A/N: Hi there. I noticed a while ago that Cheer Danshi doesn't have much fan fiction, but I really like it, so I decided to chip in. I hope anyone who stumbles across this ends up liking it, and thanks for reading. Sorry for the many errors I probably missed while editing.
"Hustle, boys! We have too much to do and not enough time to do half of it! Do you want to get into nationals or not?" Coach Takagi shouted, hands on her hips as she waited impatiently for the Breakers to all set down their bags and circle up. The main slacker of the group, Broccoli-Head Takeru, was taking the longest, and he reached the rest of the group just as Takagi was getting ready to throw her shoe at him.
"I think that's everyone," Kazu said, looking around.
"Not fast enough, though. If you guys think it's okay to show up ten minutes late or skip a few days of practice, then you aren't working hard enough. If you want to surpass Dreams, let alone Sparks, you have to work harder. Now stretch!" Takagi lectured. Everyone immediately listened, even the largest of them intimidating by the woman's fierce attitude.
The Breakers all spread out around the gym as they began their stretches. Like always, Kazu and Haru were within five feet of each other the entire time, discussing this and that.
"She's starting to sound like Hisashi" Kazu pointed out, looking over at Takagi. Haru nodded.
"Well she isn't wrong. If not everyone pulls their weight, then there's no way we'll even make it to nationals. Plus, I don't want to make it seem like I don't trust our team, but... Takeru, for example... I don't want him to be a base with me as a flyer. I know this sounds bad, but... I can't say that I wholeheartedly believe he'll catch me," the brunette admitted. Kazu sighed.
"Don't feel bad about that, Haru. Coach Takagi might have made it seem like you're fault back when she said the reason why you weren't a good flyer was because you didn't trust our teammates, but in cases like this, you can't help it. I know she doesn't expect us to trust people who aren't working hard enough 100%," the raven haired boy explained. "Just know, though, that if you end up with someone you aren't comfortable with, you can say something. After that, even if they remain as one of your bases, you can trust your spotter and other base to catch you. I know that Coach wouldn't put a group of slackers under a flyer. The last thing she wants is for one of us to get hurt," he continued. Haru nodded, giving his friend a small smile.
"Thanks," he said quietly.
"If anything, I could always catch you," Kazu said teasingly, returning Haru's smile. The smaller of the two snorted quietly.
"I'll keep that in mind," he said sarcastically, his smile never fading. The two then lapsed into silence, though Haru's smile remained as he snuck a glance at Kazu. The other teen always knew exactly what to say when Haru was sad or nervous, and even when to not say anything. He usually could read Haru pretty well, too, his only real blunder being when he thought Haru had gotten over his fear of heights. Even though the two had not been drawn together by some odd occurrence like friends in shounen manga, they still were better friends than people who'd known each other for decades. Their bond was definitely one to be envious of.
The cheerleaders finished their stretching in just a few minutes, and before they knew it, Takagi was calling them up again. The young men all grouped up in front of her, awaiting further instruction.
"I want the newbie bases to get a little more practice in before we start new stuff, so I want the flyers to do backflips. It's a little more difficult, and definitely the hardest part of the routine you original seven did at the school festival. However, the newbies have been doing basic stunts like the Elevator for the past few days, and I want them to get a try at the harder things," Takagi explained. "Preferably, I'd want to use all my flyers, but two of you still need work before you can do this stunt. Also, I can't properly watch more than one base at once. Instead, we'll just do one at a time. Each base will do the toss with a flyer three times, then the next group will come in and will toss the other flyer. We'll just got back and forth with Haru and Kazu. To start, I want Haru, Mizoguchi, Sho and Ton to show how it's done," she ordered.
Haru, Ton, Mizuguchi and Sho moved away from the other cheerleaders, moving onto the mat nearby and getting into position.
"Three, two, one, and!" Takagi called out as the four began the stunt. Ton and Sho launched Haru into the air, where the teen executed a smooth backflip before falling into the arms of his teammates. Kazu smiled.
"Nice, Haru!" he called. Haru gave him a smile, a dusting of red appearing on his cheeks as he walked back toward his friend.
"Next! Hisashi, Takeru, Gen, Kazu!" Coach Takagi called.
Kazu stiffened next to Haru, his pupils shrinking in fear. However, he recovered quickly, and moved to walk over to the mat, only to be stopped by Haru's hand on his wrist.
"Kazu, don't you-" Haru begain in a whisper.
"It'll be fine, Haru," Kazu mumbled back, continuing his walk to the mat. Despite his words, Haru could see that the teen was worried judging by how stiff his posture was. Takagi seemed to notice his posture as well, but she didn't think anything of it.
"You're too stiff, Kazu! Into position!" she shouted.
Hisashi and Takeru stepped onto the mat, standing face to face. Hisashi glared at Takeru, who just averted his eyes with a huff. Gen noticed this as he approached the two, and a slight look of unease took over his face as he stood next to them. Kazu, on the other hand, betrayed nothing. He had managed to both clear his face and relax his posture as he approached his bases and spotter. He got into position without a single complaint, despite his previous words about distrusting Takeru.
The reason behind Kazu's calm demeanor was both to prove to Haru that at least one good base would minimize injuries. Hisashi was very determined, and he worked extremely hard, so Kazu trusted that he would catch him. Plus, Gen was behind him, and he had a lot of faith in him.
