trained for years, conducted thorough research, and attended numerous conferences to ensure that his patients recover seamlessly and with as little pain as possible. He has been praised for his skill with the scalpel, with the needle, his patient’s dermis healing with nary a indentation.


Here though, on Takao Kazunari's flesh, he sees no evidence of that care. It almost looks as though he's marred the skin of his patient rather than revived it. Shintarou has a sudden desire to see the marks of his other operations on Takao, to view his tools’ marks on his hundreds of other patients. Could he possibly have done more for them?


Shintarou is shaken out of his thoughts by a rough poke to his cheek. “Mehhh, Shin-chan, are you done? 'M getting kinda cold down there.”


Shintarou's head snaps up to glare at Takao. He slaps away the still hovering hand and ignores the deep eyes. He readjusts his glasses.


“Takao, I am working, nanodayo. I would ask that you have a little patience.”


He collects the unwound bandages cocooning his patient and tosses them into the trash in a beautifully accurate arc. In doing so, he pushes Takao's gown even further up his torso, uncovering the numerous other scars and blemishes on his patient's skin. Shintarou recognizes several of the scars. He can just see the faint edges of a thick line of scar tissue that marks a stab wound to the kidney which he treated three years prior. Other, more shallow, scars have since healed on Takao’s pectorals and sides. Shintarou wonders, fleetingly, who tended to these other wounds. He spares a disapproving glance at the unevenly healed tissue and begins to layer his patient in fresh gauze treated with antibacterial spray.


“Ah, so mean! You gets to poke and prod at me all the time, why can't I poke you?”


Shintarou finishes with the gauze and looks up to find the roll of bandages being held out to him at the exactly the right height to be convenient. Shintarou wonders how Takao can know this (it's taken him years to train his surgical assistants) and takes the offered cloth with a stiff nod.


“Because it is my job to, as you so adroitly said, ‘poke and prod’ at you, Takao. Though, it appears to be your job to pester me while I do it, nanodayo,” he snaps as Takao once again tries to poke him, this time in the upper arm.


He finishes wrapping Takao and pulls his gown down with a swift tug. Takao reaches and pulls the blanket up to his chest, raising his eyebrows as Shintarou goes to do it for him. It is clear to Shintarou that the lateral muscles of his abdomen are causing him residual pain, yet the idiot simply hugs the blankets to himself with a coy grin.


“Shin-chan,” Shintarou inwardly (and outwardly too, judging by Takao's smirk) bristles, “Shin-chan, are you worried about me?” The smirk widens annoyingly.


“It is my job to worry about you, Takao. Now--”


“Nuh uh,” Takao interrupts childishly, shaking his head, “It's your job to fix me up, not to worry about me. There's a difference.” A shrewd look comes into his eyes. “I thought you didn't do regular rounds, anyway?”

Shintarou glares, pushing his glasses back up onto his nose once again.

“Why would you say that, nanodayo?”


Takao shrugs lightly and winces. “I've been to this hospital a few times. The other surgeons I've seen all do post-op checks, Shin-chan. But, you're not even on the duty rosters I've seen the nurses carry around. Plus, the other doctors look at you weird. Jealous, I think.” Takao tilts his head at him, smirking. “What, Ace-Surgeon doesn't want to see his handiwork? Or is he too good to chit-chat with lowly patientspatients, hmmm?”


The way he says it does not really sound like a question. Shintarou begins to feel slightly ill. Perhaps he will ask to have Takao referred to Hyuuga. He would, he thinks vindictively, like to see the volatile, older doctor interact with this particular patient.


Takao, he realizes, is still chattering.


“--not that I don't understand that, of course. Shin-chan's the best surgeon I've ever had! I barely have any scars from that switchblade guy in Roppongi and--”and--”


Shintarou sighs exasperatedly. “Shut up, Takao.”


Takao grins up at him expectantly. “Yes, Ace-sama?”


Shintarou glares, unsure if the new nickname is better or worse than the odious “Shin-chan”, and pushes up his glasses again. Takao's grin widens.


“How much pain are you in?” Shintarou asks with a short huff of breath, finally giving up on making any kind of qualitative determination on Takao’s absurd nomenclatural habits. It would be useless to protest, he suspects, and the situation will only last for a few days. He can endure.


Takao shrugs casually. “I've been worse.”


Or perhaps not, thinks Shintarou in frustration as he finds himself pinching the bridge of his nose. He glares at his patient, though the man is far from discouraged from the look of him. Quite the opposite, it seems.


“On a level from one to ten, one being not painful at all, ten being the worst pain imaginable, what is your current level of pain?” he grits through his teeth.


