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If it wasn’t for her, Little Guy would have been out in a damn heartbeat. This place was steeped in the recently resolved crisis. It was too difficult to contrast the clean(er) halls with the ones he stepped into, brimming with people on gurneys and the floor, doctors working feverishly to keep them stable until those three returned with the antidote.

The antiseptic smell burned his nose unpleasantly, leading to him taking shallow breaths to avoid getting too much of a whiff every time he breathed. Cellophane crackled in his hands. He toyed with it nervously, droplets of water suspended on the ends of the cut blooms like fine gems, clear and reflected the verdant green of the lilies. The white heads bobbed with each quick step.

His eyes narrowed as he approached the nurse’s station, betraying his disgust and nervousness- but just for a moment. He soon smoothed his expression out before he came to a stop. Why was the nurse giving him such a weird look…?

“Ah, excuse me, could you direct me to Ms. Kimishima’s room?”

“Room 64, it’ll be on the right side.” The nurse opened his mouth, seeming like he was going to comment on something. No time, Navel thought.

“Thank you!” He hurried off at a brisk pace, scanning each gray sign drilled into the wall by each room. “Only for you,” he murmured to himself as he reached the room. He peered in- she looked so calm. Actually, it was kind of creepy. If it wasn’t for the rise and fall of her chest, he’d have sworn she was dead. Her coloring was still off- she hadn’t gotten much sun the last few months, what with being weakened. It was easier to sleep. Of course, it probably was just the combination of the (in his view) sickly green scrubs and too-brilliant white sheets. The fluorescent lights were cut with sunlight. Long lines cast themselves across the floor, filtering the late afternoon light through half-closed blinds. He noticed, briefly, a box of eight crayons and a coloring book from the gift shop. It was open on the bedside table; a technicolor bird sat beneath autumn-colored leaves, the hues straying, on occasion, outside the lines. Then, next to it was a more realistic rendering. It was half-done. A mother and daughter sat below a tree, on a picnic… And Naomi had given the characters her and Alyssa’s colors. The girl had drawn a couple pink hearts over pale blue sky, floating above their heads. Cute.

The sooner I give these, the sooner I’m out, he reminded himself. He opened the door as quietly as he was able, trying not to disturb her rest; with quiet footsteps, he laid the bouquet into the vase on the small cabinet. A card already decorated the fake wood of the cabinet; a colorful bouquet had been placed beside it, already in its own vase. Suddenly, he wished he sprang for colors- but what other flowers fit her so well? Elegant, pale… Smelled good, too, but that didn’t count. A new wave of anxiety welled up in him, and he began to fiddle with the flowers. Should have gotten something like that.

“Oh? Did you decide to reuse the funeral bouquet you just got? I can’t tell if you had that little faith in the surgeons or if you just want to test my newfound luck.”

Jesus,>/i>” he gasped, whirling around. Naomi was watching him, one eye open, a faint smile on her lips. “I… Guess I woke you.”

“It was a light sleep,” she assured him. “What they’re giving me makes me tired. And I can go without, but they cracked my ribs open-“ He winced.

“I don’t need all the gory details. I’ve seen heart surgery before. I just don’t want to envision you in the middle of that bloodbath.” He took a seat, crossing one leg over the other. “…Good to see you’re still well enough to mess with me.” The smile that comment netted him made his heart skip a beat. It was a beatific, slow smile, dragged down by the last remnants of sleep. “What did you mean by luck?” She shifted to face him- with a wince- before explaining.

“White lilies are funereal, it’s bad luck to bring them inside, and it’s an insult, almost, to give them to someone stuck in the hospital. It’s almost as if you’re saying, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to fall into the eternal sleep, but here you are; we can re-use these at the wake if that’s so,” she explained with a dramatic (but small) put-upon sigh. “…That said, I am rather fond of lilies.”

“…Oh.” He rubbed the back of his neck, acutely embarrassed. “I just took some that reminded me of you. The florist was busy, so I didn’t just want to waste time badgering her to make me a bouquet. I just…” He swallowed, a flush brightening his cheeks. “I wanted to come see you as soon as possible, and make sure that you were okay. With my own eyes. And with fresh flowers.”

“That’s sweet,” she said softly. “Can you hand me one?” At least he had gotten an odd number- that was luckier.

He hemmed and hawed, trying to find the most beautiful, vibrant one in the bunch. After a moment of deliberation- with a quick comment by Naomi about how he must have been trapped for hours to choose a bouquet, with that swiftness- he plucked one and brought it over.

Her fingers closed gently around the stem, stroking the cool, almost waxy stem. With one motion, she raised her other hand and broke the stem off at the head. The blossom was tucked into her hair, just above her ear. “Does it suit me?”

“It does,” he admitted with a warm look. By the way he was looking at her, it was almost like she was the only woman in the world. Maybe visiting her for a few moments a day wouldn’t hurt- he’d already popped in on Alyssa more than once. Coming to see her would just be another short trip.

“Thank you, Navel.” Her gaze turned back towards the flowers. “With luck, I’ll be able to enjoy them at home. I can call on you to assist me with a ride home after I’m discharged, right?”

“Right.” He was utterly helpless when faced with the twinkle in her eye. She hadn’t looked like this for- Actually, it had been years since she was last like this. She seemed lively again. Though still sickly-seeming, the warmth of life was around her again. “How long?”

“You’ll be missing me at work for a month after I’m discharged. They’re talking about a week. Apparently, Tomoe- Doctor Tachibana- believes, erroneously, that I’ll tax myself the moment I’m home. The nerve of her to assume that.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at the faux indignation she was affecting.

“I’m going to have to tell Holden that I’ll be out a month preventing you from overworking yourself while intoxicated with the new lease on life you got, won’t I?” He joked.

“Intoxicated with life… I like that,” she mused. “I know you’ll miss me terribly during the next month or so, but you’ll have to endure.”

“Oh, how will I go on?” He threw a hand across his forehead, slumping dramatically in his chair. “I guess I’ll have to take it day by day.” He narrowed his eyes. “I think I’ll start with getting rid of those chocolate coffee beans you’ve got squirreled away. Someone has to keep you grounded.” …God, the glare was still chilling, even when she was drugged up and fresh from a nap. “You’ll get them back when you’re cleared. Relax.” She huffed, rolling her eyes testily. “…Doctor Kimishima? It’s good to see you back to your old self. I’ll be counting the days until you return.”

“I will, too. It’s boring without you by my side, even if you say the most inane statements.” Now it was his turn to huff.

One time…” She laughed softly before remembering, shit, that was a horrible idea.

“Thank you again. For everything.”

“My pleasure,” he said softly. “I’ll visit you. Every day until you’re out. Look forward to it.” He turned to leave.

As he slipped out the door, a quiet “I will” followed him.