Now and Forever
Takano Masamune straightened himself. He pulled his tie perfectly straight. He made sure there was no sign of creasing in his white coat. And he made sure that he had the best and cool face he could muster.
The long hallway was bright. People with different problems and roles walked in all directions. The fast paced life, the mysterious illnesses, the hurt, the pain, were the regular picture of the hospital he was working at.
Everytime he takes his usual route from his office to the rooms in the East Wing of Todai Hospital, there was always one question in his mind. A question so often asked by the many, but a question with no definite answer.
Takano flinched as felt the cold door knob as his expert hand went to turn it open. That cold feeling was enough to send shivers down his spine.
As he slowly opened the door to where a very special person was, the question resonated in his ears, filling his brain and his whole being.
"Who's the one to be pitied?" Takano thought. "The one leaving? Or the one being left behind?"
Green eyes that were busy reading a novel darted to the sound of the door opening. He looked happy for a few millisecond but he went back to his annoyed face he always seem to liked putting on.
"Hi... how are you doing?" Takano asked, pulling a steel chair where he sat gracefully.
The man on the bed was two years younger than him. He used to have very light brown hair with a pair of beautiful emerald eyes. This combination, never failed to make Takano breath in astonishment. Ever since this patient 456 came in to the hospital came three years ago, it was only this brunette that made his residence in the hospital worthwhile.
"Oi...don't pretend like you didn't hear me. Oi...Ritsu..."
How can Takano Masamune, a male, and a doctor, fall in love with another male? How could he fall in love with his own patient? Wasn't there any more stupid thing than that? To fall for someone you knew had their days numbered?
"I had a great time," the brunet finally answered flipping through another page. "Mom and dad came to visit a while ago and Anchan brought new novels for me to read."
Takano smiled faintly. He watched the man he was looking after battle brain tumor for three years with great care. He had been there when the brunett was screaming in pain from chemoteraphy. He had been there when the man started losing his beautiful brown hair. That was why, his patient, his Onodera Ritsu was now just wearing artificial hair. However, Onodera Ritsu remained the beautiful person he was to Takano. No physical change could change that.
"Really? And that book? How is it...you seem pretty absorbed with it."
Onodera Ritsu grinned and flipped to another page. "It's good. It's about this dog which became the owner's strenght when his wife committed suicide."
Takano Masamune blinked a couple of times. As he swallowed the painful throbbing in his throat, his forehead creased and no matter how hard he stopped them, his eyes redened.
"I see...what a great bond it is then." Takano gentle took the book from the man's hands in the pretense of looking into it himself. Honestly, he just tried to turn it properly, for Onodera Ritsu had been holding the book upside down the entire time.
If anything, Onodera Ritsu never really wanted to feel different. But the one major side effect of his growing brain tumor despite all the cure that the medical experts did was losing his sense of sight.
At first his sight became just blurry. The next he lost the ability to distinguish shapes and figures. Then his world turned black and white. Until the remaining days of the brunett has been enveloped in darkness.
"Ritsu..." Takano started, about to urge the brunett once more to finally, officially be with him despite the many problems it may present. But Takano shut his mouth once again when Ritsu turned to his left, to the direction where the warm light of the setting sun was entering from the window.
Call it stupid, overdescription, exageration even, but ever since falling in love with this man, he always looked at Ritsu as if he was seeing an angel. And that was enough for Takano to shut his mouth.
"I don't want to be in any relationship Takano-san," the raven remembered one year ago when he proposed the idea to his beloved patient. "Not with a woman or with a man..."
"Why?" he had asked, almost begging. He didn't know when he started caring for Onodera Ritsu more than a doctor should to his patient. It just happened. It just happened while he was watching the green-eyed man battle a war with only his hope and courage as a weapon. "I am not telling you that I love you because I pity you. I want to be with you."
That time, Ritsu was just starting to lose his sight. But Ritsu tried to look him straight in the eyes. And what the younger male said stopped anymore thoughts in Masamune's mind.
"Takano-san...I don't want to bind you to me. I am dying. You know that more than anybody else..." Ritsu replied, with Takano seeing the quiet tears pooling at the corners of his green eyes. "I know you don't pity me. I know what you feel is genuine...because...because I do...love you too. But we can't. Not when I would leave you very soon."
The raven snapped back to reality after Ritsu had called him many times. Takano moved closer to the edge of his chair and focused his attention back to the Ritsu of the present.
"What is it?"
Takano's eyes widened. He didn't know, but he felt like he just have been stabbed in the back. Thank you? For what?
"Why all of a sudden?" Takano asked, hiding the shaking in his voice.
The brunett drew a deep breath and closed the book on his lap gently. "I don't know. I just feel like it."
Takano found himself moving onto his patient's bed. He sat gently, his eyes never leaving Ritsu's face. Trembling he cupped the younger one's face and examined it. But he couldn't see very well because of warm stuff blocking his view. Takano suddenly thought if he should be glad that Ritsu, couldn't see him crying.