Takao thinks for a moment and then replies, “Hmmmmm, ah, I would say a seven. Yeah, seven or eight, I guess.”


He looks up and sees Shintarou's face. It must be even more rigid than usual, Shintarou thinks frostily, as Takao chuckles lowly.


“What? Is that the wrong answer? Uuuuuhhhh, what about, uh, the square root of forty-nine? Fifty-six divided by eight? Three-point-five multiplied by--”


“Unacceptable,” Shintarou says flatly and writes forcefully on his chart.


Takao looks up to him, utterly puzzled. “Ehhhh?”


“Seven is an unacceptable amount of pain for you to be suffering in proportion to the time you have been in recovery and the severity of your injuries. I recommend fifteen milliliters of morphine every twelve hours until the pain is bearable.”


Shintarou glares over the rims of glasses at Takao to reinforce his point, hoping to illustrate how foolishly his patient is behaving. It appears his efforts are in vain as Takao smiles apologetically.


“Ah, gomen, Shin-chan. I can handle a bit of pain. Doesn't hurt as much as getting shot in the first place, after all! Or getting knifed! Or splashed with acid! And Ace-sama did such a good job with the stitches, I can barely feel them!”


“Takao--”


Takao shakes his head again again, smile still intact, “Sorry, Shin-chan, like I told everyone else, I'm not taking any pain drugs. Not even Shin-chan, the adorable tsundere surgeon, can convince me.”


“Ta-KAO.”

Shintarou doesn't know why he's angrier: because Takao keeps using that ridiculous nickname or because he's being so stupidly stubborn. The perpetual smile is irksome, as well, of course.


He tries a different tactic. After all, it his duty to ensure his patient's well-being (especially if they’re too stupid to look out for themselves).


“Tell me why you won't accept the morphine,” he commands. His arms cross stubbornly as he locks his own emerald eyes with Takao's blue-grey. Takao huffs a laugh.


“It’s addictive, Shin-chan. I'd rather have a little pain now than get stuck with habit for Oxy or something a couple years down the road.”


Shintarou rolls his eyes at the idiocy of the man before him. Of course he would never let one of his patients become dependent on painkillers. Though certainly addictive, the opiates and other pain medications are a crucial aspect of the postoperative recovery process and are perfectly safe as long as they are used under the careful supervision of a diligent and responsible physician. Takao is just being stubborn.


“Ridiculous,” he snorts dismissively, beginning to write the prescript and note the additional medication on Takao's chart. “You'll take it and be grate--”


“No, Midorima-sensei. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Shintarou looks up from his chart, pen poised in his left hand. His patient's tone has shifted.


Shintarou looks down to see that Takao's eyes are hard. The absence of the dancing light in the blue-gray-orbs changes his whole face. Takao's nose looks sharper, his lips thinner. He looks almost like a bird of prey, Shintarou thinks distractedly in the back of his mind as he tries to think of new ways to push his patient onto the right path.


“Takao--”


“I'm feeling kinda tired, Shin-chan. Do ya think we can finish later?” Takao tilts his head, his smile sharp.


Shintarou doesn't care if he has upset his patient. That is not his concern. No, his concern is that Takao Kazunari, a thirty-year old, male gunshot-victim, makes a full and fast recovery. If that means that, in order for Takao to receive the most effective treatment possible, Shintarou has to alienate him by insisting on unpopular methods, then so be it.


Takao must see the determination in his eyes because when he look back at Shintarou, his smile is genuine and soft around the edges, his eyes less fierce.


“Heh. Shin-chan's not gonna let it go, huh?” Takao tilts his head back to stare at the ceiling as Shintarou makes to validate this assumption.


“Of course no—”


“'Listen, Ace-sama, let me sleep, okay?” his patient interrupts (again) and Shintarou fumes. “The pain's not so bad when I'm sleeping. If I wake up and I'm still feeling shitty, I'll call for the drugs. Deal?”


Shintarou doesn't know what to do. He's never met anyone as contrary and unsettling as Takao Kazunari (which is not an empty comparison; he spent four months in Obstetrics during his residency). Not only has his personal experience failed him, but his institutional education is apparently lacking, as well (Shintarou creates a mental memo to write his Alma Mater a strongly worded letter regarding the gaps in their curriculum, notably how to convince foolishly stubborn patients to do what is in their best interests).


Shintarou glares at Takao again, a final push, but the man just smiles winningly even batting his eyelashes flirtatiously. Shintarou grunts.


“Very well. But if you die from pain in your sleep, then I have done my duty and warned you of your own stupidity. Your family can have no wrongful death suit, nanodayo.”


