Disclaimer: Not mine. The End. See part one for full disclaim.

Comments are always welcomed.

The Greatest Skill a Doctor Has

Part II

By, Nicole Silverwolf

11:42 AM

"Mr. Fujiyama, please hold still!" she implored--needle in hand--and swinging to the side to avoid the flailing arm that was definitely going to break the black thread she was using. But by some miracle the string stayed taught and the hand missed it.

"It hurts! What the heck are you doing up there sticking salt in the damn wound!" he angrily groused and sat back on the exam bed as if giving up to his fate under the incompetent care of a perceived idiot.

"Mr. Fujiyama, I apologize, but you must hold still while I put the stitches in!" Akiko rolled her eyes and leaned in again, placing a steadying hand on the older man's head.

"Now hold still or it's only going to hurt more!" She warned a bit more sharply than she intended and furrowed her brow in concentration. The last thing she wanted to do was have to sew this guy up again because of a mistake she made.

A few minutes later, and miraculously without a puncture wound Akiko was finished. Checking her work from arm's length she covered the wound with a piece of gauze then carefully taped it down. Not the best she had ever done, but not her first either. It would have been much better had her patient cooperated a little more.

"It looks like you're all set Mr. Fugiyama. I'll have a nurse bring you some painkillers. Then you'll just have to fill out some forms, pick up your prescription and you're on your way."

"Thank you doctor," he bit out in a way that made it perfectly obvious that she was beneath his effort to be courteous to.

Akiko busied herself with cleaning up the equipment, separating what would be tossed out and what would need to be sterilized again. It was actually a better way to keep herself from looking unprofessional by saying something she would later regret.

"Next time try to avoid the ball when it's being thrown at you sir," she attempted to lighten the mood with the joke. Before she could see his response she dumped the garbage in the appropriate two bags and left.

An only slightly muffled curse managed to make its way to her ears.

Akiko paid it no mind; she had been a little curt so she could understand. Besides her mind was already on the next case. No rest for the weary it would seem. Last night had been so very calm. Which seemed definitely like the calm before the storm.

The once quiet ER of Odaiba General was now bustling with activity. Patients were in every room including all the traumas--rooms reserved for the most severely injured--and still some sat in the waiting room holding injured limbs or makeshift bandages.

Approaching the main desk of the floor a nurse held a chart out, arm bent at the elbow as she rested it on the countertop. The woman smiled and waved it just a little to get her attention. This case would be moving to her then.

"What have we got?" She asked stopping, taking the chart and looking intently at the nurse.

"Exam 3, a young man who claims he broke his arm Dr. Mori."

"Thanks," she replied tiredly. "Anything from PICU for me?"

The woman nodded no sadly, in a knowing manner. "Nope sorry Akiko. We'll let you know when they do."

Tiredness was no reason for any kind of slack in drive or treatment. One was supposed to act as if there was no difference at the beginning of a 48-hour shift then there was at the end of one. Pushing off from the counter she hurried down the hall to exam three situated along the back of the floor.

So perhaps that was why she didn't notice the shock of blonde hair that passed by the reception desk as she hurried off. Surely had she been more awake she would have stopped. But she did not and so took no notice.


11:54 AM

Matt struggled to pull out of his dad's grip for the third time in as many minutes. He was going too slow...didn't Dad realize that? TK needed them.

Richard however only held a little harder to the boy.

"Matt. What did we talk about before in the car? No running remember? Don't worry, TK's still there son."

It was more active here now. Nurses bustled by and doctors strolled along more sedately, talking amongst themselves. Occasionally a rushed intern or stressed doctor would fly by, nothing more than a quiet blur of white and green.

The door to room 421 was half-closed but it seemed rather appropriate. Concealing the two inside, isolating them in time itself. When Richard opened the door it looked almost no different than when they had left a few hours earlier. Warmer golden light filtered through the drawn blinds and silouehetted the bed, bathing the room in golden halos. TK lay extraordinarily still on the bed, surrounded by wires and looking like a dwarf compared to the humongeous bed space.

Nancy sat in one of the three chairs, her hand wrapped around TK's unadorned one and her other arm pillowing her head. She was awake; unwavering blue eyes trained on her youngest son's pale face. It was no wonder then that she didn't really notice their entrance.

"Nancy," the relief and worry in that single word was hard if not impossible to separate. She looked up, weary even only after a few hours.

Without releasing her grip or speaking a word she extended her freed hand to Richard. He grabbed for it and gripped hard between his much larger palms. Matt slid under the two intertwined hands and latched himself to his mother's waist.

Nancy tore her eyes down to the boy wrapped around her middle and then to where his slightly unfocused eyes were gazing. The bed and its occupant.

She closed her eyes for a brief second and willed the small wave of anger in her away. Richard shouldn't have brought Yamato. This was too much for a seven-year-old to handle. This was too much for all of them to handle. What had they done--what had Takeru done to deserve this!

"Has the doctor come by at all?" Richard asked.

She composed herself a moment before answering. "No...no, a nurse came by and said the doctor would come and get us when he had some answers from those tests they did last night."

Richard closed his eyes and nodded tightly.

"Akiko said they might not know what's wrong with TK? What's gonna happen if they can't figure it out mom?" Matt hadn't shifted his gaze, simply voiced the question.

That more than anything cut into Nancy. Her son didn't realize how starkly he had just painted their situation. She only barely managed to hold back the tears and spoke in a shaky but firm voice to the boy sitting in her lap.

"I don't know Matt. But right now we have to hope and pray that your brother gets better. So good thoughts only, ok?" She managed a sweet true smile at him and he lit up, if only for the briefest of seconds.

"OK," he managed and concentrated on thinking good thoughts. It wasn't as easy as his mother was making it sound like. What was wrong with him Why couldn't he do this? He could feel the tears welling up behind his eyes again and fought them back furiously. Big boys didn't cry. Older brothers didn't cry. He wouldn't cry. He had done enough of that last night he decided firmly.


Howard passed the door, on his way home for the next few hours. He wasn't hurried, carrying a bag over one shoulder and wearing a thick parka over customary scrubs. It was pure coincidence that he glanced to the left instead of the right.

And what he saw there gave him pause. The little boy from hours ago seemed refreshed but still far out of place as he sat on his mother's lap. His hair had at least calmed down slightly from the spiky mess that it was before.

Despite all that, things didn't look much better than they had several hours earlier. From what he had heard the tests were either coming back negative or inconclusive. More waiting. More worrying.

He closed his eyes briefly perhaps against the image, perhaps against exhaustion (more likely) and continued down the hall towards the elevators. He was pretty sure Akiko was still around. She might want to hear about this.


