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doctors make the worst patients

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Hiiro ignores the symptoms at first. It's easy enough to tell himself that the jitters that spread through his body are anger, the intern irritates him well enough at first. The hammering of his heart is clearly due to the four coffees he's had and the adrenaline of battle, it has nothing to do with the closeness of their bodies or the warmth of Emu's hands, always scorching while his are always cold. Even when he catches himself worrying about Emu's safety, that's just logical reasoning. Of course he should show concern for a colleague's lack of self-preservation.

 

What do you think you're doing?!

 

The feelings grow, spread their roots like unwanted weeds throughout his body, and he catches himself desperately searching for any hint that Emu could possibly return his feelings. He sneaks glances, silently watches him work, and never once does he catch Emu's eyes on him. It starts to hurt. He can fix any injury in the world, but when it comes to his own pain, he's never known what to do except ignore his own advice.

 

You need to deal with this yourself.

 

He can't keep pretending it's nothing any more. There's no practical explanation for the panic that rises in his throat when he sees Emu hurt, nor any logic to the way he throws himself between him and danger, risking his own life for the intern's. He covers up the warmth in his cheeks with cold dismissal, tries not to let his change of heart show. Hiiro curses himself, but the harsh words fall from his mouth before he can choke them back. Habits are hard to break, but it's nothing compared to the ice between them.

 

Is this all you're good for?

 

He was wrong. Emu does look at him. But they're sad looks, pitying looks, like he's only hiding his disdain so not to be rude. They both know he's stronger than Hiiro, better than Hiiro, at least when it comes to fighting the game disease. It was a bitter pill to swallow at first, one Hiiro had to wash down with petty jabs at Emu's work as a surgeon, but it's the truth. Where Hiiro faces defeat after defeat after defeat, Emu stands proud, like a king. In his heart, he kneels, and swears fealty.

 

You need to stop taking these idiotic risks.

 

He knows it's not entirely hopeless. Emu's trust in and concern for the coroner seemed like soft-heartedness at first, but he can see the same heartbreak on Emu's face as his own five years ago. It speaks of a chance, of quiet possibility, but Hiiro knows it's wrong to be thinking about potentials right now. While time has tempered his own ache into a desire for justice, Emu's pain is still fresh. He wants to heal him, wants to take his heart in his hands and stitch closed its bleeding wounds, but when he reaches out, the awkwardly mumbled words of "I care about you" barely seem to register in Emu's ears. "I'm glad I can count on you when we're fighting the Bugsters." Emu replies after a moment, firm and professional, and Hiiro wonders if his meaning was unclear.

 

A doctor needs to know how to deal with loss.

 

He tries again, when the tension is less high. "Inter-- Emu," he starts, and Emu looks right through him, eyes shuttered and emotionless. He tries to explain himself, tries desperately to give his emotions shape and meaning while keeping it vague enough to deny if need be, and hopes Emu understands the underlying message. But Emu's warm voice runs cool, and the "it's good that we can work together properly now," rings through Hiiro's mind, and he knows he has to change tactics.

 

A doctor needs to know when to walk away.

 

“I don’t want this to affect our working relationship. But I needed to let you know how I truly feel.”

“Don’t worry.” Emu smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “It won’t.”