Title: Past the Outside

Recipient: atamagaitai

Author: Stormy1x2 (travelingstorm)

Rating: G

Word Count (fic portion): 1940

Notes: Even fluffier – if that's possible – then my last one. I had a hard time coming up with something for this pairing (my first time writing them) so I hope it's acceptable, atamagaitai . Written for the rikkaishorts ficswap, round 2.

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The night nurse on weekends obviously hated her job. It was kind of hard to mistake the permanent scowl on her craggy face, and the way she heavily stomped up and down the hallways of the hospital to carry out her tasks.

Still, Yukimura had been raised by his parents to treat all of his elders with respect, regardless of whether or not he personally felt it was deserved, and so the next time the battle-ax stomped in, he gave her a pleasant smile, and yet another attempt at small-talk.

"Good evening, Akahito-san."

"Evenin'," she grunted without looking at him. Yukimura stifled a sigh, and resigned himself to having his arm jerked about while she checked his vitals and made sure the various lines running in and out of his body were doing the jobs they were supposed to.

Nice weather we're having, Yukimura said in his head. Why yes, I do believe it will rain tomorrow. Will Mr Battle-Ax be at work when you get home? What about the little Axes? A smile threatened to emerge, and he smoothed his facial features out just as the nurse scowled at him and thrust a paper cup full of pills in his direction.

Oblivious to his mental mocking, the nurse tapped her foot, waiting for him to take his medication before handing him another paper cup of water, and then stomping out of the room. Yukimura rolled his eyes and gave her a short chop of a wave goodbye.

The night was hot and his window was closed to prevent breezes from giving him the 'sniffles', as the day nurse had put it. The sheets were scratchy, his pillow was lumpy, and his pajama legs were twisted up around his knees. Yukimura groaned – it was going to be one of those nights.

Unable to sleep, he cast his eyes around for something to do – at the very least, something to count – and his gaze fell on the team picture Akaya had brought and situated on the small shelf near his bed weeks ago. He reached out and picked it up.

It had been taken a few weeks before he'd first gotten sick. They all had a copy of it, but Yukimura's was at home and his mother always seemed to have to much on her mind to remember it for him. Kirihara had finally brought his own one day and told him it was 'on loan' until he got out, as though the declaration would assist in speeding up his Buchou's recovery. Yukimura's gaze softened in a way it never would in front of his team.

Marui was giving a grinning Kirihara bunny-ears, a bubble erupting out of his mouth. Kirihara was giving bunny-ears to an oblivious Jackal who smiled at the camera. Niou had an arm draped over Yagyuu's shoulders, giving the cameraman the thumbs up. Yagyuu had one finger on the frame of his glasses, his head tilted ever-so-slightly in Niou's direction. On Niou's other side, Renji had his back resting against Niou's shoulder, partly hidden. He had his book open and his other hand brandished his pen, but Yukimura could easily make out the side-long look he gave the camera. And Sanada...

Sanada stood with him behind the others. Yukimura remembered having to find a low bench for them to stand on. They each had an arm raised, the forearms touching, fists clenched, a silent promise of victory forever captured on film.

Yukimura smiled gently, losing himself in the memory, his finger lightly tracing over Sanada's face. It had become a habit for him whenever he looked at the picture, a ritual he never tired of. Looking at the sheer confidence brimming from it made him nostalgic, and he wished it wasn't so late – he was struck by the urge to call Genichirou and reminisce, or maybe plan for upcoming matches. Do something that would make him feel as strong and able as he looked in the photograph.

Yukimura would fall asleep at least once or twice a week, cuddling the picture, and it seemed tonight was the night again. Yukimura's medication kicked in, and he drifted off, still touching his vice-captain's features as though committing them to memory for him to dream about.

He was completely out when a shadowy figure loomed in his open doorway. The figure stopped at his bedside, noticed the picture in the ill boy's hands, and snorted softly.

A few days passed, slowly enough to make Yukimura want to tear out his hair in frustration. The team had been busier then ever, training and preparing for the upcoming tournament, and hadn't been by to see him. Renji kept him up-to-date with constant text-messaging, and Sanada called every night without fail to detail the days work and discuss options for improving, or disciplinary actions he'd had to take to keep Niou and Kirihara under some semblance of control. It made him long to be a part of it all again, not hearing about results secondhand like some bystander.

The glass covering Kirihara's team picture was smudgy from countless swipes of his fingertips over his friends faces, particularly Sanada's. As much as he missed the entire team coming for chats in his room, he was beginning to truly miss having his vice-captain show up on a daily basis. Phone calls were a poor substitute for physical presence.