As if someone had turned off a switch or closed a dam, the flow of people into the ER seemed to have slowed as well. By the time that Dr. Mori had finished with setting the young man's arm most of the other doctors had handled the remaining cases. And now it left her with a few free minutes to hang around and catch her proverbial breath. She slid into the break room and considered the pot of sludge also known as coffee sitting on the heating pad.

No, she decided. She was not that desperate.

The door slid open and shut again and she glanced over her shoulder as a fellow resident she didn't really know too well came in. And flopped down at the table rather unceremoniously. Giving a wan smile and a nod hello he proceeded to bury his head in his arms and attempt to get a little sleep.

"You're just punishing yourself you know. If you get ten minutes it'll be a miracle and even then you'll have a helluva time getting up and out." Akiko commented from the seat she had taken at the table.

"Mphmphphp," he grunted and she dropped it at that. If he wanted to sleep who was she to stop him? The door swung open again and the young woman looked out, half hoping it was someone looking for either of them, half hoping that it was a call for the evacuation of the city because the world was ending. Getting neither, brown eyes did recognize Howard's head poking around the doorframe.

"Hey Howard! What's up?" Akiko asked quietly as she let her eyes momentarily slip towards the resting resident at the battered table. He gestured with his head and Akiko took the hint, standing and heading for the door he held open. They slipped into the quietly bustling hallway and stood to one side.

"I thought I might find you here. I've been searching for you for the better part of an hour." Howard started without preamble, his voice lacking the harsh edge of accusation.

"You could have paged me Howard, you know my number." She shot back without missing a beat. Her voice held no malice though. "So what brings you to the bowels of the ER? I know you don't particularly enjoy it down here."

"I thought you might like an update on your case in my ICU."

She arched an eyebrow and smiled at the use of 'my ICU'. But that was something of a common habit among nurses and doctors alike. They were proud of their work, the place they worked in, and the miracles they performed. It was only natural for them to speak with brash possessiveness of their home base.

"The tests are coming back. Most neg or inconclusive."

Akiko sighed and shook her head. "Just great. More waiting."

Howard nodded before continuing. "If you get a chance before you head home tonight I'd make a trip upstairs. Your little friend's up there too."

"They brought Matt back?" More than a little shock tinged her voice.

He shrugged in response. "Seems that way. Though I wouldn't have...brought him I mean. That place is stressful enough as it is. It might not be the best for him."

"Thanks for updating me Howard. I know the docs and nurses are sometimes too busy to relay messages and call down here. I appreciate your coming yourself."

Howard pushed from the wall and headed for the door, Akiko falling into step beside him. They sidestepped a man and woman walking through the doors and continued out. "Not a problem Akiko. Seeya tomorrow?"

"You know it Howard! Have a good day and get some rest."

"You too!" he smiled and then passed on his way heading for the parking lot.

Two reports, a quick consult and a reluctant cup of sludge coffee later Akiko was leaning tiredly against the worn, cheap, fake wood walls of the service elevator. The plush ones used by visitors and patients was just too far from where the files had been dropped off. So the service elevator it was.

In a little under nine hours she was going home. Or to her apartment at least. Right now the hospital was more of a home than the place where she slept. Several nights had found her in the bunks of the resident quarters commonly known as the "holes in the wall". She was glad however to live in the age where she could leave the hospital at the end of the day. It was where the name resident had originally come from. Akiko was pretty sure she would go mad if she were forced to spend 24-7-365 there.

A soft ping and the rumble of opening doors signaled her arrival on the PICU floor of the hospital. She wandered in no particular hurry down the hall. It was mid-afternoon, the perfect time for exhaustion to creep up on anyone, herself being no exception.

Rounding the corner she came upon several doctors standing near the front desk. They were all bent over a chart and seemed to be in deep discussion. She recognized a few of the doctors from oncology and at least one from neurology.

Only snatches of the conversation could be heard as she leaned over the desk. She addressed the nurse there first.

"Excuse me. I'm looking for info on Takeru Ishida. He was admitted up here earlier this morning?"

"That's confidential material for his doctors and family only."

"I'm one of the assisting physicians. I believe Doctor Takuboku cleared that with the other doctors consulting on this case."

"Oh you must be Dr. Mori correct?"

She received a nod of assent.

"In that case you're just in time. Those are his doctors right there." She gestured to the group of doctors she had seen earlier crowding over the chart.

Akiko walked over, taking the somewhat small opening to worm her way into the cluster. Time to swallow her pride and get some info.

"And you are?" One of the older men started, obvious disdain in his voice.

Akiko forced herself not to lose her temper. Now was not the time.

"Doctor Akiko Mori sir. Second year res. I requested to be allowed to observe on this case."

The carefully chosen "observe" was noticed by all present and their hostility diminished a bit. Introductions were quick and informal as they set down to work.

"We're looking at the results from the spinal tap done last night. It's inconclusive but I don't think the symptoms are pointing towards a tumor or cancer." They nodded agreement as Akiko looked over the chart. That seemed like a reasonable assessment.

"The family hasn't noticed any abberant behavior in the last month and until last night he appeared to be nothing but a healthy three-year-old. This is also consistent with our belief that we don't have cancer. Possibly we're looking at a case of epilepsy. We won't know and until the child regains consciousness so we can perform some more tests. We'll run as many as we can during that time. The longer this kid is in a coma the worse it will be in the long run."

"What about the coma...we still don't have any idea why he's in one. Is there any indication about what may have caused it?" one of the neurologists asked.

"At the moment it's unconfirmed and that's why I err on the side of epilepsy or some other brain disorder. The symptoms are remarkably nill so I would have to look at neurological as the most likely cause. But there are still a lot of things that don't add up correctly. Am I mistaken?" the lead doctor turned the conversation to the neurologist.

"I'd have to agree. We'll proceed with the tests we can do now. You can inform the family sir." She finished.

"Sounds like a plan. You'll have the tests set for tomorrow then?"

"Definitely."

"Good. Dr. Mori would you care to accompany me to speak with the family."

"Of course doctor." She replied and walked with him down the hall.

The walk was punctuated by nothing more than soft footfalls from carefully placed feet. She didn't really know this doctor very well and was more inclined to silence than to conversation.

If time had passed since Akiko had last been in this particular room she would have been hard pressed to find a sign of it. The only telltale mark was the clear light that slid in between the blinds and Yamato dressed in a blue shirt and a pair of long sweatpants. Mrs. Ishida hadn't gone home that night; evident in the rumpled familiar clothes and too tired eyes.

"Hello. My name is Doctor Miyazaki. I'm the doctor who will be working with you to determine what's ailing your son."