Takao laughs uproariously. Shintarou is not sure if Takao knows he's in earnest. He asks him and Takao laughs harder.


“Furihata-san, be our witness,” gasps the nuisance, tears leaking from his eyes and rapidly falling down pale cheeks. “I, Takao Kazunari, hereby absolve Shin-chan—haaaa, Midorima Shintarou—of all blame should I die from my own stupidity.”


The man in other bed looks like he wants to laugh, but is afraid that Shintarou will bash him over the head with a bedpan. As if he would touch those.


Shintarou is done being humiliated for the day; he's done his duty. He grabs his coffee mug and clipboard with a swift snatching motion. He stalks toward the door to the hallway, and turns around to glare at the still cackling Takao.


“Reconsider.”


“Ahhhh, Shin-chan! We have a deal!”


Shintarou knows it's against the Hippocratic Oath to kill one's patients, but he hopes his glare makes Takao keel over (or at least stop laughing). With a huff of frustration and a last readjustment of his glasses, he leaves.


He's only two steps into the hall when he hears, “Shin-chan!”


Mortified (and vaguely hopeful that the disrespectful dolt has reconsidered), he backtracks, ignoring the shocked look of the nurse passing by.


“What?”


Furihata looks absolutely terrified. Takao looks like he might actually burst from trying not to laugh.


“Ari, ari, I just wanted to ask you something, Shin-chan.”


Shintarou deflates; not a reconsideration, then. “What is it now?” he sighs.


Takao pouts at his tone, his eyes gleaming mischievously.
“Ssu, does Shin-chan not like my questions? I thought patients were supposed to ask their doctors about stuff they don't understand?”


“Takao ...”


Takao raises his hands placatingly, and Shintarou knows by the look on Takao's face, the tremors of laughter that shake the sheets, that he has a limited amount of time to vacate the premises before he hears something that will bring about the loss of his license.


“Ari, ari, Ace-sama,” chokes Takao, “ are you sure you're okay? You're all red.” A light seems to shine from his face, as he beams, “Shin-chan, you're, you're a tomato-sensei!”


Shintarou did not endure university, three years of medical school, and a grueling residency in one of the best hospitals in Japan to be called a brightly-colored fruit. And what is it about him that makes people constantly compare him to part produce?


He spins on his heel and has one foot in the hallway when Takao calls, “Wait, Shin-chan, that wasn't what I was going to ask!”


Shintarou can't help himself. His face is scarlet and he thinks he might spontaneously combust. He spins, towering in the hallway and glowers at the sparkling fool with all his might.

Shintarou suspects Furihata, caught in the crossfire, urinates on himself at the sight judging the ignominious “Eeep!” the man emits.


“What. Do. You. Want.”
Takao waits, grinning as the silence stretches and then:
“Shin-chan, what's up with that mug?”


For a moment, Shintarou can only stand there mouth agape. He wonders if he will truly be fired for murdering the grinning man in Bed Number Two. Perhaps his superiors will understand that the action was absolutely necessary for the sake of humanity's collective sanity.


Then, in an instant, he feels himself explode, unable to restrain a lethal combination of frustration and worry and undeniable fury like he's never felt before. He feels his mouth open, but he has no words. Not a whisper of sound escapes him as he throws himself around to face the hallway, protectively clutching the toilet-shaped mug to his chest , and stalks as far away from Takao Kazunari as his long legs will carry him, the sound of Takao's mirth chasing him down the ward.


Halfway down the corridor, Shintarou slows. He takes a steadying sip of coffee from his unexpectedly controversial lucky item and looks back toward Room 610. He breathes in for exactly three seconds and then exhales deeply for four, repeating the action precisely five times. Then the adjusts his glasses and smirks to himself.


Takao Kazunari may think he has won, but Shintarou is nothing if not clever (it’s not arrogance if it’s true, after all) and perseverant (some might say stubborn). It is not physically possible for a human being to endure the pain that Takao is so insistent upon experiencing. While the accident-prone man has shown himself to be unusually strong-willed, Takao is bound to reconsider his decision after a night or so of intense discomfort. While Shintarou would have preferred to avoid his patient suffering altogether, he has planted the seed of reason in Takao’s mind. For now, that will have to be sufficient.

Shintarou huffs unhappily and marks his next examination of Takao for eight hours hence. Takao will eventually repent. And when he does, Shintarou will be there to ease his pain and to deliver the deserved “I told you so, nanodayo.”

He will not enjoy it, of course. No, Shintarou will decidedly not enjoy interacting any further with the bothersome Takao Kazunari.

Not at all.