‘I propose a toast,’ Moniwa says, raising his voice to drown out the background noise of the bar, his face already flushed an alarming, alcohol-induced shade of red, ‘since we’re all starting on our last rotations tomorrow. To our last lap!’
‘To our last lap!’ The rest of the table echoes in synchrony, and everything is sombre and hilarious and cheesy all at once. Iwaizumi looks around the table at his long-time medical school classmates, and feels an unbearable pride swell up in his chest. They’ve all been split up into different hospitals now, but they’ve still managed to keep in touch by some small miracle, and it seems like just yesterday that they were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed medical students, zipping around in starchy white coats and barely-used littmann stethoscopes, practically tripping over each other to listen to that ‘interesting heart murmur’. Now they’re all junior doctors, and each of them is one more hospital rotation away from formally affixing ‘Dr.’ in front of their name for good.
‘Dr. Iwaizumi Hajime,’ Iwaizumi thinks contentedly, and feels giddy in a way that has nothing to do with the alcohol sloshing merrily away in his stomach. He likes it, likes the way the syllables roll off easily from his tongue, but most of all he’s exhilarated because: if he’s lasted this far into the insufferable hellhole that is medical school, he can damn well handle whatever else there is to come in life.
There’s silence as everyone chugs down the last sips of alcohol from their glasses, before Suga sets his glass down with a loud, resonant clink and turns to Iwaizumi.
‘I heard your internal medicine rotation’s going to be at Miyagi Central Hospital,’ Suga says, speech slurring a little from the alcohol; it’s kind of cute. He’s talking more than usual, too, Iwaizumi notes. A chatty drunk. ‘I was there for my surgery rotation a few months back. Who’s your mentor gonna be?’
‘Dr. Oikawa Tooru,’ Iwaizumi says, and barely has time to yank his body back as Suga chokes on and almost sprays out a mouthful of alcohol. Suga throws his head back and starts to laugh almost uncontrollably, with a sort of uncharacteristic fervour practically bordering the edge of hysteria.
‘What is it,’ Iwaizumi says, feeling a little unnerved.
In response, Suga simply drags a pitcher of alcohol from across the table, and starts to tip more beer into Iwaizumi’s glass.
‘You’re going to need this,’ Suga says, shoulders shaking with laughter, and almost spills half the contents of the pitcher in the process. Iwaizumi’s feeling slightly annoyed now, or at least as annoyed as one can possibly be towards Suga; he feels like shaking Suga by his shoulders and asking him what’s so funny about it.
‘Oh, I’ve heard of him,’ Moniwa says, suddenly butting into the conversation, and Iwaizumi wonders if there’s an unspoken, universal rule that all quiet, unassuming people should conversely be loud and chatty drunks. The rest of their classmates have taken to starting a new drinking game involving a lot of rude phrases and obnoxious hand gestures. ‘That genius, right? I heard he’s our age, but he entered med school two years younger than all of us.’
‘He’s brilliant,’ Suga says in a serious and impressive tone, although the effect is mitigated by him hiccuping a little. ‘Won a bunch of prizes in med school, wrote like tons of research papers since he’s graduated. They say he’s almost guaranteed to end up as the Chief of Medicine if he continues working in Miyagi Central Hospital.’
‘So he’s smart,’ Iwaizumi says, unimpressed. ‘What’s so bad about that?’
‘He’s...’ Suga frowns then, working his teeth into his bottom lip as he tries to think of something to say. Sometimes Iwaizumi thinks that Suga has this innate, in-built mechanism that renders him physically incapable of saying anything negative about anyone. ‘He can be very intense.’
‘Intense is okay,’ Iwaizumi says, feeling relieved. It could’ve been worse; he’s had mentors who’d treated him like a personal-slave-and-starbucks-runner, and the only time his previous mentor had deigned Iwaizumi worthy of his words was to poke fun at Iwaizumi for not knowing the etiology of some random, esoteric medical condition that no one in their right mind should ever expect a junior doctor to know. And anyway, Iwaizumi is a smart and conscientious guy, even by med school standards. It’ll take more than one brilliant, intense mentor to rattle him.
‘That’s… not all,’ Suga continues, but he doesn’t get to complete his sentence because someone shouts ‘Iwaizumi, look out’ just then, and Iwaizumi leans back seconds before a poorly aimed dart flies straight across his face. By the time he’s recovered from the shock, the others have already moved onto a new topic, and Iwaizumi decides to just drop the matter. It’s just one mentor, and the rotation’s only going to last two months; even if the Oikawa guy turns out to be someone who’s crawled straight out from the ninth circle of hell, he’ll just have to suck it up for two months.
And then I’m going to be Dr. Iwaizumi, Iwaizumi thinks, in a self-congratulatory manner he rarely condones, and happily brings another glass of alcohol to his lips.
It’s almost 1a.m. when Iwaizumi decides to head off for home. The rest of his friends are still going strong, but Iwaizumi’s shift starts early the next day, and Miyagi Central Hospital’s pretty far from his apartment. He pays a little more than his share of the bill—he’s conscientious and considerate like that—before bidding everyone goodbye and making his way out. The bar’s located strategically in the middle of town, so it’s really crowded despite it being late into Sunday night, and Iwaizumi finds himself alternately being shoved by strangers and getting wedged between random people.
He’s almost out of the bar when, out of nowhere, someone hurls an entire jugful of alcohol onto his face.
‘The fuck,’ Iwaizumi says, and succumbs into a coughing fit. Alcohol is dripping down from his face and soaking into his favourite polo tee, causing the fabric of his shirt to cling onto his chest unpleasantly. He’s barely managed to gather himself when a guy hurriedly walks up to him.
‘I’m so sorry,’ the guy says, running his gaze over Iwaizumi’s sorry state; he looks equal parts amused and distraught. ‘I think that was meant for me—’
Just then, a girl stalks up to the both of them, pulls the guy away from Iwaizumi by his collar, and starts to hurl a string of profanities at him; her speech is slurred, and she reeks of alcohol. ‘You said you’re gonna love me forever,’ the girl shrieks wildly, amidst a bunch of other phrases that Iwaizumi does not care to repeat. ‘And then I turned away for a moment and you were flirting with the other girl—’
‘I’m flattered that you should be so interested in me, but I’d prefer if you didn’t make promises to yourself on my behalf,’ the other guy begins feebly, wincing a little at the girl’s high-pitched screaming, but his companion breaks into a second round of verbal abuse, with little regards for collateral damage. Iwaizumi feels the beginnings of an alcohol-and-noise-pollution induced headache start to loom ominously at the back of his head, and curses inwardly.
‘God, I’m so sorry,’ the guy says, turning to Iwaizumi. ‘How much would it cost to dry clean your shirt—’
‘It’s—okay,’ Iwaizumi says, feeling kind of peeved. The other man is handsome; Iwaizumi can make out artfully dishevelled hair, high cheekbones, and a proud, cheeky mouth even amidst the poor lighting of the bar. He seems like the flirty type, the type to lead girls on and then recoil at the first sign of commitment, the very sort of guy that irks Iwaizumi to no end. The other guy looks like he’s going to say something, but the girl launches into another tirade just then, and Iwaizumi hurriedly takes the opportunity to quickly make his way out of the bar, away from the lovers' spat.
He looks and smells like a drunken mess, and people are throwing him odd looks and scuttling away from him whenever he walks past. Just my awful luck, Iwaizumi thinks wryly to himself, and prays that the misfortune will not continue on to the next day.
