Hospitals were never Ryou's favorite place to visit.
Ever since a rare paralysis disease left him in a coma and stolen a large portion of his childhood memory, hospitals weren't his favorite place. That disease had set him back, and he was lucky it hadn't robbed him the faces of his parents. Every visit since then was dreaded. He couldn't remember a time when he willingly walked into a hospital besides visiting Shino during her coma and recovery.
And no matter what, hospitals weren't going to let him go. Those anti-bacterial claws were imbedded into Ryou deep enough to never release him. Even now, he was back in the very same hospital of his childhood, walking through familiar hallways that smelled of clean death.
"Hopefully, this'll be the last time." Ryou said, placing a hand against the white wall.
After the long battle with AIDA then Cubia, the Lost Ones were beginning to wake up. And Shino, she had finished her rehabilitation. Her discharge was today.
"I forgot where her room was." Ryou mumbled.
Nonetheless, he continued to walk around. He knew the number was somewhere on this floor. He'd forgotten his cell phone at home, thinking he wouldn't need it considering he lived rather close to the hospital. He grumbled and sighed. He was bound to find her room soon.
In no particular rush, he aimlessly walked.
Up ahead, a business woman was vehemently talking to a doctor. Beside her, a thinly pale child stood two feet behind her. A teddy bear was grasped in his arms, dark hair falling over the front of his eyes as the woman's voice became shriller. Whatever it was, the doctor was trying to pacify her.
"I'm sorry ma'am but can you lower your voice."
"I don't understand. It's only for a few days and it's urgent. I couldn't possibly take him all the way to Hokkaido and back. He'll be a burden."
"Ms. Nakanishi, I don't think that's something to be said in front of your own-"
"It's the truth." Behind her, the little boy flinched and clutched his bear even tighter. Ryou scowled.
What kind of mother was she to blurt that in front of her own child? For his credit, the doctor was handling her pretty well but she was still persistent.
Ryou walked up to him, interrupting her conversation.
"Hey, Dr. Kurogai."
"Ah, Misaki, it's been a while." He greeted.
"Yeah, is everything alright?" He asked, eyeing the woman. She was dressed sharply, all business and no play. Her eyes narrowed, examining him from top to bottom.
"Who are you?"
"He's Ryou Misaki." Dr. Kurogai introduced. "He's been under my care for a number of years."
"Hmm, say, can you babysit this weekend?" She asked while she rummaged through her purse.
She quickly pulled out a notepad and rapidly wrote something down. She pushed the paper to him and he unwilling grabbed it in confusion.
"I'll contact you once I'm ready to pick him up." Without another word, she turned heel and left, not saying a word to her son. Ryou was left stunned and Dr. Kurogai chased after her, trying to convince her otherwise. It was now only the boy and him.
Ryou sighed as he scratched his head. There was no way he could turn away. He wasn't that cold.
"What's your name?" Ryou asked, kneeling in front of him.
The boy fidgeted, clutching his bear tighter. Ryou could see a crescent moon held between the bears' stubby arms. "I… I'm Iori Nakanishi."
Ryou blinked. Nakanishi? Wasn't Bo's last name Nakanishi? He looked back down the hallway; the woman talking rather animatedly that suggested she was annoyed. She certainly seemed like the woman Saku had described in their emails. Ryou looked back at Iori. It was worth a shot.
"Hey, are you Bo?"
At hearing his name from The World, Iori finally looked up from the floor. He took a good look at the man in front of him. He was scary looking. Dark hair was pushed back, allowing a full view of his eyes but Iori could feel kindness in those light colored eyes.
Ryou smiled, sighing in relief. "This is a hell of a coincidence."
Iori nodded, heart beat finally starting to return to normal. He was relived, knowing it was Haseo. He hadn't wanted to go with a stranger but he was scared to raise his voice when his mother began giving Ryou their information. Even if he did, she would never listen to him.
Iori sniffed loudly and bit back a sob. He was going to be okay. Haseo was with him. It was okay.
"So that was your mother." He said, watching Dr. Kurogai come back by himself. Seemed like he wasn't successful at bringing her back. While Iori never talked much about his mother, Saku didn't hold back in her emails. And Ryou had to agree with her. She wasn't a pleasant woman.
"I'm sorry Ryou. Ms. Nakanishi is quite headstrong."
"I guess I have no choice but to-"
Iori blinked, lowering his head.
"I said it's fine." Ryou interrupted. "I can take care of him."
"Are you sure? Iori's health isn't as strong as other kids his age."
"Neither was mine, remember? Anyway, I'll look after him." Ryou said with finality. Dr. Kurogai chuckled at Ryou's stubbornness. The doctor kneeled beside Iori.
"Ryou can be a scary-"
"-but he is a good guy. Ryou has my emergency number so if anything happens; he'll be able to reach me anytime. Will you be okay?" Iori nodded. The doctor patted his head, sharing a kind smile.
"His mother brought Iori's suit case. It's in his room so I'll go get it. I'll also catch up with her so I can give her your contact information."
Ryou nodded and Dr. Kurogai ran off. It took a moment before Ryou realized he still didn't know where Shino's room was.
"Shit, and he was right here too." He mumbled and looked around the barren hallways once more.
"Is something wrong?" Iori asked.
"Not exactly but-"
He stopped, eyes trained down the opposite hallway. Iori followed and saw a girl waving at him. Ryou waved back. At least that problem was finally resolved.
Iori remained quiet. It must've been Ryou's friend, Iori thought. He habitually backed away, the same distance his mother always told him to keep when she was talking with other people. Ryou noticed the shift. He kneeled in front of Iori again and beckoned him forward.
"What're you doing?"
"Staying out of the way." Iori replied.
Ryou sucked his teeth and sighed. "You don't have to do that. Not with me."
Shino stopped in front of them, looking at Ryou.
"I thought you knew this hospital." Shino teased, a hand poised on her cocked hip.
"Stuff happened." He replied, looking up at her.
Shino hummed thoughtfully as she looked at Iori. He flinched and looked away. Shino smiled and joined Ryou on the floor.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Shino Nanao. I'm Ryou's friend." She said. Iori nodded but he kept his gaze downcast. He wasn't used to friendly voices outside of The World.
"Do you like sweets?" She asked. Iori looked up and nodded. "Why don't we go out for parfaits as a celebration for our new friendship?" Iori's eyes lit up but he reigned himself in and pulled back. Shino blinked in surprise and she looked towards Ryou.
"Iori, there's only one rule while you stay at my place." He started. Iori braced himself. He flinched when he felt a hand gently placed on top of his head. "Don't hold yourself back."
He looked at Ryou, confusion clearly written in his eyes.
"He's telling you to be as selfish as you want. It must be for a good cause since this one here is pretty selfish himself."
Shino laughed and ignored him. "So do you want to join me for that celebratory parfait?"
Iori looked from Shino to Ryou. Ryou sighed and scratched his head. He stood up and Iori felt a cold shiver pass through him.
He'd done it again. He'd made someone mad. Iori kept his gaze on the floor, afraid to meet eyes that were surely annoyed with him. He flinched back when a hand entered his field of vision. Iori looked at the hand extended towards him, patiently waiting.
His eyes traveled further up until he met Ryou's eyes. They weren't annoyed or angry. He stood there, waiting. Iori looked over at Shino and she only smiled. She wasn't angry either. Neither of them was.
"I- I like parfaits." He said. He timidly took Ryou's hand and his hand completely disappeared underneath his warm fingers.
"Good. Once the doctor gets back, we'll go." Iori nodded happily and stayed neared Ryou, happy to know Ryou was doing so much without even knowing how much that was.