"Three, two, one, and!" Takagi called. Kazu jumped up onto Takeru and Hisashi's hands with the help of Gen, and jumped with the toss. It worked well. He went up, he flipped, then he went down, and three pairs of arms caught him. "Again!" Takagi called. They did it again..
At that point, not even the worrywart Haru thought anything could go wrong. The first two tosses had been fine, a bit shaky and not nearly national level, but safe. However, for the third toss, there was something different that only Takeru noticed.
"Three, two, one, and!" Takagi yelled. Kazu jumped onto his bases, and felt them starting to lift, but in that moment, he felt something that was off. Gen's hands disappeared from his waist like they should've, and Hisashi pushed Kazu up like always, but Takeru was too slow. There was too much sweat on his face, and his arms shook as he pushed Kazu up. He had obviously slacked off instead of building muscle, leaving him too tired to do the last toss properly.
With each of his feet being raised at different times and speeds, Kazu lost his balance. He heard Gen yell something about leaning forward, but he had already pushed off of the bases' hands, and he was already falling backwards. The bright lights of the gym blinded him as he fell backwards in mid air, flying over Gen, who reached up to try to grab him, but failed. Then, the ceiling was suddenly rushing away as Kazu fell down, down, down... He hit the floor, then everything went black.
Everyone saw it when it happened. The way Hisashi executed his part smoothly... the way Gen watched Kazu with focused eyes... the way Takeru's arms shook as he failed to push Kazu up. Everyone saw the way Kazu's eyes widened as he lost his balance mid-jump from the error at his feet, sending him up and backwards instead of just up.
"Lean forward!" Gen yelled as he reached up to try and grab onto any part of Kazu, any part that would allow him to pull the flyer down and catch him. However, his fingertips didn't even graze the raven haired teen's shirt as Kazu's shadow crossed the edge of the mat. Even Hisashi moved to try to catch Kazu, but his stride wasn't long enough, and his hand didn't even reach the edge of the mat. All anyone could do was watch in horror as Kazu began to fall, his arms and legs in disarray as he instinctively tried to put his feet under him, but failed. Then, he hit the ground with a gut-wrenching thud, and didn't move again.
After that, Takagi jumped into action and ran over to Kazu, kneeling down next to him. She called his name, checked for his pulse, and tapped his arm, careful not to move him at all in case his back had been injured. The rest of the cheerleaders were silent, and none of them moved except for Haru, who slowly approached his friend. He stopped next to Coach Takagi, who had pulled out her phone and called emergency services for an ambulance. Despite the fact that she was shouting, Haru didn't hear a word she was saying. He could hear his own breathing as he stared down at Kazu, taking it all in.
The raven haired teen's arms and legs were spread-eagle and bent in ways that wouldn't be comfortable at all for any conscious person, though they didn't look broken. His uniform was rumbled, and had ridden up slightly over his stomach during the fall, revealing toned muscles he had gained through years of Judo and weeks of cheerleading practice. The scary part, though, was Kazu's face. His head was tilted to the side, and eyes were half-lidded. His lips were just barely parted, and his skin had gone pale. He looked dead.
Haru couldn't help but think that maybe his friend really was dead, but pushed the thought away. If he was, Takagai would have sent everyone outside instantly, and she would not have calles Kazu's name and tried to wake him up. She was too smart a woman to go and try to wake the dead.
However, Haru's dark thoughts quickly returned when he saw something poke out from under Kazu's head. The teen's hair blocked it at first, but the thing moved more and more until it was clear in Haru's vision. Blood. The puddle grew and grew, not in just a few seconds, but still much quicker than if someone cut their finger. It was not a lie that head wounds bled a lot, and Haru was seeing that first hand. The blood completed the horrific sight before him, and Haru was hit with a sudden wave of vertigo. Blood already made him sick, but seeing it coming from his unconscious friend's head was too much.
The world around Haru began to blur as he realized that his breaths had become shallow and quick. He had no idea where was happening to him because Kazu was laying on the ground and he wasn't moving and what if he DIED!? The shock of everything that had happened, combined with the sickness Haru felt at the sight of blood and the panic attack the incident had induced, caused Haru to lose his balance and stumble back a step before he suddenly pitched forward and collapsed to the ground as the word faded away around him.
After Haru passed out, the gym became a frenzy. The shock that had enveloped everyone lost its effect, and they all began to question what they were supposed to do. Wataru, who considered Haru and Kazu his best friends, was lost for words. He was sure that, in the case that one of them was injured, he'd be able to help. However, in reality, he was lost.
"What do we do?"
"Is Kazu dead?!"
"What happened to Haru!?"
"Are they both hurt?!"
The team was losing it, but thankfully, they had a clear-minded coach to get their heads back.
"All of you, QUIET! Kazu is alive and Haru is fine!" she growled. Hisashi, who had been staring at Kazu in disbelief the whole time, suddenly turne toward Takeru with a glare.
"You're damn lucky that he's alive. It's you're fault that he fell!" he accused. Takeru growled.
"How the hell is it my fault?! It's the spotter's job to make sure he doesn't fall!" he yelled back.
"There isn't anything the spotter can do when one of the bases screws up and sends the flyer over their head! Besides, at least he and I tried to save Kazu! You just stood their like the worthless slacker you are! It's because you slack off that you weren't strong enough to throw him properly!" Hisashi shouted. Takeru opened his mouth to talk, but stopped when a hand suddenly grabbed his shirt and a fist slammed into his face.