By Saturday afternoon, it had been nearly nine days since he'd last had a proper visit from anyone on his team, but he had managed to hold his temper because Genichirou had promised to visit that day at five o'clock, after practice ended. He even managed a smile for Nurse Battle-Axe when she came on shift, even as he peered past her, listening for the familiar tattoo of footsteps on the tiled floors. Feeling chatty, he even told her about the upcoming visit by his vice-captain, tapping his fingers against the picture for the umpteeth time as she updated the clipboard at the foot of his bed. She nodded without looking at him – or even really listening, he suspected – and left as grumpily as she'd entered. Yukimura dismissed her from his mind, and flicked his eyes up to watch the clock.

Five-thirty came and went, but Yukimura figured practice had run into overtime or something. Six o'clock rolled around, and his spirits started to flag, but he waited stoically, eyes focused with determination at the empty door.

At six-thirty, he called Sanada's cell phone but an automated message told him it was turned off. A call to Renji's phone went unanswered. Yukimura's grip tightened on the photo.

By seven o'clock he'd given up. His chest ached with a silent hurt. Had his vice-captain simply forgotten his promise? It didn't seem likely, but there was always a first time for everything. Perhaps practice had simply been too strenuous, or maybe something else had come up that was more important then visiting a link in the team chain that was getting steadily weaker.

Then footsteps echoed in the hallway, a familiar beat he recognized instantly. Yukimura's spine stiffened in anticipation of an outburst to come, either from him or his guest. It all depended on who spoke first, really.

Sanada appeared in the doorway, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Yukimura opened his mouth to say something with his trademark coolness, a tone he reserved for times he was truly upset – like now, for example – but Sanada beat him to the punch.

"I'm sorry I'm so late, Seiichi," he said calmly, looking his captain straight in the eyes. Yukimura huffed silently, and tilted his chin up, his eyes blazing a question at him. Sanada quirked a brow in his direction. "You're upset."

"What would make you think that?" Yukimura counted to ten in his head. The key to great leadership was control, after all. "Just because you're two hours late is no reason for me to be upset." Of course, great leaders were allowed a slip, now and again.

Sanada held up his duffel bag, and a very faint smile teased the corner of his mouth for a brief second before disappearing. "I was actually on time," he commented easily. "However, I was informed that a change of plans was to be had, and I had to return home to retrieve something."

"And what would that be?"

In answer, Sanada stepped out of the way of the door to let an orderly, wheeling a cot, inside. Yukimura watched, mystified, as the orderly placed a set of sheets and a thin blanket next to the cot's pillow, and left the room. Sanada sat himself down and opened his bag, pulling out a variety of items.

A pair of black, cotton sleeping pants and a plain tee, a toothbrush wrapped in a plastic bag, a comb, house slippers, and two large snack bags – one of Yukimura's favorite chips, and the other with plain popcorn, something he knew to be Sanada's favorite. Two DVD's followed, landing on Yukimura's bed as his vice-captain tossed them over. Two bottles of Gatorade, and a bottle of Sprite. A pack of cards,

Sanada finished unloading and sat back to see Yukimura's reaction. Yukimura fingered the DVD's – they were ones he'd mentioned wanting to see, the last time Sanada had visited over a week ago. "Genichirou?"

"I have permission to stay the night. The nurse cleared it with her supervisor this morning, and pulled me aside when I came by earlier. She said you'd been looking depressed, and a night of fun was just what you needed."

Yukimura had the inexplicable urge to cry. "I didn't think you were the type for slumber-parties."

Sanada snorted. "Had it been anyone else, I wouldn't be." A real smile appeared on his face, one Yukimura knew only he was privy to, and it warmed him from the inside out. "I'm sorry for making you think I wasn't coming. I turned my phone off to prevent Renji from finding out my plans – he has a habit of worming the oddest details out of a conversation and adding them together, and I'd rather we not be bombarded by the entire team."

Yukimura translated that as 'I want it to be just you and me' and he smiled. Then his smile disappeared, replaced by a look of surprise. "Did you say the night nurse arranged this?"

Sanada nodded. "Nurse Akahito, I believe."

As if on cue, the nurse thundered into the room, slamming a tray down on the hinged table that swung across Yukimura's bed. On it were two desserts leftover from the days dinner – vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries. Yukimura blinked.

"Thank you, Akahito-san," Sanada said, bowing his head respectfully. The nurse grunted, grabbed Yukimura's chart, made a notation, and then turned to stomp out again. As she did, Yukimura was stunned to see a slight smirk on her face, her eyes surprisingly gentle for such a gruff exterior. Then she was gone, off to terrorize her next patient.

Yukimura blinked again. "I seem to have misjudged Akahito-san," he said after a minute. Sanada looked at him questioningly, and the invalid waved his comment away dismissively. He would have to thank the nurse later for such a wonderful gift. He picked up one of the DVD's and waved it at his vice-captain. Vice-captain and best friend, he amended. "Can we watch this one first?"

"Whatever you want," Sanada said, ignoring his cot in favor of joining Yukimura on his bed. "Whatever you want."

Yukimura smiled. That sounded good to him.

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End

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