Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: Originally written on/for Valentine's Day but in the end I didn't dare post it for thematic reasons. Past/mentioned character death, darkfic. Please to be remembering that my standard adult!Akutsu is a brain surgeon. :3

Valentine's Night

The worst thing about certain dates is that they come around every year, time and time again. And the worst thing about memory is that often it refuses to dispose of the things you most want to forget.

Around the beginning of February, Akutsu's co-workers noticed, once again, a clear change in his behaviour. Though he had never been the kindest of men, rarely interacting with the others and impolite when he did, now he was downright cruel, going out of his way to make others feel bad. After he made a young nurse cry, one of his colleagues, who had just recently started in the hospital, went to talk with him.

"This can't go on, Akutsu-san," he said sternly. "I'm not asking you to be friends with everyone, but really, this kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable. Do try and take other people into account, too."

There wasn't a verbal response, just a glare that made the young doctor feel like a mouse eyed by a bird of prey.

"Seriously, try and get along with the others a bit more. It's Valentine's Day soon, too. There's going to be a party, you should –"

The next thing he knew, the doctor was banged against the nearest wall, a large fist inches away from his face. "Don't mention that fucking day if you want to keep your nose in one piece," Akutsu growled in a voice that could have made anyone shiver in fear. "And don't order me around."

Shocked and confused, the younger man sagged against the wall as he was released, Akutsu stalking away, fuming. Still stunned, he went to ask for advice from some of his more agreeable co-workers with more experience of Akutsu's infamous moods.

"Oh, yeah. We should have warned you," one of the oldest surgeons sighed. "Akutsu-san always gets like this around this time of the year. He'll be back to normal soon enough."

"But why?" the younger man demanded to know. "This – this isn't normal! How can you allow him to behave like this when he's supposed to be responsible for human lives?"

"In all his years working here, Akutsu-san has never made a mistake in his work," replied the old surgeon calmly. "Any patients he has lost have died for reasons entirely independent of him. And that is more than most of us can say." He looked into the distance for a moment. "Akutsu-san… has his reasons."

"What reasons? There hardly is anything important enough to justify this sort of behaviour!"

To this, he got no response aside from a set of raised eyebrows.

Heading home after his shift, Akutsu cursed quietly to himself. Stupid bastard. Like it was any of the brat's business what he, Akutsu, did. His business was his alone. No one else was allowed to mess with it.

No one but himself.

Throwing the door closed behind himself with a bit more force than was entirely necessary, he called out wearily, "I'm home." There wasn't a response, but then, there never was. Shedding his coat and shoes, he sighed as he fell down on the couch.

Stupid fucking people with their stupid fucking holidays. Valentine's Day – what did some damned American holiday have to do with them, anyway? Everything would have been so much better without all this commercial crap made up just to bring more money to the greedy manufacturers of chocolate and cards and sappy gift-things. If you loved someone, did it really matter on which day you chose to show it?

Everything would have been better…

Resisting once again the urge to go out and punch someone – he was an adult, now, had been for so many years, he could no more behave like a petty thug no matter how angry he was – he stood up from the couch, wandering aimlessly around the apartment. It was somewhat too big for him alone, but, well, moving out had been… impossible. Every time he even thought about it, something seemed to be holding him back. And the worst thing was, he knew exactly what that something was.

Stupid fucking himself, for not getting over such a simple thing.

Growling angrily at himself, he stalked over to the small altar in the corner. He'd grudgingly agreed when his mother had insisted on setting one up in his new apartment, even though he cared little for such things. Looking back at it, now, though… He was almost glad his mother had been so insistent.

If she hadn't, how would he now thank her for it?

Looking at the pictures on the altar, he gritted his teeth. Life would have been so much easier if only… if only…

Well. What ifs had never helped anyone, nor did they change what had already happened. Those were the things you simply had to live with – difficult though it may have been, sometimes.

Cursing his own weakness, Akutsu sent a quiet apology to the two people in the pictures. They definitely wouldn't have approved of his current behaviour, even if it was partly their fault – or, rather, because of them. He should have just let go and forgot, but… It was so difficult, so very difficult.

A quiet whisper of a name, barely audible even to himself, was all that he managed to get out through the choking feeling in his throat.

Oh, fuck it. Just fuck it all.

Why couldn't he have been with them, at that time?

Later that night, the young doctor checked his e-mail for the last time that night. To his surprise, he found a message from the old surgeon he had talked with earlier. Opening it, he found a short note, "Do not mention any of this." Beneath the note, there was a scan of a newspaper article several years back. Curiously, he started reading.

Once he was done, he felt slightly ill.

He never did mention anything about the issue. Neither did he pester Akutsu again about his behaviour.

Akutsu's sleep was disturbed to say the least. As he was startled awake for the second time by a scream dying in his throat, he sat up, cursing silently to himself. The sheets clung to his sweat-soaked skin. Realizing that staying in bed would be useless, he stood up, quietly walking into the living room.

There was a small box he kept on the altar, unadorned, good only for its function of keeping things inside. Opening it, he stared blankly at the things inside for a moment before taking them in his hands and heading towards the couch.

Pictures, letters, snippets from newspapers and magazines. They were all old, edges worn from the years of handling, however careful he had been. Reading the same things again and again, he felt memories coming back – memories, always memories, the same ones that haunted his dreams and kept him awake.

A phone call, interrupting his less-than-patient waiting, a neutral voice in the other end offering bad news. The surgery he'd been scheduled for that he hadn't been able to do due to his state of mind – the only time ever he'd allowed his patient to fall into another surgeon's hands. The reports that made much more horrifying sense to him than to the majority of people who had no medical education, the endless condolences, the countless accounts of "at least it was over fast for her" – and the other, for whom it hadn't been so fast.

The small hand in his. The quiet whisper apologizing for not spending the day with him. The steady sound of the monitor making way for the alarm.

Two cars. Three victims. Two dead.

Why was the one responsible for the crash the only one who survived?

If it hadn't been for the wretched day, Akutsu thought, if it hadn't been so fucking important for the other man to spend the day with him, if Akutsu's mother hadn't insisted on driving him from the airport…

The papers and pictures fell from his hands, scattering all over the floor. One picture stood out from the middle of the others, older than the rest. An old kitchen, in the apartment where they'd lived when he'd been a teenager, an old him, younger and more angry, a little boy next to him. There was chocolate everywhere, he noted, and cookie dough, and a small smear had even found its way on the tip of his nose. He didn't notice his mother taking the picture, that much was obvious, for otherwise there would have never been a smile on his face.

The smile on the other boys' face… well, that was something nothing could have taken away.

Nothing but death.

A choked sob bursting out without his consent, Akutsu hid his face in his hands, thinking back to the far-away time when Valentine's Day hadn't mean nightmares and pictures on the altar and a cold, empty bed.

When Dan had still smiled and offered him chocolate.