Something rocketed awareness to life on tape-delay and it was almost comical how both parents sprung to concern. Matt on the other hand seemed to withdraw into himself as much as possible. He scrunched into a ball, turning azure blue eyes on the large man now obscuring most of the door.

Mrs. Ishida noticed and tightened her arms around the thin little boy curled in her lap. She smoothed down the awry hairs on his head but they only jumped back up after a few moments.

"Call me Richard please. This is my wife Nancy and our older son Yamato." Richard held out his open hand to the doctor who took it firmly in his own. "Can you tell me about what's going with our son Takeru? No one's been able to tell us anything for most of the day. We'd like--we deserve some answers."

"I couldn't agree with you more. If you'd like we can talk right here or we can move to my office. It's just down the hall."

The two parents glanced to each other quickly and then back towards the bed holding its precious cargo. The decision was already made.

"We'll stay."

"Of course," the doctor replied and reached carefully for a chair leaning against the wall. It was only then that they took notice of the other doctor standing in the doorway.

"Dr. Mori." Richard stated at the sight of the young, shorthaired woman. The person being addressed nodded quietly from her place.

"Hi Matt." Her tone neutral, not sure how far to push the boy.

Startling blue eyes peaked back over folded limbs and cloth after a moment. He searched her face carefully, trying to line it up with something that he remembered. After a visible second, the image clicked and the boy smiled widely.

"Hi Akiko."

"Hey," she smiled and approached slowly. "Why don't we go for a walk for a few minutes while your mom and dad talk to Dr. Miyazaki? We can get something for you to eat and bring something back for your mom too. I know the hospital food is kinda yucky."

His voice was quiet when he spoke. "But he's gonna tell mom and dad what's wrong with TK."

"That's true Yamato," Dr. Miyazaki conceded smartly. "But I'm sure that Dr. Mori can explain what I'm going to tell your parents ok?" He caught Nancy's expressive blue eyes. She nodded slightly.

Akiko nodded warmly and extended her hand to the boy. Matt looked at her hand then up to his mom. "Yeah Matt. Why don't you go with Doctor Mori for that walk? TK will be just fine until you get back ok honey?"

"And if anything happens Matt, I have this thing," she gestured to a large black beeper at her side, "and it'll make a lot of noise if anything happens and we can come right back here."

"OK." He slid down from where he was and strode over to meet her at the door.

A tilted exaggerated jerk of her head and the two were out, the door being closed quietly behind them. Matt could just barely hear the new doctor talking but it soon faded away as they moved further down the hall.

The steps passed quietly in a slightly awkward manner. They were relative strangers to each other and it would take a while before any kind of relationship or repoire was built up. So Akiko stuck to safe topics.

"So Matt are you hungry at all?"

"Kinda. Dad made sandwiches before we came to the hospital but he's not such a good cook. I tried to eat a lot of it so he wouldn't worry or feel bad."

"That's a very nice thing to do Matt. How bout we get a snack then and bring it back up here? I know this really cool room where we can hang out in until Dr. Miyazaki and you mom and dad finish talking."

He looked up shyly at her. At least she was honest about TK and that was something he liked a lot. Even his mom and dad hadn't really answered the questions he asked.

He nodded again.

A cup of decent coffee, a cookie and a wrapped salad later Matt was walking slowly along with Akiko who was holding the salad he had helped pick out to give his mom later.

"And here we are Matt." She gestured with the salad in hand to a large room that seemed very out of place in the sterile looking hospital. It was a playroom.

Covered in bright primary colored paint that leant life to it, the room was relatively small. Short tables and stubby looking chairs were spread around, carefully spaced so that wheelchairs and IV's could be maneuvered with ease on the warm, dark blue carpet. Cabinets lined one end of the wall with baskets of toys, books, crayons and paints--gifts from various local groups that had help to set up these rooms for the specific purpose of entertaining children here. There was another one located in the ICU and one in the general pediatrics ward along with another Akiko couldn't remember the location of.

Matt certainly seemed impressed, though he tried not to show it. She suspected it was because he believed himself "too cool" to be excited about little kid toys. But it leaked through anyways.

Yamato for his part was amazed by the room he was now presented with. With his current understanding of hospitals this just wasn't possible. Hospitals were white, boring, antiseptic smelling and generally one of the scariest places on the planet Earth. But this room seemed cool. Kind of like a classroom or like his and TK's room at home he decided. "What is this place?"

"Well the doctors around here thought it would be a good idea if there was a place that kids could come to just hang out once in a while even if they were sick. So they made these rooms for kids to play and do anything they like."

Akiko pulled a small chair out and set the salad on the wide large table. She sat carefully and began to pull paper and crayons towards them. Matt slowly sat down next to her. Dr. Mori, second year resident of Odaiba General Hospital began to color carefully. She glanced up carefully to see whether those amazing azure eyes were watching her.

They were.

And she continued to color.

After a long moment, two small, hesitant hands crawled towards the paper scattered rather haphazardly across the table. When the fingers closed around it Matt stole a slow glance at Akiko who seemed to be absorbed in her work. He was more willing to draw without someone breathing down his back or looking over his shoulder. It made him feel kinda funny, like he should put his arms over the paper and not let anyone see. In case it wasn't good enough for something.

A box lay open, filled with 24 slightly used colored crayons inside. Matt tugged out a few and they rolled around as he tried to corral them back to where they were needed.

Taking a piece of white paper, settling into place, he let his imagination go. He drew anything and everything that came to mind, picking colors and mixing them together in a pattern that he figured looked right. He fell into his own little world, where TK wasn't in a hospital, where he wasn't scared about his brother, where nothing in the world could go wrong.

And a short half-hour later he was satisfied with the picture. Him and TK sitting together on the couch with his mom and dad, all smiling widely. The colors were bright and vibrant, the chair a nearly screaming shade of orange. There were controlled scribbles at one side and some carefully drawn characters at the bottom.

They hesitantly spelled out 'To TK, Love Matt'. The background was a lightish blue with white clouds, reminiscent of the outdoors and there were two strange creatures on the ground next to the couch.

Matt looked down at the picture for a long moment. It was one of his favorites so far. He liked to draw, but he really preferred to play music. Still, it was for TK so he has wanted it to be perfect. He looked up to the other doctor who was continuing to draw quietly, reached out and poked her gently on the arm.

"Akiko?"

Quiet brown eyes caught his expressive blue ones and a slow smile spread across her face. "Hey Matt what's up?"

He held out the paper in both hands and looked up with imploring eyes. You're gonna be a heartbreaker someday kid flitted across her mind.

"Do you like it Akiko? It's for TK when he wakes up from the coma."

She gently took it in her hands and placed it down on the table. "It's very good Matt!" She appraised the picture with a playfully critical eye. "Well this is your mom and dad right?" She pointed to the appropriate characters.