Shockingly, getting yourself half-wasted the day before a morning shift turns out to be a terrifically bad idea. Iwaizumi sleeps soundly through three of his alarms, and it all culminates in him hastily picking out a curry-stained shirt, fishing out his most awful looking flamingo-print tie to go with said shirt, and only making it to the hospital a good fifteen minutes later than the stipulated timing the next day.
‘Good morning, I’m looking for Dr. Oikawa,’ Iwaizumi tells the nurse at the nurse station, panting and out of breath, and clumsily slings on a rather crumpled looking white coat on because he didn’t have the time to fold it nicely into his bag in the morning. His vaguely registers a series of interesting growling sounds emanating from his empty, breakfast-less stomach, and almost writhes in embarrassment. Wonderful, Hajime, way to make a first impression, he thinks sardonically to himself.
‘Dr. Oikawa has started his morning round with his team,’ the nurse tells him, looking a little concerned. ‘I think they’re still somewhere in this ward; check room eleven.’
Iwaizumi thanks the nurse and makes his way briskly to room eleven. Sure enough, there’s a group of doctors in white coats, all of them hunched over one of the beds in the room, seemingly in some sort of deep, serious discussion. The group of five start to leave the bed just as Iwaizumi makes his way over, almost colliding rather uncooly into an IV pole in the process.
‘Hello, I’m the new junior doctor,’ Iwaizumi begins, addressing a bunch of amused-looking doctors, but he freezes up before he can continue any further because he looks carefully at the group and sees—Mr. Handsome Flirt from the night before, the one who indirectly wrecked his favourite polo tee. He drops his gaze to Mr. Handsome Flirt’s name tag and, because the universe is obviously conspiring to gather as much fun from his miseries as possible, it reads Dr. Oikawa Tooru.
‘You must be Iwaizumi Hajime,’ Oikawa says, and Iwaizumi finds himself nodding woodenly. Something akin to shock and incredulity flashes in Oikawa’s eyes for the briefest of moments, before it disappears. If he’s embarrassed—as he should, if he even possesses a single modicum of conscience, Iwaizumi thinks sourly to himself—he doesn’t show it at all. Oikawa turns and smiles at the rest of the team. ‘Everyone, meet Iwaizumi. He’s the junior doctor assigned to me, so he’ll be following us for the next two weeks.’
There’s a series of brief, non-committal ‘hellos’. Everyone stares at Iwaizumi with unabashed curiosity, as if they’re not quite sure as to what to make of him, with his curry stained shirt and crooked flamingo tie and scruffy white coat. Iwaizumi’s hands are itching to neaten his crumpled collar, and he suddenly feels incredibly self-conscious.
‘You’re late,’ Oikawa remarks, with an irritatingly innocent look on his face. ‘Had a busy Sunday night?’
It takes Iwaizumi twenty-three years of excellent upbringing, and the prospect of irreversibly butchering his medical career, and silently imagining Oikawa being impaled with two hundred scalpels in the most interesting ways possible, to prevent himself from physically reaching out and strangling Oikawa. Instead, he manages to grit out something vaguely resembling a cross between a smile and a grimace, and says, in his most acquiescent voice possible, ‘yeah, sorry.’
‘Alright,’ Oikawa says. He’s smiling knowingly now, that bastard. ‘Greetings can be done later. Let’s get on with the next patient.’
They quickly shuffle over to the next patient. Iwaizumi has barely recovered from Oikawa’s previous remark when the other man turns to him suddenly and says, ‘our patient here is Mr. Kazuo, a thirty-five year gentleman with suspected sepsis secondary to UTI. What are your suggested management plans?’
‘I’d do a blood culture and a urine culture first, and then put him on empirical IV antibiotic therapy while we wait for the results,’ Iwaizumi says, without missing a beat; if the question has taken him by surprise, he’s determined not to show it. Is Oikawa trying to assert his superiority after yesterday’s embarrassing encounter? Well, Iwaizumi’s having none of that. ‘Depending on the severity of his sepsis, I might also put him on IV fluids for hemodynamic support, ventilation in the event of severe hypoxemia and hypercapnia, and then watch out for complications such as hyperglycemia, and DIC.’
‘Alright, say both cultures come back positive for e. coli,’ Oikawa says. ‘What then?’
‘I’d put him on IV piperacillin and ciprofloxacin for two weeks,’ Iwaizumi replies; at this point he vaguely registers the doctor next to him murmuring something that sounds disconcertingly like, ‘it’s starting’. ‘Depending on bacterial resistance, I might also include amikacin, or imipenem.’
There’s a moment of silence, until Iwaizumi realises that Oikawa’s staring at him intently, like he’s expecting Iwaizumi to continue.
‘And… I’d… continue monitoring his vitals, and… rule out possible abscesses and… pyelonephritis...’ Crap, he’s blabbering now, and Oikawa still remains staunchly unimpressed. Iwaizumi wills himself to shake off the remaining wisps of grogginess from his hangover, but continues to stare blankly at Oikawa instead, panic bubbling steadily away in his chest. Shit, wasn’t Oikawa still at the bar last night, after he’d left? How can he look so ridiculously put together and in control of his faculties, when Iwaizumi’s bumbling cluelessly around like a hangover personified?
‘Iwaizumi,’ Oikawa begins, his tone measured and serious, his voice impassive; Iwaizumi tries and fails to reconcile this sight with the semi-drunk, flustered looking man he’d seen last night. Everyone’s staring at him now, and Iwaizumi is shrivelling inwardly because the last time he’d felt this stressed was when he’d held a cardiac arrest case in his arms during his emergency medicine rotation three months ago. ‘Name me the subgroups of patients susceptible to UTI.’
‘Women, especially pregnant women, infants, elderly...’ Realisation suddenly dawns upon him. Of course. ‘I’d also consult a urologist, and maybe send him for tests such as CT and MRI to localise underlying abnormalities predisposing him to the infection, since he’s in a demographic that’s at a very low risk of complicated UTI.’
The palpable tension in the air is dissolving, and Iwaizumi feels the doctor next to him breathe out in relief almost imperceptibly, so he supposes he’s hit the jackpot. He almost relaxes, until—
‘And what are the predisposing abnormalities for men?’
Oh fuck. ‘Anatomical abnormalities, like ureteric obstruction, BPH… and… others like... HIV and... anal intercourse?’ His voice starts to trail off feebly towards the end.
‘Iwaizumi,’ Oikawa says, as they make their way away from the patient’s bed. ‘I was under the impression that you graduated from one of the best medical schools in the nation. In the future, please make your way here on time, and remember to read up on the cases everyday before we start morning rounds.’
Oikawa’s smiling faintly at him now; his smile is not wholly insincere, but there’s something patently disconcerting in his expression. Iwaizumi feels an unpleasant feeling niggling at him in his chest that has nothing to do with being shamed in front of a group of doctors, and then he realises—he’s disappointed in himself. Checking up on patients is his job as a junior doctor, and he shouldn’t have slackened off, even and especially on his first day of work.
‘Sorry, I’ll take note in the future,’ Iwaizumi murmurs with a heavy heart, but Oikawa has already moved on with the rest of the team.
The team makes its way from bed to bed with inhuman speed, but the patient list is endless, and it takes them three tedious hours to finish their morning rounds, by which time Iwaizumi has started to hurt in no less than five anatomical sites, the most pressing locations being his feet and his brain. He feels like he’s just emerged from a marathon.