"Shut up, both of you! This isn't the time to argue! Hisashi, take the rest of the team to the locker room and wait there! Takeru! Do you see now why you can't just slack off? Flyers get hurt and even DIE when their bases are incompetent! Kazu trusted you, and look where his is now!" Sho yelled, spitting in Takeru's face as he scolded him. Takeru just looked at him with a mix of anger at being accused by Hisashi and fear at Sho's angry tone.
Enraged that Takeru wasn't taking the situation nearly as seriously as he should have been, Sho pushed him away and fixed him with a death glare.
"Get out," he said. "Get out of here, and never show your face to anyone on this team again. Dropping someone on accident is bad enough, but dropping them because you slacked off is far worse. Now leave before I slam you're head into the floor so you can feel for yourself just how serious Kazu's situation is," Sho threatened.
At that point, Takeru really looked scared. Without a word, he stuck his hands in his pockets and walked out of the gym. The rest of the team watched him go, then Hisashi waved them all toward him.
"Locker room. Let's go," he said. The cheerleaders all nodded and walked to the locker room, though not because Hisashi had told them to. No one liked Hisashi much, but Sho had given the original order, and the entire team was fine with listening to him.
The only person who didn't move was Gen, who was staring at the floor with a guilty look on his face. Sho clapped him on the back to get his attention, fixing the spotter with a serious glance.
"It's not your fault. You did your job as a spotter well, and did what you could to help. The person to blame would be Takeru," he said.
"It's my fault as well. I shouldn't have let Takeru work with the flyers. I knew well that he slacks off," Takagi added from where she was on the floor. She had taken off her sweatshirt and put it under Haru's head, and she had Kazu's wrist between her fingers as monitored his pulse while waiting for the ambulance.
"Go to the locker room. We'll handle this," Sho said to Gen, who nodded. There was still a trace of guilt in the spotter's expression, but he looked much better than before as he jogged to catch up with the rest of the team. Sho watched him go, then grabbed his notebook from where he had dropped it before he had punched Takeru. He then returned to where Haru, Kazu and Takagi were, and knelt down next to Haru. He used the notebook to fan the teen in an attempt to wake him up. If he could do that before the ambulance arrived, they'd know if Haru hurt himself when he collapsed and could take care of it, which would allow them to focus fully on Kazu.
Unfortunately, Haru did not wake up any time soon. Sho and Takagi didn't do much, either, in the few minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive. Instead they watched Kazu, wincing at the puddle of blood that only continued to grow. Neither of them dared to move his head though, afraid that they might do permanent damage if Kazu had indeed injured his back.
When the doors to the gym were opened by the paramedics, Takagi pointed at Kazu. The faster of the two stopped at Kazu, and listened to what happened. The second stopped at Haru and looked at Sho.
"He had a panic attack and collapsed. The only worry with him is that he might've hit his head after the fall. The other one is in much worse shape, though," Sho said, nodding toward Kazu. The paramedic nodded and pulled a flashlight from his pocket, then checked Haru's eyes for signs of a concussion.
"He looks fine, but if he has any symptoms when he wakes up, take him to the hospital," the paramedic instructed. Sho nodded, then watched as both the paramedics began to work on Kazu, the first explaining the situation to the second. From then on, it was a flurry of motion as Kazu was carefully put on a gurney, moved into the ambulance, then driven to the hospital. In the end, Sho and Takagi were left with nothing to do except call the janitor to clean up the blood and try to wake Haru.
When Haru awoke to a bright light shining in his eyes and a light breeze on his face, he though he was at home in bed, having just woken up from a bad dream. However, when that bright light took the shape of the lights in his school's gymnasium, he knew that he was wrong.
"Haru?" a familiar voice asked, just as the cool breeze stopped.
"Sho?" Haru questioned, blinking his eyes a few times. The memories then came back to him, clearer than HD television, and he bolted upright with a sharp breath. He looked around frantically, thinking he would see Kazu lying motionless on the ground still, but he was gone, and the metallic smell of blood in the air had been replaced by nauseating bleach and chemicals.
"Kazu was taken to the hospital about five minutes ago, and the janitor just finished cleaning everything up," Takagi said, as if she was reading Haru's mind.
"Is Kazu okay?!" Haru asked frantically, his heart frozen in his chest. Sho and Takagi both went silent momentarily.
"We aren't sure about what happened yet, but the situation is very serious," Takagi said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens." Haru's blood went cold.
"We can't do anything but wait, now. Though that aside, does your head hurt at all, Haru?" Sho asked. Haru fixed him with a confused look.
"Why would it?" he asked
"Because you had a panic attack and passed out when you saw Kazu and the blood," Sho replied flatly, surprised that Haru didn't seem to remember. He suspected that Haru might have actually hit his head, if that was the case.
"Oh. So that was a panic attack..." Haru mumbled, though he was loud enough for both Takagi and Sho to hear. Both of them nearly facepalmed. "I didn't get hurt, though. In Judo I learned how to land safely when I was thrown, and I guess I just instinctively treated passing out like being thrown," Haru explained. Sho nodded.
"Well then, that's at least one less thing to worry about," he said, before looking at Takagi.
"In that case, we better go talk to the team. They've been waiting in the locker room for quite a while now," Takagi said, getting to her feet. Sho and Haru did the same, the latter not asking any questions for once as he followed the other other two to the locker room, where the rest of the team was waiting.
When the locker room door opened, everyone in the room turned to face Sho, Takagi and Haru.
"Is Kazu okay?" Wataru asked. Takagi shook her head.