Matt nodded, eyes on her face watching for some sign only he knew how to read.

"And this is you...and that must be TK right?"

"Yep," Matt said smiling.

"Who're those two there? Are they your pets?" The two creatures on the floor vaguely resembled a dog, and maybe a hamster in the loosest sense. The dog had blue and white fur, a horn and red eyes. The 'hamster' was orange with wings on its head, maybe like a bat if she really took liberty with her imagination.

"No," Matt said and reached over her hand, tawny golden hair falling into his face as he pointed to the dog character. "That one; he protects me. And that one," he indicated the hamster," he's TK's other protector. Besides me."

"They look kind of scary. Where did you see them Matt?" Akiko looked between the boy and the paper with an appraising stare. There was something there, something that wasn't flippant...something that seemed too earnest about the gaze. Like Matt had seen them once, touched them...known them.

"In my dreams. TK's there and a bunch of other kids too. And they aren't scary!" Yamato indignantly pouted to her, looking up from where he sat.

Akiko exaggerated her chagrin. "Oh I'm sorry. I didn't know!"

Matt seemed satisfied by that and smiled. "It's ok. When I first met him I was scared too. But he's really nice."

"Oh," she smiled. The laughing seven-year-old she was seeing seemed much more like the real Yamato Ishida. Not so shadowed by things that were too big to understand at his age; rather filled with concerns of only whether there was a jungle green crayon in the box and whether it was going to snow enough to go sledding.

"What did you draw Akiko?"

He shifted the paper away unabashedly and looked at her drawing. It was of two kids on a swing. The drawing wasn't anything great, certainly wouldn't have earned her an A in any traditional art class. She wasn't about to mention that the one big scribble that seemed to bisect the page was actually caused when she had nearly fallen asleep. But it was colorful and caught the moment pretty well for a doctor. Both children had pale blue eyes and blonde hair.

"Is that us?"

The doctor nodded slightly.

"It's good," he stated simply.

"Thank you."

The somber light appeared suddenly and Yamato turned deep azure eyes down to the table in front of him. He fiddled with the edge and let his feet move idly from the point of the shoe that was planted on the floor.

"Akiko. What's wrong with my brother? Why isn't he waking up? Who was that big guy who came in with you? He wasn't the same man from last night. Is he gonna die?"

It seemed almost like a silly appended part but she was quite sure that he wasn't. So they had finally gotten down to the point of this whole little outing. She put her most serious, but non-intimidating face on and spoke evenly.

"The doctor that you met today Matt, his name is Dr. Miyazaki. He's a special doctor who is in charge of TK's health now. He's like a head doctor in charge. Your brother might be taking a while to wake up Matt. But he's healthy enough that he doesn't need to stay in a coma. So when he's ready he'll wake up. We think he might have something wrong with his brain, called epilepsy. That means that he gets too much information in his brain and he gets something called seizures. Those are really bad so we want to figure out if that's what he has so that we can give him medicine so that won't happen again."

"Does that answer your questions Matt?"

He looked up a little confused but slightly relieved. "So he has something wrong with his head?"

"Sort of, we might know some more soon," she replied quietly.

"Can we go back to see him now?" he asked and she knew the time for being a child to him at least was over. They stood and left the room as one, both holding a picture in hand, quiet footfalls echoing behind them.

"Hi sweetie? Where have you been?" Nancy smiled and ushered the little boy over. He slipped onto her lap and started to elaborate the details of the past forty minutes.

Akiko carefully placed the salad down next to them on the table and placed the picture next to it.

"...and look mom I made a picture for TK. Do you think he'll like it? Akiko did one too look!" Matt didn't even wait for a response in his excitement.

"They're both beautiful sweetie. Why don't you show it to TK?" she smiled and helped him up onto the chair next to her. He leaned eagerly over the bed and talked quietly, like he was relating a secret when they should have already been asleep.

"Hey TK. It's me, Matt! Look I drew you a picture." He paused slightly thinking about what he had said before rephrasing it.

'Well I know you can't see it right now cause you're getting better but I'll tell you all about it anyways and when you wake up you can see it. My picture has mom and dad and you and me and those cool pets you and I dream about. We're all smiling and you're not sick anymore. It'll be so cool!"

The young boy kept up the monologue, forgetting or selectively editing the fact that the situation was still very dangerous.

"How are you doing Mrs. Ishida? Do you have anymore questions that you didn't get answered? I'd be more than happy to help you understand some of the terms Dr. Miyazaki was explaining."

Where did that come from? Ok maybe it was just something about this family that brought out these bedside manner skills. Akiko pushed that little argument to the corner of her mind and looked with honest appraisal at Nancy Ishida.

"No. No, I think the doctor answered all our questions for the moment. Thank you," she added sincerely, "for talking with Matt. I know I haven't been really handling this very well. Thank you for explaining things for him. I don't know if I could have done that."

"You should give yourself and him some more credit. Matt understands a lot of what's going on right now he just needs someone to tell him. And you're handling things a lot better than many would. Myself, I wouldn't know exactly how well I'd be doing at this point if that was my child lying in that bed."

She looked up at the doctor at that, a small, gracious smile lighting her features. "Thank you," she said simply.

The shrill beep of her beeper definitely destroyed the mood. Matt looked up, confusion in his eyes as he anxiously searched TK's face. That 'beeper thing' that Akiko had talked about before was certainly beeping. That must mean that something was going on with TK. At least that's what his mind connected together.

She fumbled for the oversized black annoyance of a box and brought it up to eye level expertly. Just as she suspected. The number 911 scrolled across the screen. Instead of the term for a mere emergency here it was a signal that she was needed downstairs again. Well at least she had gotten a short chance to check on her patients.

"I'm sorry to have to cut this short Mrs. Ishida," and she was surprised to note that it was an actual truth instead of a polite formality. "I'm needed down in the ER."

"It's not a problem, we've monopolized too much of your time already. And please call me Nancy." She extended her hand out over to Akiko and she shook it kindly.

"Matt?" she turned her attention to the boy whom was still trying to figure out whether his brother had changed at all. He did look up at her after a moment.

"What changed about TK?"

A bit off kilter but she expected a direct question from the boy. It took a few moments for her to make the connections that the boy had made so easily but soon the jumble puzzle worked itself out. "Oh, well you see Matt, the beeper is for all kinds of people to get in touch with me. This means that I have to go back to work downstairs now. There's a different message on this little screen if it's about your brother."

She held out the black mysterious box for Matt to inspect and he did, taking her hand and rotating it around several times until he was satisfied with whatever he was looking for.

"Oh," he replied as he released her hand then and smiled. "I get it; it's like the cellphone Dad has right?"