Oikawa turns out to be a meticulous and attentive doctor, making sure to listen to every of his patients’ complaints and grievances, and gently maneuvering the conversation back to the topic on hand whenever the patients start to derail to other irrelevant issues. It makes Iwaizumi simultaneously heartened and confused and slightly pissed off. He’d labeled Oikawa (somewhat prematurely, he realises in hindsight) as a careless flirt who’d ruined his shirt, and it’s disconcerting and befuddling to experience the other serious, considerate side to him.
‘Alright,’ Oikawa says to the team, as they reach the lobby. ‘I’m going to have to take Iwaizumi here for his briefing. Hanamaki, please look to the tests we scheduled for today. The rest of you can go finish up whatever jobs that need to be done, and clinics will start in an hours’ time.’
Everyone nods in synchrony and disappears with frightening efficiency. Oikawa turns to address Iwaizumi.
‘Have you had breakfast?’ Oikawa asks, out of a hundred other possible conversation starters.
Is this guy seriously trying to make small talk, Iwaizumi wonders, feeling somewhat incredulous. ‘Well, I was in a rush, so...’
‘That won’t do. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!’ Oikawa says, brightly, like Iwaizumi is a kindergartener with minimal understanding of the food pyramid, and not a medical school graduate. ‘Actually, it’s probably going to be your only meal of the day.’
‘I’ll take note of that,’ Iwaizumi murmurs; he feels vaguely touched, for some odd reason. Mostly because the previous doctors he’d worked under barely had enough time to even acknowledge his presence, much less ask about his breakfast habits. One of them hadn’t even remembered his full name till the day Iwaizumi left.
‘I’ll get you some breakfast, and brief you in the meantime,’ Oikawa says, and presses the elevator button. ‘Besides, I still owe you for yesterday.’
‘Right,’ Iwaizumi replies, because he has completely no idea as to what he should say to, or expect from, the bizarre and mercurial doctor standing in front of him, ‘alright, thanks.’
The next day, Iwaizumi makes sure to reach the hospital early to read up on case files before morning rounds—only to see Oikawa already in the on-call room, hunched over a computer and scribbling furiously away at a bunch of case notes.
‘Hey,’ Iwaizumi says, softly, and Oikawa almost jumps in his seat.
‘Good morning, Iwaizumi,’ Oikawa says, brightly, although his hair is all scruffy (as opposed to the artfully dishevelled state from the day before), and his eyes are puffy from lack of sleep. It strikes Iwaizumi then that anyone who can power through such a hectic lifestyle and still have the time to go to bars and flirt with multiple women must either be insanely capable, or just plain insane.
‘I see you’re here early today,’ Oikawa continues, looking at Iwaizumi approvingly. ‘You learn fast.’
‘Is there anything I could help you with,’ Iwaizumi offers, and Oikawa promptly dumps an entire armful of case files into his hands.
‘We’ve plenty of new admissions from the ED today, since it’s our team’s turn to take in the acute cases,’ Oikawa says, as Iwaizumi attempts to balance the heap of files in his arms precariously. ‘You can help me look through these, and then maybe check up on the patients later.’
‘Will do,’ Iwaizumi says, and pauses then, because—reviewing cases before morning rounds is usually a job delegated to junior doctors, and not medical officers like Oikawa. He shouldn’t have to drag himself here at an ungodly hour, to deal with a task as menial and tedious as this.
Just then, Oikawa’s phone starts to ring. Oikawa gives a resigned little sigh, before pressing 'accept' and bringing the phone to his ear.
‘Hello, this is Oikawa speaking. Oh, Aiko.’ Oikawa frowns a little. ‘Right, right. I’ll be over in a while.’
‘Nurse Aiko called, she needs us to deal with a difficult patient,’ Oikawa explains to Iwaizumi, after he hangs up. ‘You should come with me.’
‘Right,’ Iwaizumi says, and hastily puts the case files back onto the table. They hurry over to ward 15, where a very frazzled looking nurse is waiting for them.
‘It’s bed thirty,’ Aiko says, furrowing her brows and glancing over nervously at an old lady sitting on a bed. The frustration in her voice is palpable. ‘She’s just been operated on for her perforated stomach, but she’s got a huge infection at the surgical site and she’s been rejecting whatever interventions we’ve been offering. She can’t eat or drink, so she’s starving and dehydrated, but she’s rejecting central IV catheterisation.’
Oikawa frowns. ‘She needs treatment soon; gastro just contacted me half an hour ago and told me that she might need another surgery.’
Aiko shakes her head, her loose bun swishing messily behind her. ‘We told her about that too, and she said no. She doesn’t even want us to put a tube into her.’
‘Alright,’ Oikawa says, slowly setting down the case file. ‘Thanks, Aiko. I’ll see what I can do.’
They make their way to bed thirty. A deceptively tiny woman, well into her seventies, sits on the bed, with a rather pinched and severe-looking expression on her face. She folds her arms angrily when she sees the two of them approaching her bed; Iwaizumi’s heart sinks because he’s seen patients like this before, and they’re usually formidable forces of nature, stubborn as mules, and armed with unforgiving sharp tongues that are quick to taunt and insult.
‘Hello, Mdm Himura,’ Oikawa says, features arranging themselves into an easy, charismatic smile, the patented smile that never fails to charm unknowing patients into doing his bidding. (Iwaizumi, who’s terrible at dealing with elderly ladies, will later spend a not-insignificant amount of time in front of his bathroom mirror, trying and failing to emulate that expression.)
Mdm Himura is made of sterner stuff than your average female, though, because she remains staunchly unimpressed. ‘I’d like to see a doctor who isn’t going to answer me in monosyllables and treat me like a baby.'
‘The doctor is right here,’ Oikawa reassures her, without missing a beat.
Mdm Himura peers at Oikawa with a mix of suspicion and apprehension. ‘They never have time to listen, these doctors. Always in a hurry to do this and attend to that.’
‘It can get very busy here,’ Oikawa says, soothingly. ‘I’m so sorry to hear about that, though. I’ve time now, so feel free to tell me whatever you want.’
Mdm Himura makes a dismissive tch sound, but looks considerably less affronted than she was a minute ago.
‘You’re looking pretty good for someone who’s recently been through a surgery,’ Oikawa says, changing the topic.
‘You’ve strange taste in women,’ she retorts without missing a beat. Oh, Iwaizumi thinks, she’s good.
‘I like feisty ones,’ Oikawa replies smoothly, and Mdm Himura does laugh aloud at that; Iwaizumi smiles too, in spite of himself.
‘So,’ Oikawa continues, ‘what current concerns do you have right now?’
Mdm Himura’s features contort themselves into a well-worn frown, the edges of her puckered mouth drooping downwards resolutely. ‘They’re thinking of putting all sorts of weird tubes into me. I thought I’d be able to go home after the surgery, but now they’re saying that I’ve to stay here at least a week longer. That’s absurd.’
‘I’m sorry to hear about that,’ Oikawa says, placing a reassuring hand onto Mdm Himura’s forearm. He’s speaking louder than usual and a little slowly, but not so slow to the effect of being patronising; this is a man who understands that talking to patients is an art in itself. ‘It’s just that infections are very common after a surgery like yours, because stomach contents are not clean, and they tend to spill out of the wounds. That’s what results in an infection.’