"Are you an idiot? Don't go saying those stuff without a reason..." he whispered. "Because that really scares me."
"Takano-san?" the man on the bed, with his lower half covered with thick blankets called and reached for the hand touching his cheek. "You're crying."
"I'm not. It's...sweat...you know..."
Ritsu's unseeing eyes smiled. "You're a doctor geez...make your lies a bit realistic."
Without them saying anything, Takano pulled the brunet's body closer to his. To feel the warmth of this man he knew would be colder than ice later, was the least he could do to stop himself from breaking down.
They had a mutual understanding. But the world wasn't very much of a giver at some instances.
"Yeah...I'm a doctor..." Takano screamed in his head. "I'm a fucking doctor...so why?"
Yokozawa Takafumi entered his bestfriend's office without knocking. It was past midnight and he knew what his bestfriend, Takano Masamune was probably doing. And it had become a habit of him to just listen to the man's emotional outbursts.
"Here. Coffee..." Yokozawa offered as he put down a cup of steaming black coffee on Takano's cluttered table.
Yokozawa gazed at the empty wall where Takano's eyes were resting and he sighed. He sipped a bit of his own coffee and rested his back against the wall across. "You're off duty today and tomorrow...aren't you forcing yourself too much?"
The other man moved his chair to face the open window of his office. Turning his back at Yokozawa in the process and staring into the darkness the night was offering.
"I'm not doing anything."
The other doctor knitted his brows in concern as he watched Takano bury his face on his palms. Clearly tired, clearly in despair. The proud doctor was nowhere to be found.
Never had Takano Masamune cried openly. Even to Yokozawa. So Yokozawa knew very well that stance. That form where Takano Masamune, a reknowned surgeon for brain tumors was being in utter self blame.
"Uhm...your patient, Onodera...he hasn't been complaining about headaches the past days right?" Yokozawa asked, knowing completely well the relationship of the doctor with him and the patient at one of their wings. A relationship full of feelings. A relationship of two persons that was full of passion yet cannot be called lovers. "It's great...if you put it that way that he's experiencing less pain..."
Takano laughed. A laugh that sounded like he was about to go crazy any minute. "Yokozawa...why?" he asked with a broken voice, his face still buried on his hands. "I am a fucking doctor. I have saved many lives...why can't I save the life of the one most important to me?!"
Yokozawa sighed and walked closer to the man who probably was the saddest person on earth that time. To do the operation to your loved one was already a traumatizing experience. But to have that operation where you placed all the things you know and learned fail, was probably the biggest blow.
"Takano...we're just doctors. We add a few years...but we aren't gods."
The trembling on Takano's shoulders intensified. And no longer he could stop the cry he was always trying to stop from escaping his lips everytime he was with Ritsu.
"Why him? There are so many people on earth...it could be me for crying outloud...why does it have to be Ritsu?"
Yokozawa patted the man on the shoulder, squeezing it tightly to tell the man that he atleast knew what he has been going through. No one knew except him, and Onodera Ritsu himself the feelings his doctor have for him. And that was making it all the more suffocating.
"The only thing we can do now is to accept it. It's hard. But if you don't let go...Onodera will surely feel sad. Watch him go...with a smiling face even if it hurts."
The next days went by peacefully. The weather was good and Ritsu had always asked to have his windows be left open even at night. The books on the side table was piled one after another. But picking even one thin book was already tiring that the man just contentedly would run his fingertips on the covers.
And as usual, every afternoon, after his rounds with his other patients, Takano would spend the time watching the colors of the sun change from yellow, to orange to pink then fade into a midnight blue hue.
Most often than not, Takano would insist of helping the brunet into eating and cleaning up. And then he'd be with Ritsu, watching the man fall asleep everynight. With both their hands clasped together.
If only these simple days and nights would never have to come to an end...
Takano fell asleep with his forehead resting on his arm on Ritsu's bed. He could sense some faint moving and some soft crying. But he couldn't make it out yet or piece everything together that he remained his eyes closed for a few more seconds.
"MMMmhppp..." a scream. A scream bearing a feeling of pain no one would be able to understand broke into Takano's senses. The man abruptly straightened himself and saw Ritsu clasping his mouth with his hands, tearing so much.
The one being called turned his head left and right, running after his breath.
"Does your head hurt?" Takano asked, despite his brain freezing up. "Wait here..."
"No...don't go. It's fading already..." the man replied biting on his lower lip hard that the already pale lips gained a bit of color.
"But..." Takano stood there, beside the bed, looking at Ritsu as if he was in a different time and place.
"Don't leave...I don't want to be alone..." Ritsu whispered, finally calming down.
With his green eyes, glimmering in the dark, Ritsu looked up, smiling faintly so suddenly. "This is selfish...but...can I lean on you?"
Takano just stared at Ritsu. His head was blank that was why the tightening in his chest was very clear. Ritsu knew. Takano knew. That was it.