"We don't have any details. He was taken to the hospital not long ago, and he was at least alive when they left, but we shouldn't assume anything, negative or positive," she stated. "Head injuries are the most complex, and even if he's totally fine after, Kazu may never be able to do stunts again. This incident very likely scarred his trust. Also, though, we must remember that his injuries are bad, and the worst may happen, especially because he may have injured his back. For now, practice is over, and I don't want anyone meeting tomorrow. Train on your own, and I'll tell you what I know next time we meet. Dismissed," she said, finishing her explanation. The team didn't move for a second, and even when they finally did, they were slow. They were slow to get their things, and they were slow to get out the door. They were all feeling the weight of what had happened.
As all the cheerleaders left, Haru noticed someone missing.
"Where's Takeru?" he asked. He knew Takeru had screwed up, and he hated the broccoli head for it. He wanted to beat the guy up, but he also wanted to make sure that no one had killed him.
"Sho ripped him a new one and kicked him off the team," Takagi explained. Haru shifted his gaze to Sho, who averted his eyes.
"He reminded you of what happened before, didn't he?" Haru asked. Sho flinched.
"I don't know what you mean," Sho lied.
"When you dropped that girl? At least in your case, is was purely an accident. Kazu and I were talking during stretches about how we didn't really trust Takeru to catch either of us, but would still do stunts if we trusted the spotter and the other base. I never though something could go wrong during the toss, though. Besides that, we both knew Takeru wasn't working hard at all, and when Coach made Takeru a base, I thought Kazu would say something, but he didn't. He should have, though. Takeru got Kazu hurt because he is incompetent. It wasn't an accident at all," Haru explained before turning away. He hurriedly grabbed his bag, then walked quickly out of the room before either Sho or Takagi could speak to him.
Even though Haru didn't say where he was going, Sho and Takagi both knew that he was going to the hospital to check on Kazu. After all, other than Kazu's grandmother, Haru was the closest thing he had to family.
"He was right about Takeru reminding you of her, wasn't he," Takagi accused quietly as Haru left. Sho didn't say anything, letting Takagi know that she had hit the nail on the head.
Haru sat in the waiting room at the hospital for only two hours, though it felt like 2000. The minutes crawled by slower than they ever had before, leaving Haru with nothing to do but tap his feet on the floor and drum his fingers on the armrest of his chair until someone gave him a dirty look.
Finally, FINALLY, Haru got some news when a young woman in a dark blue uniform approached him, a laptop in hand and an expression that betrayed nothing.
"You are the one looking for Kazuma Hashimoto?" she asked, getting a vigorous nod in return. "Follow me, then." Haru obeyed immediately, following the woman down one hallway and up an elevator, then down a few more hallways before they reached a room with a simple, white metal door. The woman opened it up and let Haru inside, then she followed him in. Instantly, Haru's eyes searched for his best friend. He wasn't sure what to think when he found him. "Hashimoto-kun is very lucky. He didn't get more than a few bruises on his back, though based on the description of the accident, his spine should have suffered at least some sort of injury. Does he do any kind of martial arts?" the woman asked. Haru nodded.
"We used to do Judo together up until a month or two ago. We were trained in how to safely be thrown, so our backs wouldn't get hurt when we went down," he said. The woman nodded.
"I see. That's probably what saved him. However, he isn't out of the woods," she admitted, causing Haru to freeze. He had been slowly stepping toward Kazu before, but stopped when the woman laid a hand on his shoulder. The light touch was almost like a heavy weight that kept him from moving at all, and Haru knew that it was all due to her words.
"I thought you said he was okay." Haru stated, his voice starting to waver.
"I said he avoided a back injury. However, his head is a different story." Haru's blood went cold. "He hit it pretty hard, and he got quite the concussion. Thankfully, it seems there was no permanent or severe damage, but..." the woman trailed off, implying something Haru feared. However, he needed to hear her say it in order to believe it. The woman seemed to understand, because she finished her statement. "...He's fallen into a coma, and we don't know that he'll wake up. In his current weakened state, the odds are against him at 20:80."
Haru didn't even notice that he was crying until the woman patted his shoulder soothingly, pulling him from his shock. He felt the hot tears on his face as they slid over his cheekbones, down his cheeks and traced his jawline before falling to the floor. He suddenly couldn't take it anymore. He needed to know that was he was seeing was real. He needed to know that he wasn't just having a bad dream.
"You can see him, but be gentle," the woman said, as if she was reading his mind. People seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
Slowly, Haru walked across the small room to Kazu's bedside and let gravity pull him into the chair beside him. He sat for a moment before slowly reaching out, his shaky hand moving slowly toward Kazu's still one. When his fingers brushed the back of Kazu's hand, he moved even slower, carefully slipping his fingers between Kazu's. He then squeezed his friend's hand just slightly, as if he thought it was made of paper-thin porcelain that would shatter in his palms. The fact that Kazu didn't have anything on his right hand eased at least some of Haru's anxieties about taking Kazu's hand, because that way, Haru didn't have to worry about avoiding any tubes or wires.
With Kazu's cold, limp hand in his, Haru found himself forced to come to terms with everything. This had really happened. Kazu really was hurt.