Mdm Himura gives a disbelieving harrumphing sound, but the beginnings of doubt have started to creep upon her face. ‘But still. Now I’ve to go for another surgery. Who’s to say I won’t get infected again?’
‘The whole point of the second surgery is to remove the infection,’ Oikawa says, undaunted by Mdm Himura’s haughty expression, and her caustic tone. ‘And the best thing you can do for yourself right now is to build up enough strength to last through it.’
‘And what if I really, really don’t want a surgery?’
‘As the doctor who’s been assigned to your care, that isn’t something I would recommend,’ Oikawa says, carefully. ‘But you’re an adult capable of making informed choices, so I have no right to force you into doing what you don’t want to do.’
Mdm Himura pauses.
‘I’m not going to last without a second surgery, am I,’ she says, sounding a little sombre.
‘Not very likely, no,’ Oikawa says, with an apologetic smile.
‘Which means I’ve to stick all these tubes back into me.’
‘Only two,’ Oikawa replies. ‘And I’ll make sure to do it personally, so you’ll experience minimal discomfort. Would that be alright with you?’
Mdm Himura scoffs, but when she speaks her words have little bite behind them. ‘You sound confident.’
Oikawa smiles. ‘Well, it’s not baseless confidence.’
Mdm Himura closes her eyes for a few seconds.
‘Alright,’ she says eventually, dragging her words out slowly. ‘Set the lines.’
‘I can’t believe you talked her into it,’ Iwaizumi says in slight awe, on their way back to the on-call room.
Oikawa winks, honest-to-god winks at Iwaizumi. ‘It’s just me. I’m irresistible.’
Iwaizumi stares at him, rendered momentarily speechless. For someone whose bedside manners are impeccable, Oikawa seems to have absolutely no working knowledge of workplace appropriate behaviour.
‘I was kidding, don’t look at me like that,’ Oikawa says, and laughs. ‘It just comes with practice.’
‘Right,’ Iwaizumi says, a little doubtfully, but he does a poor job at hiding his smile.
The first week of Iwaizumi’s rotation can be summed up thusly: reaching the hospital at ungodly hours (although not earlier than Oikawa, never earlier than Oikawa, Iwaizumi suspects that Oikawa is actually a permanent fixture of the on-call room), handling jobs way beyond his job scope (which he supposes is only fair, because Oikawa happens to be something like a formidable nurse-junior-doctor-medical-officer-in-one), getting pushed to his limits physically and mentally, getting grilled and completely destroyed by Oikawa during every single morning round, crawling back home close to midnight, and then finally collapsing in a sorry heap into bed.
‘He’s fucking insane,’ Iwaizumi says, when he meets Suga for a quick drink on Sunday night. Having learned his lesson from the past week, he’s sipping angrily away at orange juice, which is possibly the most non-alcoholic and also the lamest thing you can order from a bar ever, and it’s doing a terrible job at quelling his frustrations. ‘He expects me to read up on every single case before we start ward rounds at eight in the morning. Do you know how many patients we go through a day, on average? Fourty. Fucking. Patients. And then he grills me about every. Single. Minute. Detail. And then he points out every small mistake I make. No, Iwaizumi, the patient’s HbA1c level read eight point nine two, not eight point eight! There’s a difference! And then he'll spend like, ten minutes talking about the importance of getting my facts right. Fucking Christ.’
‘I know, right,’ Suga says, sympathetically, and takes a dainty sip of his cocktail that Iwaizumi is decidedly not ogling enviously. ‘I didn’t get him as my mentor, but my friend did. He lost like twenty pounds in two months, and almost had to take an extended medical leave after the rotation.’
‘And the worst part is,’ Iwaizumi says, swirling the drink with his straw vehemently, causing orange liquid to splash all over the countertop, ‘the worst part is, he does everything he tells you to do with, like, thrice the efficiency and diligence, so it’s like, I-did-it-and-so-can-you, so you can’t even complain about it. And you know why? It’s because he practically lives in the hospital. Either that, or he has like, fourty-eight hours a day, or a time machine or something, because there’s no way any sane person can run through so many patients a day.’ Oikawa has a peculiar habit of glossing through charts and numbers like one might casually flip through the daily horoscope section of the newspaper, and then regurgitating the information with frightening accuracy. Iwaizumi might be jealous, if he weren’t so busy being disturbed.
Suga laughs. ‘Are you sure you don’t want any alcohol?’
Iwaizumi sighs, and shakes his head. ‘I have to report by six a.m. tomorrow, so no.’
Suga gives Iwaizumi a consoling pat on the shoulder. ‘Two months will be over before you know it.’
‘I’ll be over before I know it,’ Iwaizumi murmurs despairingly, and tries not to weep into his orange juice.
‘Today’s last few patients will be a little special,’ Oikawa says, after a particularly long and gruelling morning round the following Wednesday. ‘We’ve got a few paediatric patients spilled over to our care because paeds is completely short of manpower.’ Iwaizumi realises that Oikawa’s looking a little unsettled and jittery, for some strange reason. His usual air of confidence seems to have been replaced by a sort of uncharacteristic nervousness.
Then he shrugs it off, because there’s no way the Dr. Oikawa Tooru can be afraid of a few kids half his height when he has tamed entire legions of finicky, hypochondriac old women into submission. They make their way to a boy who’s curled up in bed.
‘Hello, Daisuke,’ Oikawa says tentatively, addressing the boy with a sort of apprehension that Iwaizumi has theretofore never seen grace his face. ‘How are you feeling today?’
Daisuke cracks open an eye and stares at Oikawa intently for a moment, before finally coming to a verdict. ‘You’re the one who gave me that jab. I don’t like you, go away,’ he says, and then quickly squeezes his eyes shut and turns his back to Oikawa.
‘He’s always been really bad with kids,’ Iwaizumi hears Hanamaki mutter to Matsukawa. Oikawa must’ve heard it too, because he visibly bristles, and hurriedly tries to talk to Daisuke again. ‘Hey, Daisuke, listen to—’
Daisuke springs up in bed. ‘Go away,’ he screams, pointing an incriminating finger at Oikawa, and for an awful moment he sucks in a huge breath, his face flushes red, and then he starts bawling. Oikawa quickly takes a step back, glancing over at the team like he’s a cornered thief caught in the act, and Iwaizumi feels a ridiculous urge to laugh because he’s never seen Oikawa look so helpless and mollified. That’s when he notices the pile of pokemon figurines littered over Daisuke’s bed.
‘Hey,’ Iwaizumi says, to the surprise of everyone around him, ‘Isn’t that Darkrai? That’s like really rare, where’d you get that from?’
To everyone’s relief, Daisuke stops crying almost immediately. He tilts his head up and peers at Iwaizumi with unabashed curiosity through his long, tear-lined lashes.
‘Mama got it for me after I got hospitalised,’ Daisuke says, proudly. He hiccups.
‘My sister collects them, and I’ve been trying to find a Darkrai one for her for ages, you’re so lucky,’ Iwaizumi says. ‘Do you have the whole Legendary Pokemon collection?’
‘Yeah,’ Daisuke says. He lifts up his blanket with a dramatic flourish, and reveals an even larger hoard of pokemon figurines piled underneath. ‘I've got everything, except for Kyogre and Latios.’
‘That’s a bummer,’ Iwaizumi says, empathetically. ‘Hoenn’s legendaries are the best legendaries.’
Daisuke nods furiously. ‘I know, right!’
‘My favourite is Groudon,’ Iwaizumi tells Daisuke. ‘I always use it when I’m battling with my sister.’