"Sort of," the doctor smiled and bowed graciously. "I'll see you later Matt. If TK wakes up before I get back make sure he sees the pictures we made ok?"

The wide eyes and tawny yellow hair bounced up and down enthusiastically.

"Cool man seeya later then!" And with that Akiko swiftly left the room and headed down the hall at a light jog. Time to get back to work.

"Mom?"

"Yes honey?" Nancy helped Yamato back down and gently held him in her lap.

"I like Akiko mom. She's nice and she's honest about TK. She said he might have something called...ep...epi...epilepski?" Somehow that wasn't it he knew.

"Epilepsy sweety, and yes the doctor said that that might be one of the reasons that TK is in a coma. Where did you learn such a big word?"

"Akiko told me what it means."

"Oh."


10:25 PM

Slinging a backpack wearily over one shoulder, Akiko shuffled towards the elevator quietly. A compound fracture had kept her here a full twenty minutes longer than she should have had to and after 48 hours with no sleep 20 minutes was going to make all the difference. At least she didn't have to drive home.

Her apartment was a five-minute walk from the hospital. At times a blessing (like now) and a curse (being so close often got her called in when they were short of a doctor). It had actually been worse last year when she had been a lowly first year who had to run to every doctor's beck and call.

Questioning her sanity again for the fifth time that day she punched floor 25 and waited until the door closed.

Again the floor was quiet and devoid of its daily activity. A janitor worked at the end of the hall, swinging a mop back and forth across the floor, singing to himself quietly.

She only peeked into room 421. Too tired and sure that they had either gone home or fallen asleep dictated that the visit would be short.

A quiet, albeit tired smile graced her visage.

On the bed were the two brothers, Yamato again curled in a protective posture over his brother. The blanket from earlier--yesterday her tired mind reminded her--was again tucked around the boys. Both parents were sitting in the chairs, leaning on each other, and fast asleep. Again she was struck by the seemingly unreal quality of the scene. Closing her eyes she could just picture this happening in the living room or in a bedroom of a house. It was slightly disconcerting.

Letting a long moment pass so that she could absorb it, she finally slid the door closed with a near inaudible click before retreating back down the hall to the elevator, then down to the ground floor and out into the chilly night.

It was time to go home.


Scheduling conflicts, the desperate need for sleep and simple business matters kept Akiko far away from the twenty fifth floor of Odaiba General for the next few days. She received regular updates from the doctors and from fellow nurses down in the ER. And there was something to be very happy about. It appeared that TK had woken up.

Only two days in a coma was good, better than good if she was in an optimistic mood. He had either healed enough to come out on his own or the illness had gone away. In either case it was a very promising step in the right direction.

Sitting on a stool writing up a chart, feet dangling a good three inches off the floor Akiko was scribbling down her notes carefully but quickly. Her famed chicken scratch was somewhere near legible, which was just fine.

"Mori Akiko," she mumbled under her breath as she scribbled her name at a furious pace underneath it.

Glancing up she managed to make out an excited little blond head weaving through the crowds of passing doctors, equipment and medical supplies.

Apparently she had been spotted.

"Dr. Akiko!" The voice was insistent and happy, overly so it would seem. So it was the person she had assumed it was. Flipping the metal guard over the charts she launched it onto the rack with the other finished ones.

"Hey Matt! How are you? I heard your brother woke up yesterday."

She was met with an enthusiastic smile, a vigorous nod and an almost bounce of approval. Dressed in what she was recognizing as a uniform of blue Matt was hurrying up to her at the desk and she obligingly hopped down. Clutched in his hands was a stuffed animal of unknown origin, probably a bear but she couldn't be sure since he was crushing it to his chest.

"Uhuh we're going up to see him again! Are you gonna come up and visit us? Where were you yesterday?"

Yamato's questions were rapid fire and it was hard to discern where one ended and the other began.

"I'm working right now Matt," and looking at his only slightly crestfallen face she imagined that he must hear that a lot not to be taken back by it almost at all. "But I get off shift in a few hours. Do you mind if I come up then?"

The question was really directed to Nancy Ishida who had finally wound her way over to the two of them. She had finally made her way home to shower change and sleep for a few hours it seemed. But she looked much more refreshed in a sweater and slacks, typical parent clothes.

"Matt's been telling TK all about you and the coloring room since he woke up. He's very excited about meeting you. You're more than welcome to come up if it doesn't inconvenience you much?"

The last half of the statement was more of a question than anything. And Akiko directed her answer strategically at Matt instead. "I would be honored to stop by when I'm done. I'm anxious to meet your brother too."

"Cool! I'll seeya later Akiko!" And with that, the anything but sedate bundle was heading towards the elevator quickly.

"Oh to be young again," Mrs. Ishida spoke in conspiracy towards Akiko's general direction. The doctor shifted to one foot and rested her hand on her hip in a gesture of calm rest. She turned and went back to work a few moments later.


"Matt! Mommy!" The excited three-year-old temporarily forgot that there were a multitude of wires still attached to his small form. Blankets--all a uniform white were pooled like lakes and rivers around the bed, and to the child's imagination they probably were. They tangled with the tubes/wires and threatened to pull out as he scrambled towards the edge of the large hospital bed. He seemed to hardly notice that he had been in a coma for two days that still had no viable explanation.

"No TK! Don't pull out the wires! You'll get sick then." Matt hurried to the bedside and swung up onto the chair that was placed beside it. He had learned that his earlier stunt from a few days ago would get him nowhere. However chairs were very effective in growing a foot in a few moments.

TK was so taken aback by his brother's frantic and very sudden appearance next to him on the bed that it took a few seconds to adjust. He blinked owlishly revealing blue eyes that were round and the exact shade of Yamato's and shorter golden hair that framed his face.

"C'mon TK, you can't hop around on the bed." Richard appeared from his seat and carefully set TK back in the center of the bed, untangling wires, blankets and trying to settle them to one end so they wouldn't impede his movements too much.

TK reached out automatically to his mother and brother, the latter of the two who was watching his father move tubes with an intensity that shouldn't have been on a seven year old's face. They flicked and darted to all the wires and there was an odd hollow, horrified quality to them. Truly they were the most feared things to grace the world, those wires. They might be helping TK like the nurse had said. But that could just be a lie they made up so Matt wouldn't pull them out, he reasoned.

"Mom it itches! Take it out!" TK asked again rubbing at the inside of the elbow, just above where and IV line was taped in. For every time he asked about taking the 'icky needles and tubes' out as Matt had explained, they had to explain twice that they couldn't come out yet.

Nancy was about to launch quietly into another explanation when Matt jumped in.