For the first time since he first walked in, Haru took a good look at Kazu. His left hand had an IV needle in the wrist and a heart monitor on his finger. A blanket covered him up to the waist, and under that was a white robe. He had an oxygen mask on his face, which the woman in the room explained was just to make breathing very easy for Kazu so his body could focus on fixing the damage done to it, and not something he required, which was reassuring. However, on the other hand, the wires on the sides of Kazu's head were terrifying. They were there to measure brain activity, which would let the doctors know when he was about to wake up. They were intimidating only because of their purpose, so Haru decided to ignore them. That turned out to be quite easy, too, since they didn't stand out nearly as much as the gauze wrapped around Kazu's head. It were there to catch any blood, though the bleeding had mostly stopped, and the small cut that had spilled so much of the crimson that had stained the gym floor had been sealed with two staples.
In the end, Kazu looked the a train wreck, but he also didn't. Compared to how he'd looked in the gym, he currently looked great. Plus, if Haru imagined that all the tubes, wires and bandages weren't there, Kazu just looked like he was sleeping.
Haru didn't know that the woman who had led him to Kazu had left until she appeared three hours later to tell him that visiting hours were over.
That night, Haru didn't come downstairs for dinner when called. His father ended up going to his room to get him, but the man only found a spaced-out boy in place of his son. With a little hassle, he managed to get Haru to go to the dining room for dinner even though the boy claimed that he wasn't hungry. He didn't feel hungry at all, but he hadn't eaten since breakfast, and he convinced himself that he needed the calories after all that had happened that day.
During dinner, though, Haru barely touched his food. His ate a few bites very slowly, but for the most part, he just stared at his meal. His parents and sister took notice, and once they were finally fed up with his odd behavior, his mother started asking questions.
"Haru? Is everything okay?" she asked. Haru gave no response.
"Well, I heard that there was a lot of commotion in the gym where Haru's team was practicing. Maybe something exciting happened and he can't stop thinking about it?" Haruko guessed, trying to help. Haru's parents turned their eyes on Haru, along with Haruko, waiting for a response. It took a moment, but Haru did eventually speak.
"One of the guys messed up a toss while throwing Kazu for a stunt," Haru stated. "He landed on his back and head, and Coach Takagi had to call an ambulance. The janitor had to clean up all the blood afterwards, and Coach sent everyone home. Kazu is okay for now, but he's in a coma and probably won't wake up."
Haru's family stared at him in disbelief, and Haru suddenly stood.
"I'm going back to my room," he said, before turning and walking away. His family watched him go without a word.
That night, Haru slept fitfully.
The next morning, Haru did not go to school. He was not the type to skip when he felt like it, though. Actually, he was quite the opposite. He had never missed a day of school unless he had been unable to get out of bed due to illness. Even when he wrecked his shoulder in Judo, he had just taken painkillers and headed out.
Instead of going to school, Haru headed to the hospital that Kazu was in. He walked inside and stopped at the visitor sign-in at the front desk, signing his name before heading off down the hallway. He walked a familiar path through the maze of rooms, labs and hallways until he reached a room he had been to before. Taking a deep breath, he walked in, his eyes slowly rising to meet the room's inhabitant.
"Hi, Grandma," Haru greeted, giving the old woman a smile. She returned his smile, and watched him as he crossed the room and sat on a stool next to her bed.
"Shouldn't you be in school?" the old woman asked. Haru laughed quietly, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head.
"Yeah... I have some stuff I need to do today, though, and my professors are all aware. I'll be fine," he assured.
"Good. Is Kazuma with you?" the woman asked. Haru tensed, and his smile slipped off his face. It seemed that no one had told the woman about what had happened to her grandson.
"He's, uh, busy right now, so he couldn't make it. I thought I'd come visit you in his place," Haru explained. His explanation was not entirely a lie. Kazu really was busy, Haru had just left out the fact that Kazu was busy dying in the same hospital that his grandmother was in.
"Tell him I said hello, then," the old woman requested, believing Haru. She had no reason to believe that he was lying, since he had never lied to her before.
Haru nodded, then let out a sigh of relief too small for the old woman next to him to notice. He couldn't bring himself to tell her about what had happened to Kazu. She was Kazu's grandmother, after all, and Haru only called her Grandma because she had told him to, not because they were related. Kazu was the only one she had left, since Kazu's grandfather and parents were dead. To tell the woman that she might lose her grandson, too, would very likely affect her health, and she was already not the healthiest person alive. Haru guessed that the hospital had come to the same conclusion as well, because Kazu's grandmother was his only listed remaining relative, so they would have told her about him otherwise. However, she was too frail, so everything had fallen to Haru, the closest thing Kazu had to family other than his grandma.
For the next twenty minutes, Haru talked to Kazu's grandmother about school and how his sister was doing in Judo. He peeled her one of the apples Kazu had left behind last time he was in, and once she finished, he excused himself, saying he needed to get some stuff done. That was entirely a lie, but Kazu's grandmother didn't seem to notice as she gave Haru a wave on his way out.
Haru made his way back to the lobby, then asked the front desk for Kazu's room number. They didn't want to give it to him at first, since he wasn't family, but when they saw that Haru was 1st in Kazu's emergency contacts, taking the place of Kazu's grandmother, who was in the hospital herself, they finally gave it to him.
It took Haru ten minutes and three stops for directions to find Kazu's room, and when he finally did, he stopped in front of the door and hesitated. Images of Kazu after the fall flashed through his brain, and Haru had to take a moment to collect himself before opening the door and walking in.
Kazu looked the same as he had the previous day, which wasn't necessarily good or bad. He hadn't gotten drastically worse, but he hadn't gotten drastically better, either. Haru decided that he needed to be grateful that Kazu wasn't dead, and took his seat next to the bed. He carefully laced their fingers together once more, then sat in silence, staring at his best friend's face.