"Give me the vital statistics when you're done, okay?"
"Yes, Doctor Yokozawa."
The man removed his stetoscope from his ears and let it dangle around his shoulders. He was about to go to the lounge to get his 4th coffee for the night when he decided to visit Onodera and Takano. He knew that Takano had been staying in that patient's room watching the patient until he fall asleep.
"...should I bring him coffee too?" the man asked himself as he was nearing the familiar room.
Yokozawa was about to push open the door when his hand froze in the air.
"I've always thought of doing this for you..."
Yokozawa peeked at the small glass portion of door. There he saw the thin frame sitting on the bed, resting his head against Takano's shoulders. And despite the darkness, he knew that both men had been crying.
So Yokozawa stepped back and rested his back against the wall. The only witness of this parting.
"What is?" Ritsu asked, closing his eyes.
Takano wiped his cheeks with his hand and held the brunett's shoulder with the other.
The raven drew a deep breath and then he did say everything he wanted to say with his unsteady voice.
"Whenever I'm weary
From the battles that rage in my head
You make sense of madness
When my sanity hangs by a thread
I lose my way, but still you
Seem to understand
Now and forever
I will be your man
Sometimes I just hold you
Too caught up in me to see
I'm holding a fortune
That Heaven has given to me
I'll try to show you
Each and every way I can
Now and forever
I will be your man
Now I can rest my worries
And always be sure
That I won't be alone, anymore
If I'd only known you were there
All the time
All this time
Until the day the ocean
Doesn't touch the sand
Now and forever
I will be your man
Now and forever
I will be your man..."*
Yokozawa looked up the blinding lights on the ceiling. He had never heard Takano sing. That was a first time. And that probably was the most depressing thing he heard.
"Did you like it?"
Ritsu laughed. "Now I know you have one thing you cannot do. Singing."
Takano smiled, wiping his face once more. He couldn't help them when he could clearly see his Ritsu crying too. He must be afraid and sad too at the many possibilities if he wasn't sick.
"Idiot. I sing for you and this is what I get?"
Ritsu crept his fingers and laced them with Takano's. The only and the boldest thing he ever did since meeting his doctor. "That song...isn't really perfect for me...is it? Because I'm leaving you..."
"No...because I am not planning to love anyone else after you," Takano slowly brought their clasped hands towards his chest. Letting Ritsu feel his heartbeat. "You'll always...always be here like the song implies."
"Ritsu...it's my choice. You cannot dictate me and tell me to let go and find someone...I don't think I could."
Ritsu, for the very first tiime before Takano broke into sobs.
"I am the luckiest person on Earth..." Ritsu whispered, resting his forehead to Takano's chest. Turning his head so he could listen to the raven's heartbeat. "Because you still loved me knowing that my days are numbered. Normally, people would distance themselves because of the pain..."
"Aho ...there is not a single bit of regret in me...falling for you like this..."
"Takano-san...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..."
Takano smiled, hugging the man tighter. "You have nothing to be sorry about...I know you're very tired from all this three years...you don't have to hold back anymore..."
The raven held Ritsu's face in both his hands and kissed the tears on Ritsu's eyes away.
"Can you feel my lips?"
"Because I am proud of you. You made it this far Ritsu. So you don't have anything to worry about and rest. If that's already what you wanted to do..."
"I'm sorry for the pain and for leaving you. But thank you for staying..."
By the time that Takano was about to kiss the man even for the last time, Ritsu breathe his last.
Yokozawa pushed open the door gently and looked at Takano and Ritsu with his own chest in a twisting pain.
"Ritsu..." Takano whispered and kissed him anyway. Planting his lips on the still warm yet nonresponsive ones of his loved one was probably the most bitter-sweet thing he ever tasted.
chapter end notes:
konnichi wa! hehe..i just love writing about dying characters so forgive me for any heartbreak i may have caused.
(i love writing stories taking place in a hospital if you've noticed because i don't like being in it but whenever i go there, it's like i am entering a different world; the faces, the voices. they all look and sound so close yet feels distant maybe because doctors and nurses tend to distance themselves as much as they could to avoid too much attatchment.) But then...that is something that cannot be predicted
anyway,,,i was listening to 「Stay 」by Safetysuit in loop while writing this and then i happened to see a MV of the song 「Now and Forever 」by Richard Marx and thought that it's a perfect song. Really this song told me to write this oneshot...hehe
and the question 「Who's the one to be pitied? The one leaving? Or the one being left behind?」i heard this a couple of times not exactly but has the same thought and i guess the answer is...i don't know. it depends right? there's no correct answer.
and the book that Ritsu was talking about is 「The Dogs of Babel」 by Carolyn Parkhurst to which i cried a river
thank you for reading and i hope you enjoyed reading this. please share your thoughts. it's been really a while since i've written anything for this couple.^^
*song-Now and Forever-Richard Marx
*aho- another Japanese term for idiot