"Hey TK! Look what I brought!" He held out the indeed stuffed bear from earlier. His eyes were shining with that wide trust and the sincere wish that TK would appreciate the gesture. He looked as if he was handing over a Christmas gift rather than a toy that both had seen everyday of the week.

He shouldn't have worried at all.

"Matt! You brought it!" All thoughts of IV's and being sick flew from both children's minds. Within moments they were playing, the older brother a little more cautiously than the other but still playing. And leave it to children to make the most ordinary things the most extraordinary. The table was suddenly a tent and the sheets the dome of a big top. If they could ignore the trappings of a hospital room Nancy and Richard could picture this as nothing more than a scene from home.

One in a colorfully decorated bedroom, rather than an oversized hospital bed. The noises; the beeping of the phone or the computer, not the readings of a heart monitor or a pulse-ox. It was so painfully easy to look at it like that.

Matt for one had almost slipped into that dream world. Marine blue eyes took the chance in the guise of play to rake over his brother carefully. It didn't make sense to him...his brother looked just fine. He looked just like he did before this had all started.

But sick people didn't look like that when they were getting better. They were tired all the time and had funny colored skin. And didn't they cough a lot usually? And have to take lots of medicine? It just didn't match up to his definition of someone who was really sick.

Maybe he could ask Akiko later. She was different maybe even like a friend. He trusted her to give honest answers, and while he knew his parents wouldn't lie...they got all upset and nervous when he asked questions like that. Maybe because they were worried he wouldn't understand them or that they didn't have the answers. He wasn't sure.

"Matt?" came a voice from somewhere far off and distant.

He started, his whole body jumping as he realized just how far off he'd been. The voice had of course come from his little brother. TK looked up with eyes so wide and such an exact shade of blue that it was like looking into a near perfect mirror. Yamato couldn't say anything for a long moment.

"Are you ok?"

"Uh-huh TK...just thinking. What's up?" The words came out more forced than he wanted them to.

"You look sad."

"I was just thinkin."

"Oh 'Bout what?"

"Don't worry about it TK. Ok?" Matt thought he would have to push to get a genuine smile onto his face but it came naturally, without any conscious willing on his part.

A hesitant moment passed before the youngster conceded the point. "OK Matt."

They continued with the game, him a fearful guest and his brother the powerful bear tamer.


The route was becoming ritual and rote, easy enough to follow even when bone tired. Dr. Mori shuffled along somewhere between tired and awake. Approaching room 421 she was not really surprised to hear laughter--quiet of course--but laughter none the less. Things were somewhat looking up.

Squeaking the less than noisy door open three faces suddenly shot up at her with surprise. Nancy Ishida looked up from the book she was staring at--not really reading--and Matt started up from the bed. The third guest of the room, and perhaps the most speculated about peered out from under a sheet.

Of which he promptly disappeared under again.

"TK..." came the exasperated call from his older brother. He shifted around and stuck his head under the blanket as well, apparently to discuss something of very big childhood importance.

"TK that's my friend Dr. Akiko. She won't hurt I promise."

The boy shook his head empathetically back and forth in the universal declaration of no. "Doctors hurt. They poke me and stick itchy, needles in me."

"Dr. Akiko doesn't. She's nice. I know you'll like her. C'mon, please! I promised her I'd let you meet her. And no needles or poking I swear!"

The last sentence was loud enough to be heard by most of the room, letting Akiko know in no uncertain terms that if something concerning either of those two implements were to happen there would be hell to pay.

"Promise?" Came the almost silent reply.

"Yep!" Matt proclaimed in that manner that all children do when they're assured they're in charge.

So a few moments later both adults were treated to two strikingly similar little boys crawling out from under the pristine white. Without trying to stare, Akiko managed to take a good long look at the boy Takeru.

He was smaller--but that was to be expected since Matt beat him out by about four years in age. A rounder face framed more egg shaped eyes, but which still retained the exact marine blue shade as his older brother's. His blonde hair was a slightly dirtier color than his brother's--with just a hint more brown in it. It still stuck out a bit at the edges, but for the most part seemed content to stay closer to his head. The hair probably still retained some of the babyfine quality to it.

He had been allowed to change into his own pajamas from the hospital regulation gowns, and now sported a green set of PJ's, plain but clean and simple. TK was also clutching a bear, which was about as big as he was when sitting.

"Hi," she said quietly, bending down to a comfortable level. Unfortunately the bag--laden with gear--severely overbalanced her and Akiko ended up in an unsightly heap on the floor a few seconds later. It was the perfect icebreaker.

Two heads peered down and obscured the blinding light coming from the florescent bulb on the ceiling. "Are you ok Akiko?" She guessed from the careful pronunciation that it came from the bigger of the two shadows, Matt.

"Yep Matt I'm ok. Just was a stupid thing to do. Uggh." Theatrically she rolled off her butt and placed the bag carefully at her feet. Slicking her hair back she was again eye level with the youngest member of the Ishida family.

"Hi you must be TK. I've heard a lot about you. My name's Akiko." She laughed breathlessly and held out an open palm to him. TK for his part smiled openly, possibly even more friendly than his older brother and extended a small hand out to her in greeting.

"Hi."


"Sorry I'm late sir," Akiko slid in the door to the conference room swiftly. "I was held up downstairs on a case."

"That's fine please take a seat Dr. Mori," Dr. Miyazaki replied and continued with his talk having already summed up the symptoms and tests performed.

The room was relatively small, spartan but perfect to ensure privacy for the doctor's talking at the moment. Akiko recognized most of them from various meetings she had been allowed to come in on and from the few visits she had made in tandem with several of the older doctors.

"At this time we have no further indication that the patient is going to repeat an episode of the nature that brought him to the hospital in the first place. Every test we've conducted doesn't point to any particular disease or defect that can be treated. In my opinion we can provide this family with no solid answers and only prolong their anxiety by keeping them here for further testing and observation. I recommend that we discharge the patient in the morning and schedule regular visits to ensure that the patient is indeed in good health. Perhaps medical science will advance enough in time so that someday soon we will be able to give this family some solid answers to go on. For now this case will go unsolved and will circulate to research."

It wasn't really an unsurprising assessment Akiko decided as she waited for the other doctors to file out. The tests had been unspectacular and the bed was needed. It cost a huge amount of money to support a person at a hospital per day and unless there was a reason, Dr. Miyazaki saw no need to burden the family emotionally and financially.

Finally the room was devoid of everyone except for Dr. Miyazaki and herself.

"Dr. Mori," he started, a slight bit of something she couldn't catch in his voice. "I figured that you'd want to come to talk with the family. You've got quite the bedside manner. I would hope you don't lose that skill of empathy. It's one that's extraordinarily undervalued in this profession. I'll be sure to note that when your next review comes up. Do you think I'm making the right decision?"