Despite their close relationship, and how many times he stole quick glances at his friend, Haru began to notice things about Kazu he had never seen before. His eyelashes were very long, and they brushed the skin under his eyes lightly like butterflies. His skin was also very clear, with not a single pimple or scar. His eyebrows were thin and neat, but filled in a way that the skin beneath was covered nicely.
It was just little things like those that Haru noticed, but each discovery found itself a permanent place in his mind so he wouldn't be able to forget.
For the next few hours, Haru simply sat, holding Kazu's hand in his. Even as the time neared that he needed to leave and go train on his own for cheerleading, Haru was reluctant to let go of Kazu. The paranoid part of his mind believed that Kazu would disappear into thin air if he pulled their hands apart, making it harder for Haru to leave when he had to. It took all of his willpower to stand up and slide his fingers out from in between Kazu's, and even more to turn his back and walk out the door.
For the rest of the day, Haru practiced. He practiced everything he needed to improve on, then went over all the basic flyer stunts that he could do on the trampoline. After that, he practiced more, doing Kazu's practice for him, as of that would help keep the comatose teen in top shape for when he returned to cheerleading.
By the time Haru was, finished, he was soaked in sweat. He flopped down on his back on the roof, closing his eyes as he heaved in air.
"You can have the shower first, Ka-" he began, but cut off abruptly when he realized that Kazu wasn't there. He was so used to Kazu being there practicing with him, be it when they were in Judo or as cheerleaders, and the realization that he was all alone on the roof was like a knife in his heart.
Quietly, with shoulders slumped in defeat, Haru made his way downstairs to his room, where he grabbed a change of clothes before heading to the shower. He stripped off his sweat-soaked clothes and tossed them aside in a heap before he stepped into the shower and turned it on hot. He let the excruciating water scald his skin, turning it an angry red. Haru didn't feel any of it.
After standing in the water for five minutes, thinking about Kazu, how he looked when he was falling, the blood that had puddled beneath his head, and the way he lay so uncharacteristically still in his hospital bed, Haru slapped himself in the face, hard. He needed to focus. Kazu would have judo thrown him a hundred times in the past hour alone if he had been there to see how pathetic Haru was being. Getting all upset and thinking about what had happened would not only damage Haru's trust in the team and his performance as a cheerleader, but it also would hurt Kazu. Kazu wouldn't feel great if he came back to the team and found that Haru had been unfocused because he'd been worrying about him all the time.
Turning the scalding water down to a refreshing coolness, Haru finished his shower quickly. He then got to work on stuff he really needed to do, such as washing his clothes, cleaning his room and doing the homework he had fogotten about the previous day. He got everything done without a single dark thought about Kazu, and when he finally went to bed, he slept well.
Over the next few days, Haru went through a daily routine. He'd wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, go to practice, go home, take a shower, visit Kazu, go back home, eat dinner, then go to bed. He made sure he stayed focused during school and practice, and kept Takagi filled in on how Kazu was doing. When he visited Kazu, he'd do his homework and talk to him, since he'd read in multiple places that talking to a coma patient helped increase brain activity. That was either true, or Kazu was impatient, because on his way out three days after that incident, a nurse on her way in told Haru that Kazu's brain activity had increased quite a bit, and his odds of waking had risen significantly to 70:30. That alone brightened Haru's day, and he didn't even wait until the next practice to tell Takagi, opting to send her a text on his way out of the hospital.
One thing the nurse didn't mention was that Haru talking to Kazu wasn't what was really getting his brain activity up. It helped a little, but was not what had caused such a drastic change in Kazu. The real driving force was physical contact. Kazu recognized the hand that had held his for hours on end every day, and even though coma patients were unresponsive to any stimuli, the familiar feel had Kazu's brain working. It made the nurse smile just slightly.
Haru continued his daily routine for nearly a week and a half, and for the last few days, the nurse gave him daily updates. Haru wasn't sure that hospitals usually worked that way, and he was surprised that the nurse worked so many days in a row. He wasn't aware that she was waiting for Kazu to wake up as well, having taken interest in the relationship between the two, believing that they were more than just friends.
When the nurse gave Haru updates, she was sure to tell him that his brain had recovered well. It had been jarred, but no damage had been done, and his comatose state had hastened the healing process.
On his way out eight days after the incident, Haru stopped to talk to the nurse.
"How long will be after he wakes up that he can go back to sports?" he asked. The nurse smiled.
"He should rest here for a few days, and he can do small things for a fews days after that. He should be good to go about a week after he wakes up. He's been healing very quickly, and his concussion doesn't seem to be nearly as severe as we originally thought. The doctors believe that the reason for his coma was not actually the severity of his concussion, but a mix of his concussion and blood loss," she explained. Haru nodded. If Kazu would be able to go back to cheerleading a week after he woke, that was great.
Without a word of complaint, Haru left.
Eleven days after the incident, Haru sat in Kazu's room in silence. He had no homework that day, and cheerleading practice had been cancelled because everyone had to work, so Takagi ordered everyone to practice on their own. Haru had practiced at home for an hour after school, showered, then gone to see Kazu. Everything was just as it had always been, except Kazu's oxygen mask was gone. Haru guessed that Kazu didn't need to focus on healing anymore, and was sure he'd wake up soon.