‘Groudon isn’t that cool. I think Latios is the best,’ Daisuke says, scrunching his little nose to make his point.
‘My sister has an extra Latios,’ Iwaizumi says. ‘Maybe if I asked real nice, I could give you the extra one.’
Daisuke looks at Iwaizumi like he’s Halloween and Christmas Day personified. ‘You can?’
‘Only if you agree to let us examine you now,’ Iwaizumi says, and Daisuke flops down onto the bed with lightning speed, pulls down his pants, and lifts his shirt up to his chest.
By then the whole team is staring at both of them, with varying degrees of bafflement written clearly on their faces. Oikawa in particular looks completely agog.
‘Right,’ Oikawa says after a brief silence, the edges of his mouth twitching up faintly in amusement. ‘Right, let’s get on with it.’
They get the examination done in record speed, and with minimal protest from Daisuke. Daisuke reaches out and grabs Iwaizumi by his hand just as the team is about to leave for the next patient.
‘Can you be my friend?’ Daisuke asks, bashfully. ‘You’re the first grown-up ever to know so much about pokemon.’
‘Of course,’ Iwaizumi says, and at the back of his mind he registers vague muffled laughter coming from Oikawa’s direction. ‘You can call me Iwaizumi.’
‘Iwa-chan,’ Daisuke says happily, pulls up his pants, and snuggles back into his blankets.
‘So,’ Oikawa tells Iwaizumi, when they’re alone in the on-call room later. ‘Have you checked up on bed sixteen, Iwa-chan?’
‘Yeah, radiology got back to us and—wait,’ Iwaizumi says, turning his head slowly to regard Oikawa with abject horror, ‘wait, what did you just call me.’
‘I said Iwa-chan,’ Oikawa hums, looking extraordinarily and maddeningly pleased with himself.
‘You can’t call me that,’ Iwaizumi splutters, completely aghast. He resists the urge to strangle both Oikawa and himself right there and then.
‘Why? I think it has a nice ring to it,’ Oikawa says, flashing Iwaizumi an infuriating smile. ‘Iwa-chan.’
Iwaizumi tries to speak, but only manages to produce a constipated, strangled noise. Oikawa laughs.
‘You’re very good with kids, you know,’ Oikawa says, with a sort of earnestness and sincerity that surprises Iwaizumi. ‘I wish I could be as good as you are.’
‘I’ve a few younger siblings, and I did a lot of babysitting as a kid,’ Iwaizumi murmurs, feeling vaguely embarrassed at Oikawa’s sudden declaration of admiration. ‘So I know how to deal with them.’
‘I grew up with an older sister,’ Oikawa says, and grins cheekily. ‘That explains the type of patients we’re good at dealing with, huh.’
You’re not just good with older females, Iwaizumi thinks almost instinctively, but thankfully he doesn’t give that sentiment voice. Instead he busies himself with the desktop, and tries resolutely to not be bothered by Oikawa’s repeated taunts of ‘Iwa-chan’ throughout the rest of the afternoon.
A month passes by in a flash. The days get even longer, if possible, and by the time Iwaizumi realises that Oikawa has been slowly but steadily increasing his workload, it’s already too late and he’s neck-deep in work. The two of them spend an increasing amount of time staying in the hospital late into the night, and sometimes Iwaizumi will find himself waking up in the on-call room at 2a.m., slumped in front of the old hospital desktop, with an unattractive puddle of drool collecting on his sleeves. More often than not, Oikawa’s coat will be slung over his shoulders, and there’ll be a packet of milk bread next to the desktop, with a note saying something along the lines of ‘rest well, Iwa-chan’. Iwaizumi doesn’t know when their relationship blurred from strictly mentor-mentee to something almost like friendship, but—maybe because they’re both still the same age after all, hospital hierarchy be damned, or maybe because he’s too busy to make other proper friends—he finds himself slowly warming up to Oikawa more than he’d like to admit.
‘It’s weird, you know?’ Iwaizumi says to Suga, when they’ve finally found the time amidst their busy schedules to meet up again for brunch. ‘During ward rounds he’s always so efficient and intense like, if I don’t get the job done right he’ll eat my liver or something. But he can be kind of nice, sometimes, too, like he’ll make sure I get enough rest when I’m really tired, even if it means more work for himself. And then at random moments he acts like he’s ten, and it’s Iwa-chan this and Iwa-chan that—’
Suga almost chokes on his sandwich; Iwaizumi finds himself looking distractedly at bits of pickles plopping down from the bread onto the tray, and all of a sudden he's thinking of Oikawa, for some disturbing reason. Oikawa’s a picky eater, and sometimes lunchtime will consist of Iwaizumi looking frustratedly at Oikawa as he removes his pickles tediously from his sandwich or his burger, painstaking slice by painstaking slice. ‘He calls you Iwa-chan?’
Oh shit. Iwaizumi didn’t mean that let that slip. ‘Well… yeah. It’s a long story. Some kid thought it might be a good idea to call me that, and Oikawa kind of… picked up the habit.’ Iwaizumi grimaces.
Suga laughs. ‘I’m not sure if that’s cute, or disturbing.’
‘Definitely disturbing, please go with disturbing,’ Iwaizumi says wryly, and pokes at his quiche. It falls apart easily, leaving Iwaizumi with a mess of crumbs and an eggy centre. ‘Whatever. At least we’re halfway through our rotations.’
‘Well—yes, yes we are,’ Suga says haltingly, the corners of his lips twitching, and throws Iwaizumi a terribly unnerving look, the one that makes Iwaizumi feels like he’s being undressed right in front of Suga’s eyes, like Suga knows something about Iwaizumi that he himself doesn’t.
‘What is it,’ Iwaizumi says, and stabs aggressively at a piece of egg before bringing it to his mouth. ‘You look like you want to say something.’
‘Nothing,’ Suga says, mildly. ‘The two of you just sound like you’re… really close.’
‘He’s my mentor,’ Iwaizumi says, and then feels annoyed at himself for the defensive edge to his voice because he’s sure that that isn’t helping anything. ‘Of course we would be.’
‘If you say so,’ Suga replies, with a maddening smile. ‘Iwa-chan.’
They don’t mention Oikawa again for the rest of the meal.
‘I can go check up on the rest of the patients, you should go and sleep.’
It’s Friday, and they’re halfway through the last night shift of the week. Iwaizumi’s so tired he literally almost walks face-first into a wall, but Oikawa’s faring even worse; Oikawa, who usually treats case files like they’re the one sacred thing in the world, and who has on occasion made Iwaizumi recopy entire pages of notes just because of ‘Iwa-chan’s terrible and unsightly penmanship’, has already misfiled his charts thrice that night.
Oikawa turns to him, mildly amused smile on his face. ‘Are you my mum, Iwa-chan?’
It takes all of Iwaizumi’s self-control not to break something—preferably Oikawa’s nose, and his infuriating stubborn streak—just then.
‘Being sleepy will just compromise your clinical acumen,’ Iwaizumi manages to grit out, and briefly ponders over the merits of taking anger management classes during his free time on weekends.
‘Alright, alright.’ Oikawa laughs (it comes out little more subdued than usual) and passes Iwaizumi a sheet of paper. ‘Let’s split the job so we can get everything done faster. I’ll go check up on patients in ward thirty-two, and you can do fifty-one.’