It was a test as well. An assessment had been made and he wanted to know if she would agree and prescribe the same course of action.

"Thank you sir. You've made excellent points. Keeping Takeru here like some sort of lab rat wouldn't exactly be the best way to ensure that he's happy and healthy. While I wish that we could give his parents and his brother some more definitive answers I know we may never be able to provide them."

She worried her bottom lip for a moment. "I agree that he'd probably have a better chance to recover at home than here."

"You're busy now?"

"No I just got off for the day."

"That's great."

They moved towards the door as one. Dr. Miyazaki held it open and ushered her out. "Then let's go and deliver the news."

Being as it was winter, snow was making its rounds through Odaiba. White fat flakes twirled down from the heavens, unique and beautiful, blanketing the world in hushed white. It was a little warmer than usual so the flakes were a bit larger, clumping together in clusters. They fascinated both of the boys watching from the twenty-fifth floor window.

TK was curled in his mother's arms, head resting lazily on her shoulder, eyes transfixed in wonders of the world outside. Matt's forehead, nose and hands were rapidly becoming numb as he sat plastered against the window. Blue eyes tracked a particularly large lump of snow as it twirled past. He tried to track it as it went further down but lost it in the sea of white on white below them. Richard held Matt up, resting the child's back against his chest and snaking an arm around his middle to keep the boy steady against falling.

A brief knock brought Richard to the door. Matt, having forgotten all about the snow outside sat half turned on the sill, watching his father with quiet concern.

"Oh, hello. Dr. Miyazaki. Dr. Mori. How are you both doing today?" He shook each of their hands in turn, firmly like a dealmaker, Akiko noticed in a small corner of her mind.

"We're good Mr. Ishida."

Akiko smiled warmly and gave a small wave. "Hey Matt."

"Hey Akiko," came the slightly wary reply. He was always one to pick up on moods quickly.

"Actually it's great that you're all here right now. We have a few things to discuss about how we'd like to treat Takeru right now."

Nancy turned from the window, with TK still nestled comfortably in her arms. He was almost half-asleep, his eyelids drooping regardless of his protests to the opposite.

"Would you care to take a seat? We have a few things to discuss."

Matt climbed down, using his mother's arm for leverage and walked across the floor to meet up with Akiko at the door. "Are we gonna go for a walk?"

"No Matt, I think we can stick around here if you'd like."

"Oh I thought we were gonna go draw. Can we go do that today? I wanna make a picture." Matt looked up with earnest eyes.

"Okay Matt. Let's head out then." She shot a slightly confused look to no one in particular. Matt wasn't usually so insistent about such things but rather asked why he couldn't stay. Shrugging Akiko turned and held the door open for him and they headed out--straight to the playroom.

They arrived without any preamble and sat at the table. Akiko was off shift now and her exhaustion was staved off by the new responsibility she now had. To explain to a seven-year-old that they didn't know what was wrong with his precious brother and that he was going to go home. A mixed blessing indeed.

Matt seemed to have shrugged off his earlier moodiness and excitedly grabbed for the crayons and paper that were located on a shelf to the left. He spread them out and they both began to color.

"Matt what are you drawing?"

"It's a present for someone."

"Oh." He continued to work intently and Akiko respected his privacy and drew her own.

"Akiko why are you and Dr. Miyazaki visiting?" So he was going to bring it up first.

"Well, Dr. Miyazaki, you remember that he's in charge of TK's health right?"

Matt nodded into his picture and continued to scribble. "Yeah he's the big cheese."

"Heheh, where'd you learn that?"

"Dad told me." He rolled up onto his forearms and curled over the paper, twisting his face into a concentrating grimace complete with tongue twisted between lips.

"Oh I see. Well you know how we were doing all those tests on your brother right?"

He nodded into the paper. "To figure out what's wrong with him. I remember."

She hesitated for what she hoped was a short moment. "Well we've decided that we aren't going to do any more tests on your brother for the time being."

"So you know what's wrong with him then?" Hopeful blue eyes looked up to her, straying from the drawing for the first time that day.

"No Matt. No they...we don't. But we don't think that you're brother wants or should have to stay in the hospital anymore."

Confused and angry eyes accusingly watched her. "So you're giving up?"

"No Matt," her tone was forceful and a bit angry itself. "No we are not giving up."

Taken aback by the tone of her voice Matt slowed down. "Then why are you sending him home? What if it happens again?"

There was no need to clarify what "it" was. The boy in front of her was swallowing hard, working to the extreme to keep the tears from coming out. Akiko softened her tone instantly, knowing that if she botched this up she'd lose a lot more than that trust she had worked so hard to gain. She'd lose the friend she was hoping she was making.

"The doctors don't know what caused your brother to go into the coma in the first place. You know I don't lie Matt. We can't guarantee that it might not happen again."

"But Matt...do you really think that it's a good idea to keep TK locked up in that room? We might not be able to figure out what's wrong with him for a long time. Don't you think he'll be happier at home?"

Eyes stared into air as he considered those questions. Just that morning TK had been asking if they could go to the park to play in the snow and when they were going to go back to their house. And if they had to spend a lot of time here it wouldn't really be helpful to TK. Mom and Dad would be really upset too--Matt got the impression that they both didn't like hospitals.

"No," he conceded quietly. Turning back to the paper to conceal his emotions he continued. "He asked about going home this morning when we got there. He wants to go play in the snow."

"Does he like the snow?"

A nodding blonde head was the reply. He picked up a brown crayon and started to draw again.

Rolling a blue crayon in between her hands Akiko debated what to do next. She was neither a psychiatrist nor a parent and so this was deeply uncharted water for her. A few moments passed between them, muted even further by the early evening and snow.

"Are the doctors gonna keep trying to figure out what's wrong?"

Startled brown eyes refocused on the young boy hunched over the drawing. She hadn't realized how far she had drifted in thought.

"Oh of course they are Matt. In fact, Dr. Miyazaki is asking your parents right now if they would be willing to bring TK to the hospital every few weeks so they can do some tests. To try and figure out what might have caused him to get sick and to try and determine if he might get sick like that again."

"So it'll be like going to the doctor for a check-up, like I get before school every year except more times?"

"Yep, that's almost exactly what it's gonna be like."

Matt turned blue back to the paper in internal debate. So it would be like a check-up? If they were gonna try and figure out what was wrong that would be ok. Then TK would be happy and so would his parents. And even though it was possible that TK could get really sick again maybe they would be able to catch it before it got bad, like an ear infection or something. Coming to some sort of decision he began to finish the picture quietly.

"I guess if you're gonna try and still figure out why TK's sick then it's ok that we go home."