For the first hour that he was at the hospital, Haru held Kazu's hand as he always did, but he then used his free hand to draw spirals and patterns on Kazu's cheek with his finger. He hadn't realized just how smooth Kazu's skin was until he did that, and once he started, he found it hard to stop. He only did because his arm had gotten tired of being held out for so long.
Near the start of the second hour, Haru sighed and released Kazu's hand. Instead of setting his left hand on top of Kazu's right, Haru picked up Kazu's hand and laced the fingers of his right hand through Kazu's, palm to palm. He then lightly trapped Kazu's hand between his cheek and his hand, eyes fixed on Kazu's face.
After a few minutes of that, Haru felt himself getting tired. He had gone to bed late the previous night and woken early in the morning. He started blinking more and more as his eyelids sagged. He did what he could to stay awake, but all he could manage was to barely keep his eyelids halfway open. It wasn't until he saw Kazu's eyelids twitch that he was able to open his eyes fully again. He stared at his friend's face in disbelief. Had he imagined it in his tired state?
Haru began to doubt himself as a minute passed and Kazu didn't move at all. He was sure that he truly had imagined it all. That is, until Kazu's eyes cracked open, and his pupils turned toward Haru.
He definitely hadn't imagined that.
As his senses returned to him, the first thing Kazu noticed was a faint beeping. It got louder and louder by the second, though, and it was extremely annoying. It he had been totally conscious, he would have broken the source immediately.
The second thing Kazu noticed was the warmth on his hand. His arm was a little cool, but his hand was enveloped in warmth on both sides. It was a comfortable warmth, and he felt a familiar texture on his palm.
A bit confused as to where he was and what the warmth on his hand was, Kazu tried to open his eyes, but they felt like they were stuck shut. He heard something rustle next to him, and the warmth on his hand shifted, but did not leave, causing Kazu's curiosity to only grow. He waited a minute before trying to open his eyes again, and his attempt was successful. His eyelids moved up just enough for him to see through his eyelashes, though he was only assaulted by the bright light above him. It burned, and he almost closed his eyes before remembering that he still didn't know why his hand was so warm.
With the strength that was returning to him, Kazu shifted his eyes to his right side, where he saw a blurry figure staring at him. He gave his eyes a second to focus, and the figure morphed into a familiar mop of brown hair, wide eyes and his own hand, which was clasped by another and pressed against the person's face. The person themself was staring at Kazu in disbelief, and his lips twitched as if he wanted to speak but didn't know what to say. Being the nice guy he was, Kazu smiled slightly and decided to start things out for him.
When Haru heard Kazu speak his name in his quiet, hoarse voice, which was rusty from disuse, he felt tears prickle his eyes.
The tears were quick to fall, and the only thing Haru could do was jump up and bury his face in the white robe on Kazu's chest, his hands grabbing fistfuls of the sheets on Kazu's bed and squeezing them until his knuckles turned white enough to match them.
"Kazu... Ka...zu," Haru sobbed, unbelievably gratefully that his friend was back. He didn't see how Kazu's smile grew and his eyes turned soft as he looked down at his friend. Haru only felt Kazu's hand on his back as the raven haired teen weakly hugged him.
The reunion between the two didn't last too long though, because after just a minute, the door opened to reveal a doctor and two nurses. On of the nurses was the one who had always updated Haru on Kazu's condition, and she took charge of pulling Haru away from his friend. She walked up behind him quietly and laid a hand on his shoulder, then she gave him a small tug.
"We need you to step back for just a moment, Bando-kun. We just need to asked Hashimoto-kun some questions," she said. Haru didn't move, so Kazu patted his back lightly to get his attention. Haru raised his head to look at his friend, but the tears didn't stop. Kazu gave him a smile, then looked at the nurse. Haru took the hint, and with much reluctance, he slowly backed away. Though even as he backed up, Haru never took his eyes off of Kazu. He didn't even blink until his body forced him to during the three minutes that the doctor spent questioning Kazu.
By the time the doctor finished, Haru felt that years had passed, and when Kazu looked over at him, he was back at his friend's side in a second. Kazu lifted his hand slightly, then looked at Haru's, telling the brunette what to do without speaking. Haru didn't complain at all as he laced their fingers together just as he had so many times before.
The doctor and nurses left quickly to go figure out what needed to happen from that point on, leaving Kazu and Haru by themselves. Neither of the boys minded, especially Haru, since he hadn't stopped crying. He just set his head back on Kazu's chest and let the tears fall until his eyes ran dry.
In the end, it was decided that Kazu would stay in the hospital for three more days to be monitored, then for two days he was supposed to stay at home and get plenty of rest. The next two days he was supposed to do only light exercise, and if he had no problems, he was free to get back into cheerleading after that. If he did have problems, though, he was to return to the hospital immediately.
Kazu's concussion was officially deemed to be much less severe than originally thought, and his body had fully healed from his fall, all except for some of the darker bruises on his back, which had taken the brunt of the fall. He'd also had his staples removed after three days, and all that was left was a scar hidden in his hair. The doctors were sure that Kazu's Judo practice was why he had not broken his back, and they thought that in any other situation, it'd be at least a month before he could get back into cheerleading. He really was lucky.
For the three days that Kazu remained in the hospital, he got extremely bored, so Haru sent him recordings of all their practices from the time that he had been comatose to keep him busy, and continued to send him the recordings after every practice. Haru also visited Kazu in the hospital each day, and spent some of the time making Kazu help him with him homework, since the school had excused Kazu from the work he had missed while recovering. Kazu was more than delighted to hear that, but he wasn't too happy about Haru bringing in his own homework and asking for help. That didn't mean he didn't help, though.