‘Okay,’ Iwaizumi says. Just four more hours, Iwaizumi thinks to himself. Four more hours till he gets to go home and sink into his hot bath and catch up with a weeks’ worth of sleep debt. Iwaizumi adjusts the stethoscope on his neck, rolls up his sleeves, and makes his way to the wards with renewed vigour.
The last patient to be reviewed for the night is Mr. Shinzo Kojima, a cheerful thirty-three year old man with stage 4 colon cancer; the first time Iwaizumi’d talked to him, Shinzo’d been friendly and polite, and it was only later that Iwaizumi flipped open his case files and read, with a sinking heart, in thick cursive handwriting, an irrevocable death sentence masked behind frighteningly detached medical jargon: admitted for IO, primary dx: colon adenocarcinoma—stage 4. to treat palliatively, refer to onco for review. He’d made it a point to check on Kojima regularly thereafter, and they’ve built up a comfortable, if a little strange, relationship over the past four weeks. Sometimes the reality of Mr. Shinzo’s terminal diagnosis creeps upon Iwaizumi and it’s all very sombre, but the flip side of the grim situation is that Mr. Shinzo’s cancer cells are still slightly receptive to novel chemotherapy, so they’ve managed to stave off the worst possible outcomes for the time being.
‘Mr. Shinzo,’ Iwaizumi says, making his way to the man’s bed. ‘Mr. Shinzo, are you awake? I’m going to need a few blood samples from you.’
No response. The room is silent, save for the whirring sound of fans on the ceiling. Iwaizumi gives Mr. Shinzo a gentle tap on his shoulders. ‘Mr. Shinzo?’
Iwaizumi feels something cold and nasty slowly creeping to his heart, wrapping around it like tendrils. With fumbling hands, he places his index finger underneath Mr. Shinzo’s nose—no breathing. Fuck, Iwaizumi thinks to himself, completely incapable of other thoughts. Fuck, fuck, fuck fuck. He brings his ear to Mr. Shinzo’s chest and—no heartbeat, either.
Iwaizumi rips open Mr. Shinzo’s shirt like his life depends on it—which it does—and starts to press down furiously at the man’s chest. Everything’s in a blur now, and he vaguely remembers screaming ‘code blue, code blue’ to the nearby nurse on duty. Blood is thundering in his ears and he’s pumping and pumping and he faintly registers the sickening crunch of ribs getting broken and the man on the bed is still slumped beneath him, pale and lifeless and unmoving, and he has to remind himself to breathe, he needs to breathe and he needs to save Mr. Shinzo, Mr. Shinzo who has a wife and two kids and—
—and then Iwaizumi feels someone’s hand on his, pulling him away from Mr. Shinzo. Iwaizumi turns and sees Oikawa.
‘Let go,’ Iwaizumi yells, and tries to yank his hands away, but is met with surprising strength. ‘Let go, I’ve got to—’
‘Iwaizumi,’ Oikawa tells him, slowly, softly, firmly, ‘you can’t try to resuscitate him. This patient is no code.’
Oikawa slowly releases his grip, and Iwaizumi lets his arms fall to his sides, dangling limply. Mr. Shinzo is no code, and Iwaizumi should know; he’d been there when Mr. Shinzo had signed the Do Not Resuscitate order: in the event of the patient’s cardiac and respiratory arrest… cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be withheld. He’d stood there as Mr. Shinzo had passed the form to Oikawa, and he’d even laughed when Mr. Shinzo had made a witty, albeit somewhat morbid remark, about his situation. It’d been a remarkably fuss-free affair, even if did leave a bitter taste in Iwaizumi’s mouth for a while. So, yes: Mr. Shinzo is no code, of course. And Iwaizumi, of all people, should know that, of course.
Iwaizumi should be content with the fact that Mr. Shinzo will no longer have to suffer, that they’ve done everything they possibly can in their capacity as doctors, that they’ve made sure to provide the best possible palliative care for Mr. Shinzo till the very last second of his life. It’s just—
‘He shouldn’t die like—like this,’ Iwaizumi says, faintly. He lifts his gaze up, and almost blinks in surprise at the sight; fluorescent hospital light falls across Oikawa’s face, casting a grim shadow across Oikawa’s tired features, accentuating their haggardness. He looks twenty years older, and it just makes everything worse. ‘Not—not yet. Not now. He—he should’ve died at—at home, with his kids and his wife. Not—like this—’
Oikawa reaches out and places a steady hand on Iwaizumi’s shoulder, and that’s when Iwaizumi looks down at his own hands to realise that he’s visibly trembling.
‘Iwaizumi, please go back to the on-call room,’ Oikawa says, firmly but not unkindly, his words reverberating distantly in Iwaizumi’s mind, a lingering echo. ‘I’ll be settling everything here.’
Iwaizumi nods woodenly and stars to make his way back in what he thinks is the general direction of the on-call room. His legs are numb; behind him, Oikawa’s voice pierces through the suffocating stillness of the night. ‘Time of death, three twenty-five in the morning.’
Iwaizumi makes his way to the on-call room dazedly, and sinks down onto the floor, next to the door. He doesn’t move for the next two hours.
Oikawa returns to the on-call room eventually, although Iwaizumi has no idea as to how much time has passed since three twenty-five a.m.; Oikawa closes the door gently behind him, and tilts his head down to inspect Iwaizumi, who’s still sitting on the floor in a dazed stupor.
‘What am I going to do with you,’ Oikawa says, his tone maddeningly gentle, his words so soft and laden with genuine concern that Iwaizumi wants to shut his ears because otherwise he’s going to cry, but he doesn’t want to cry, he doesn’t want to acknowledge that he needs to be consoled because that’s just selfish and presumptuous; it’s not like it’s his loss, think about Mrs. Shinzo, think about their kids, they’re the ones really suffering and he’s just a stupid junior doctor, and it’s not like he’s never dealt with patients dying before, he’s handled so many cases back in his emergency medicine posting, and yet, and yet—
‘It's alright,’ Iwaizumi says in a monotone, and hears his voice crack traitorously towards the end. He drops his gaze to the floor. ‘I’ll—I’ll be okay.’
There’s a prolonged period of stifling silence. Iwaizumi doesn’t look up, but he can feel Oikawa’s intent gaze upon him, boring a hole into his skull.
Oikawa turns and walks away to another corner of the room, and Iwaizumi briefly hears the rustling noise of pieces of paper being shuffled. Then Oikawa walks back to where Iwaizumi is, kneels down in front of him, and places a card gently onto Iwaizumi’s lap.
Iwaizumi looks at the card through blurred vision; it says, in a large, kiddyish scrawl, and horrifically misspelled Kanji, ‘Iwa-chan, thank you for taking care of me. You are my favourite doctor. Let’s play pokemon again soon. Next time I want to be a doctor like you. Love, very much, Daisuke.’ Next to that, there’s a crayon picture of a small boy holding hands with a guy in a white coat and a stethoscope, and whatever remaining space not taken up by the words or the two stick figures has been decorated liberally with a copious amount of blobby looking creatures that vaguely resemble poorly-drawn pokemon.
‘Daisuke’s mum came over to the hospital this afternoon, just to hand me this,’ Oikawa says, softly. ‘I wanted to pass it to you just now, but I didn’t have the time to.’
Iwaizumi stares wordlessly at the card.
‘We can’t always save everyone, Hajime,’ Oikawa continues. ‘But there’s a lot more to our job than just saving people. You tried to spend more time with Mr. Shinzo, didn’t you? All the times you could’ve gone home, or gone for lunch, you spent it with him. And that counted for something.’