"Ok that's great Matt." And Akiko was truly surprised to note how relieved she was that the young boy had understood and accepted her offer. Somehow that felt better even though he wouldn't be able to do anything to dissuade any doctor.

They continued to color for another half-hour or so in almost silence. Occasionally Matt would ask a question. About whether taking the IV out would hurt, or what would happen to the room when TK was no longer there. He even asked whether Howard would be busy without having to come and visit them.

"Are you going to be around when we come back for TK's check-ups Akiko?"

"I'll certainly try to make some time in my schedule Matt. I would love to see you and your brother when you come back to visit."

"Cool. I'm finished." But instead of holding it out for her appraisal he folded it in half.

"Hey Matt. Can I see it?"

Innocent blue eyes turned up to her. "No you can't see it yet. It's for a friend."

"Oh...ok," she replied and held out a picture for him to see. One of fields and lots of colorful flowers, a sun and puffy white clouds.

Matt looked at it carefully, as if appraising a valuable treasure before smiling and nodding. "It's good!"

"Then we better get back to your mom and dad and your brother. I bet they want to talk to you."

Scraping chair noises accompanied them as they walked back down to they're room.

As the neared the open door, Matt tore into it and hopped onto the chair he preferred to use as a stool.

"Hey TK guess what! We get to go home tomorrow! Isn't that great!"

Richard and Nancy were both on the side of the bed facing the door and smiled at both of their sons excited chatter. Nancy glanced up at the last moment and smiled her gracious thanks to the young doctor standing in the doorway. Richard did as well and mouthed a thank you to her as well.

With a tip of her head and a smile to the brothers Akiko turned and strolled away. This was a family time. And she needed to go home.


Had she been five minutes later she would have missed it entirely. As it was she tore to the elevator when she remembered. It would be her kind of luck that she would miss it her inner voice seethed. Strolling at a less than sedate pace from the elevator she rushed to the reception desk.

"They haven't left yet have they?" she questioned Howard without preamble.

"Nope, I think they just finished with the paperwork actually Akiko. Check the room--I think they're still in there getting ready to leave."

He faintly heard a "Thanks Howard" from down the hall.

"Hey guys! Thought I was gonna miss the chance to see you all off," came a rather breathless voice from the doorway. They were just beginning to bundle Yamato into his boots and the fluffy blue jacket from a week ago. TK was still sitting on the bed dressed in his clothes but without any IV's or monitors attached to his little body.

"Hi Akiko!" TK beamed from the bed. "We're going home!"

"I heard TK. Are you excited?"

He vigorously nodded his head in agreement.

"That's great!"

"Richard Nancy do you need any help?"

"No, thank you Akiko."

She shifted attention to the less than pleased Yamato rolling his eyes as his mother struggled to pull his coat on.

"Hi Matt."

"Hey Akiko. Mom! It's ok," he complained.

"Alright sweety, hop down on three, one...two...three." One swift movement as she swept her son up and he hopped down led them to the floor.

"Alright TK your turn."

They started to fuss over the other boy as Matt motioned Akiko towards the door.

"I wanted to give you something before I went home. Here. I hope you like it," he ended rather awkwardly. In an outstretched hand was a piece of paper that suspiciously resembled one from the night before.

Akiko took it in her hand ever so gently and opened it up. Two blonde haired boys and one dark haired girl were standing in the snow, except for the girl, who stood in a lot of colorful dots--flowers. On the bottom in semi-neat kanji was written 'To my friend Akiko Love Matt.'

"Matt...I love it. Thank you very much!"

"You're welcome."

"Friends?" Akiko asked and held out an open hand.

"Friends." He affirmed and took it, shaking once in a careless manner.

She smiled widely and he grinned back, physically assured that the present was well received. Perhaps there had never been a need to worry about losing this particular child's friendship.


For that first year after the particular incident, she had seen Matt on a strictly regimented basis--once every two weeks. Of course her schedule didn't always permit her to be around much as she had work to perform. So sometimes she couldn't always make it up to pediatrics though she tried her best.

And as the years progressed the visits to the hospital gradually decreased as well. From a couple of weeks it turned into every month, and then every three months till it was only a yearly event. Which was actually the greatest news to receive. There had never been any indications of a repeat of the incident nor was there any indication of what caused it or what it actually was. She supposed it was still an unsolved case.

Though Akiko did not get to see the boys often she did keep abreast of the happenings in their young lives. She heard of the divorce and had hoped to be able to talk to Matt and gauge his feelings on the situation. But when TK came in again it was alone and she found out that they had separated the two boys. Something Akiko had not approved of in the slightest but had the civility to hold her tongue about.

She had seen them both the next year and she was sure that some pod person or something had replaced to boy she once knew. Matt was standoffish and angry but she attributed it at the time to the onset of adolescence--all children went through a time like that. Had she know that it was something even more than that she would have tried to do something.

And when they were eleven and seven respectively she witnessed the battle in the city and had seen the column of rainbow light they had disappeared into. They were among the chosen heroes who were going to save the world. Akiko remembered catching a glimpse into Matt's eyes as he started to rise from the ground.

He looked so different from when she had last seen him just a year ago. Such sadness, guilt...such a burden on his too young shoulders. Not only the fate of the world but perhaps more importantly the welfare of a younger sibling. He took his job far too literally she had thought. But then, it had been necessary.

Of course he had grown up a lot since then. So much so that unless he wasn't a rather famous musician and music professor at the local university she might have lost track of him. She wondered at times whether he remembered his days at the hospital.

Glancing up from the picture she had been so intently staring at she was surprised to see Dr. Kido standing in front of her desk.

"Dr. Kido, my apologies I was lost in thought. Do you need me?"

"Yes," he replied in his crisp voice. "We have a case in 431 that I could use your help with if you have a few moments."

"I'd be glad to help," she smiled and stood up, placing the frame carefully back on the desk. Both doctors were soon lost in the stream of personnel, patients and staff hurrying around the late afternoon hallways.

Had they waited for five minutes they would have seen the young man who entered the office. Distinguished and well-dressed, but with an air of rebellion about him he traveled from desk to desk until he found the one he was looking for. A shock of golden blonde hair and still amazing marine blue eyes caught site of the picture leaning at a slightly more turned angle--allowing for it to be seen more clearly than it would have normally.

Smiling at the memories it brought back even after twenty-some-odd years he carefully tucked the note onto the desk and hurried out the door. He had a class in thirty minutes and if he ran he might just make it on time for once.

Written on the outside of the note were a few simple kanji symbols--much neater this time around.

"To my friend Akiko Love Matt"

Owari

So Comments, criticisms, flames, praise...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.

Thanks for reading!