During the two days Kazu was supposed to stay at home, he stayed at Haru's house. One of the things Kazu was supposed to look out for was major headaches. Anything like that meant that he wasn't fully healed, or that there was some brain damage that the hospital had somehow missed. Haru had argued that Kazu wouldn't be able to get to the hospital if he had a mind-numbing headache, and managed to convince Kazu to stay at his house for the two days. The only issue they'd had was sleeping arrangements. Haru's parents had set up futon in Haru's room for Haru, while Kazu would take the bed. However, when Haru went to bed early while Kazu was in the shower, he didn't see where Kazu had chosen to sleep until he woke up with Kazu stretched out next to him in the futon. After being awoken by Haru's surprised squeak, Kazu claimed that he had gotten cold by himself, not used to the coolness in the house since his own apartment was always uncomfortably hot. Despite Haru's protests that it was weird for them to sleep in the same bed, Kazu dismissively told him that they'd done the same thing during sleepovers when they were younger, and that the fact that they were older than back then meant nothing.
When Kazu finally returned to school, he had to work a little harder to understand what was happening in his classes, since he'd missed two weeks of lectures. However, any stress he felt during classes was was obliterated when he showed up at cheer practice, where he was bombarded with questions, squeezed half to death by half of the team, and sobbed on by Wataru.
During practice as he sat on the sidelines doing basic exercises and stretches, Kazu noticed that Gen was avoiding him. He decided to take a break and talk to the other cheerleader, perfectly aware of what was wrong. However, as he approached Gen, the brunette discreetly moved away, causing Kazu to sigh. He had heard from Haru that Gen was feeling a little guilty about the incident from two weeks ago, feeling that Kazu's injury was his fault. That was wrong, though. Kazu knew exactly what had happened, and Gen was not to blame.
"Gen, stop," Kazu said when he finally got near the brunette. Gen froze before he slowly turned to Kazu, but still refused to meet his eyes.
Kazu sighed and stepped forward, drawing back a hand before bringing it across Gen's face in a hard slap.
"I don't know what makes you think my fall was your fault. A spotter tells the flyer what to do and keeps them steady. You tried to help me during that toss. The fact that I didn't land safely is not your fault. Takeru should have practiced more, and I should have done my job as the captain and kicked him off the team since I knew he was a slacker, instead of letting him stay and endangering people. This is my fault, and Takeru's fault. I already feel guilty enough thinking about what would have happened if it had been one of the other flyers. I would never forgive myself for allowing them to work with an incompetent base. Now stop making me feel guiltier by blaming yourself for something that wasn't your fault!" he scolded, finally having Gen's full attention due to the slap. However that slap had also gained everyone else's attention, and Kazu turned to see Haru looking at him with wide eyes.
"Kazu..." Kazu looked away.
"I'm gonna go stretch some more," he announced, turning away. He hadn't meant to let Haru know what he had truly been thinking. He didn't want the others to know that when he was trying to sleep, all he could think about was what would have happened if Takagi had called Haru as the flyer instead. Kazu had been told what happened by Takagi. He knew what he had looked like on the gym floor, with blood pooling under his head. Each time he thought about it, though, he saw Haru instead, and it gave him nightmares.
That night, after Kazu fully returned to cheer practice, he sat on the roof with Haru, discussing their new member, who had joined while Kazu was comatose.
"He transferred from a school with a decent mixed cheerleading group, but he worked with a male flyer, so he's used to the heavier weight. I guess we're lucky that some of our posters stayed up, because we did need a replacement for Takeru," Kazu pointed out. Haru nodded, but didn't speak. He had a dark look on his face, and he was staring at the roof instead of his friend.
"Kazu, were you serious when you said you felt guilty thinking about what would have happened if it had been a different flyer in your place?" he asked. Kazu's smile dropped, along with his stomach. He didn't respond.
Silence enveloped the two, and Haru tensed, thinking that he should have kept quiet.
"I've had nightmares about what would have happened if Takagi called you up as the flyer instead of me," Kazu admitted quietly, breaking the silence. "She explained to me what I looked like on the floor, with all the blood and open eyes and stuff. Whenever I think about it, though, I see you there instead of me," he continued. Haru gasped.
"What if it was you, though? What if she'd called you, and you just went with it because I told you that you'd be fine with Takeru as long as you had a good second base and spotter? How am I not supposed to feel guilty about that!?" Kazu yelled, tears prickling his eyes as he raised his voice. He closed his eyes to try to get them to stop, but that only made them spill over. Kazu kept his eyes closed as quiet sobs wracked his body. He wanted them to stop. He didn't want to look so weak in front of Haru. He hadn't cried in front of him since his parents died.
Suddenly, Kazu found himself in a warm, tight hug. His eyes snapped open and were met with Haru's back in the corner of his vision.
"It didn't happen, Kazu, so you don't need to feel guilty," Haru said, squeezing his friend tighter. "Besides, I would have been fine if I fell. You already said you'd catch me if I did, right?" he asked. It was Kazu's turn to gasp. Did Haru really remember the joke he'd made two will weeks ago, after all that happened?
Even though his words had been a joke back then, Kazu hadn't been lying. If Haru fell and his bases and spotter didn't catch him, Kazu would make sure he did.
For the first time in a long time, Kazu let Haru be the one who took care of him rather than the other way around, even if just for a few minutes. He squeezed him back tightly, refusing to ever let him go.