Oikawa reaches his arm out, presumably to give Iwaizumi another pat on his shoulders, but seems to think better of it; Iwaizumi feels Oikawa wrap one arm around his back, settling for something between a hug and a pat on his back. ‘You’ll be okay,’ Iwaizumi hears Oikawa murmur against his ears.
Oikawa proceeds to sit down on the floor, next to him. They remain in silence, all the way till dawn breaks.
Iwaizumi spends most of the weekend alternately sleeping his feelings away and moping around groggily. He texts Suga to tell him about Friday’s disastrous night call, and Suga promptly shows up on Sunday morning after his own night call, armed with two tubs of ice-cream and a few of Iwaizumi’s favourite videos, thereby confirming Iwaizumi’s suspicions that Suga is, in fact, a beautiful angel sent to earth from the high heavens, for the sole purpose of dealing with the sorry asses of paltry mortals such as Iwaizumi.
They’re halfway through Spirited Away when Iwaizumi feels his phone vibrate, and he lifts an eyebrow in surprise because it’s a text from Oikawa.
how’re you feeling?
better, thanks for asking.
that’s great iwa-chan!! : ) : ) : )
Iwaizumi frowns then, unsure about how to respond. He considers asking Suga for help, since how-do-I-reply-to-my-superior-who’s-not-really-a-superior-when-he-sends-me-friendly-text-messages-with-an-undue-amount-of-smileys-and-addresses-me-by-strangely-affectionate-nicknames isn’t something up his alley. Then he dismisses the thought, because it’ll probably just end up with Suga lifting an eyebrow in that awful teasing manner of his, and him having to navigate awkward questions and deal with a lot of unnecessary explanations.
see you on Monday then.
His chat with Oikawa says that Oikawa is typing, so Iwaizumi doesn’t lock his phone. This continues for about two minutes, and Iwaizumi feels something ridiculously like nervousness—whatever for?—creeping up on him as he stares at the screen. Then a new message pops up.
yeah, see you! : ) : )
And that’s that. Iwaizumi locks his phone and throws it back onto the sofa, because the conversation has obviously ended. The thought leaves him oddly disappointed.
Iwaizumi supposes he should thank Oikawa personally for dealing with him on Friday’s call, so he reaches the hospital earlier than usual the next day. Mondays have always been busy days, though, and Iwaizumi doesn’t get to speak to Oikawa privately till the end of the day, when they’re sitting next to each other at the on-call room, catching a rare moment of peace between their night call. Oikawa has been camping in front of the desktop the whole night in rapt concentration, and Iwaizumi has been distractedly trying to read up on their new cases for the day.
‘Hey-Oikawa,’ Iwaizumi says, fiddling with the diaphragm of his stethoscope somewhat awkwardly. ‘About Friday.’
Oikawa looks up from the desktop; Iwaizumi steals a glance at the screen right before Oikawa minimises the window, in time to see that Oikawa’s been perusing a PubMed research article titled ‘Colorectal cancer: the relationship between prognosis, associated complications, and possible diagnostic markers for sudden death’.
So that’s what Oikawa’s been up to the whole night—following up on Mr. Shinzo’s disease. It doesn’t come across as a surprise, given Oikawa’s work ethic, but Iwaizumi looks at tousled, limpy hair and disturbingly huge eyebags, and feels heartened all the same.
‘Just, thanks a lot for Friday. And for dropping those texts yesterday.’ Iwaizumi swallows; his words are genuine, but he finds it all the more difficult to articulate them for that sincerity. ‘I really, really appreciate it.’
‘Oh,’ Oikawa says, and smiles, his eyes lighting up with a sort of brightness that no amount of gruelling all-nighters and difficult patients can touch. It makes Iwaizumi catch his breath, in spite of himself. ‘You’re welcome, Iwa-chan.’
There’s a moment of silence, broken only by the sound of Oikawa scribbling something furiously into a file. Then he turns and looks at Iwaizumi.
‘Say, Iwa-chan,’ Oikawa remarks idly, bringing his hand up to brush a lock of messy brown hair away from his face, and accidentally leaving a pen mark on his face. ‘What d’you want to specialise in in the future?’
By now, Iwaizumi’s so used to Oikawa’s peculiar habit of throwing him weird questions at even weirder timings that he isn’t even slightly thrown off by its randomness. And anyway, this isn’t even one of Oikawa's stranger questions, like the ones bordering on the edge of workplace harassment (Iwa-chan, have you ever thought about the anatomical advantage of having three eyes? An eye on your butt? What if we had penises on our elbows instead of between our legs?), so Iwaizumi’s answer comes out swiftly, and naturally. ‘Paeds, I guess.’
‘That would make sense,’ Oikawa hums. He beams at Iwaizumi. ‘You’re good with kids, after all.’
‘Right,’ Iwaizumi says, momentarily distracted by the smudge of blue ink resting on the pale skin stretched taut across Oikawa’s cheekbones, and then hurriedly shifts his glance away when he realises that he’s been staring.
‘What about you?’ Iwaizumi asks hastily, trying to distract Oikawa since the latter seems to have noticed his creepy gawking, too. ‘Why’re you in...’
Iwaizumi wants to ask, why are you in internal medicine, but he realises that he doesn’t really know how to word it without being offensive. Oikawa is a terrific internist, and internal medicine is, contrary to popular opinion, one of the most difficult and under-appreciated fields of medicine, but sometimes Iwaizumi wonders if Oikawa would’ve been better in another flashier, more glamorous specialty. Ophthalmology, for instance, traditionally takes in the best and the brightest (and, rumour has it, the most physically attractive); emergency medicine would suit someone like Oikawa, who buzzes with a sort of restless energy but who is also unshakeable composure in the face of pressure; and surgery might have been Oikawa’s forte, judging from the fact that Oikawa graduated top of his cohort for his final surgical exam (according to Suga.)
‘You wanted to ask why I’m in internal med?’ Oikawa asks, a look of amusement flickering across his face. ‘Don’t worry, I get that question often. At least you didn’t mean it as a backhanded remark, unlike some other people.’
‘I’m just a little curious,’ Iwaizumi says, a little sheepishly.
‘I did get offered places in a few other fields,’ Oikawa says, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. ‘But a lot of them felt really, hm, touch-and-go, y’know? For a while I thought I belonged to the emergency department, but most of my patients didn’t stay there for more than half a day. I did surgery for a while, too, but I was so busy helping out with surgeries that sometimes I’d find myself operating on patients that I’d never even spoken to before.’
‘So you chose internal med,’ Iwaizumi says, only realising then that he’s been leaning forward unconsciously; they’re barely a foot apart now.
‘Yeah,’ Oikawa says. ‘Ultimately it’s about what suits you the best, and what you’re looking for, isn’t it? And I thought, I came here to treat patients, not just diseases.’ He flashes an uncharacteristically sheepish, vulnerable smile at Iwaizumi, like he’s almost embarrassed. ‘It’s just lofty idealism, I guess. Haven’t managed to shake it off, even after med school.’
‘It isn’t lofty idealism,’ Iwaizumi says straightforwardly, without thinking. ‘You’re just a good doctor.’
The air seems to be charged with someone Iwaizumi can’t name; thoughts race in his mind, loud and urgent and disjointed, culminating in what seems to be a huge migraine. And, because he obviously still isn’t thinking, Iwaizumi reaches his hands out, rests his fingers against Oikawa’s jaw, and gently brushes his thumb against the ink-stained spot above Oikawa’s cheekbones.
The contact of skin on skin is warm, and Iwaizumi can feel the hard planes of Oikawa’s cheekbones as he runs his thumb over it in smooth, circular motions. Oikawa’s eyes widen, but he doesn’t move, and—this might just be Iwaizumi letting his imagination run wild—Iwaizumi sees the faintest trace of something like want, something like desire cross Oikawa’s face, for a fleeting instant.
‘There was, uh, something on your face,’ Iwaizumi says anti-climatically, not knowing how else to account for that peculiar, impudent gesture, and feels like punching his face for coming up with such a lame and shitty excuse.
‘Oh,’ Oikawa says, and Iwaizumi notes, with a strange sort of satisfaction, that his face is slightly flushed and he appears to be a little breathless. ‘Oh, yeah, thanks.’
They remain stock-still until Oikawa’s phone rings, a prelude to yet another urgent summon by Aiko, and the spell breaks.
Oikawa brings the phone up to his ears by the second ring. ‘Hey, Aiko. What is it?’ He frowns; Iwaizumi can hear the faint buzz of Aiko’s distressed voice, even though he’s a considerable distance away from the phone. ‘Right, we’ll head over now.’
Oikawa shoves his phone into his pocket, and turns to address Iwaizumi. ‘Just our luck; it’s another code blue tonight. You up for it?’ His tone is measured, and very calm, but Iwaizumi can sense the palpable worry behind the determined set of Oikawa’s eyes.
‘Let’s do this,’ Iwaizumi replies without hesitation, his mind humming with a sort of bravery he never knew he had, and a conviction that isn’t entirely his own.
Iwaizumi catches the slightest hint of a smile on Oikawa’s face then, right before the other man turns and walks briskly out of the room. Iwaizumi quickly shuffles to catch up with him; together they make their way into the brightly-lit corridors, and beyond.
(epilogue, three months later)
‘Iwa-sensei, you promised me you’re gonna finish telling me the story,’ the boy on the bed says petulantly, peering at Iwaizumi through his endearingly long lashes, puffing his cheeks out for extra effect. Something about the boy—about his impish demeanor, the inquisitive set of his eyes, and his quick, clever tongue, ever ready to hurl out a sharp retort or to win someone over with irresistibly charming words—reminds Iwaizumi of someone, but he can’t quite put his finger on who it is.
‘But Hiro, I already did,’ Iwaizumi negotiates, buck his syllables lack heat, and deep down he knows it’s a lost cause; it’s a well known fact that Iwaizumi-sensei is notoriously bad at saying no to children, and the paediatric patients under his care, bless their crooked little souls, tend to exploit him mercilessly for it.
Hiro, his most recent 6-year-old appendicitis case, is exceptionally ruthless. ‘You said there would be a sequel! I want a sequel!’
Iwaizumi sighs. It’s a rare event that he gets his Friday night off, and he’s been looking forward to going back to his apartment and unwinding with a good TV show, and possibly a glass of alcohol or two—but he supposes that’ll have to wait. He’s about to agree when he hears someone making their way up behind him.
‘Hiro-chan, you mustn’t bully poor Iwa-sensei like that.’
That voice—it can’t be. Iwaizumi turns back so quickly he almost gets a whiplash.
It’s Oikawa, and he’s smiling at the both of them with an inscrutable expression on his face. Iwaizumi tries not to look too surprised, but the fact is that they’ve not kept in contact over the past two months, ever since he’d finished his rotation in Miyagi Central Hospital; Iwaizumi had been busy with getting into his current paediatric residency programme, and Oikawa had been given a new junior doctor to boss around and scar mentally. It’s not like Iwaizumi hasn’t been picking up his phone time and again over the past two months, typing out messages to Oikawa without ever having the courage to send them; he wonders if the same can be said for Oikawa. The thought makes his insides shiver.
‘Your mum told me that you’ve been sent to the hospital, so I decided to swing by after work today,’ Oikawa begins, but Hiro cuts him off.
‘Uncle Oikawa,’ Hiro chirps brightly, squealing in delight, and Oikawa visibly winces.
‘Really, Hiro,’ Oikawa says, looking so affronted it’s almost comical, ‘you must stop calling me an uncle! I am not that old!’
‘Okay, Uncle Oikawa,’ Hiro says cheekily to a devastated Oikawa. Iwaizumi laughs aloud, and makes a mental note to tell Hiro an extra-long story the next time the boy demands for it.
‘What’s—so—funny—Dr.—Iwa—chan—,’ Oikawa manages to gasp out, in between a tickling match with Hiro.
‘It’s like you’re going up against a tinier version of yourself,’ Iwaizumi says. ‘Now you know how terrible you can be.’
‘How rude, Dr. Iwa-chan, considering I’m your superior,’ Oikawa says, just as Hiro jabs a finger straight into his belly button. ‘You little devil—ow!’
‘You were my superior,’ Iwaizumi corrects him, not bothering to keep the smugness away from his voice. It’s odd the he doesn’t have to treat Oikawa as a mentor any more, although Iwaizumi supposes it’s something he really doesn’t mind getting used to.
They entertain Hiro for a while, until the boy succumbs and allows Iwaizumi to examine him. Having finally finished his job for the day, Iwaizumi makes his way to the empty on-call room to wrap up the day’s discharge cases, and then pack up and go home. He’s halfway through stuffing his white coat haphazardly and impatiently into his bag, when he hears a faint knocking sound; Iwaizumi turns to the source of the noise, only to see Oikawa poking his head through the door.
Iwaizumi regards the man with an arched eyebrow, like he’s surprised, like he hasn’t been half-wishing and fully expecting Oikawa to be waiting for him.
‘So, Dr. Iwa-chan,’ Oikawa says, closing the door behind him, and Iwaizumi thinks he finally understands the trite and anatomically inaccurate but nonetheless apt saying known as butterflies in your stomach, ‘would you be free for dinner tonight?’
‘Sure, Trashykawa,’ Iwaizumi says, and it is testament to how nervous he is that words are slipping out from his tongue without exactly filtering through his brain.
‘You called me what,’ Oikawa says, his expression torn between shocked and indignant.
‘I came up with it after you made me clerk seventeen patients and set the lines for five patients and told me off for not doing everything in like, three hours, during a night shift,’ Iwaizumi says, by way of explanation, because he has absolutely nothing to lose now, ‘it was a useful coping mechanism that helped me not punch you.’
‘Iwa-chan, that’s terrible of you,’ Oikawa says, mollified. ‘I cannot believe you came up with such a cruel, childish nickname—’
‘There’s more. There’s Shittykawa from the time you made me memorise and recite entire passages from Talley O’Connor, and Crappykawa from the time you made me deal with a ward of, like, nine paediatric patients just cause I’m good at kids and you aren’t,’ Iwaizumi says, feeling the horrors of his intern days coming back to exact revenge on Oikawa with the fury of a thousand angry armadillos, ‘and this is just one out of many things I’ve been intending to tell you after I graduate.’
If Oikawa’s feeling insulted, he appears to be too dumbfounded to show his anger. ‘Right, and what are the others?’
‘This,’ Iwaizumi says, reaching out and cupping Oikawa’s face with his left hand, before leaning over and kissing him.
Iwaizumi’s thumb is sliding over the delicate softness of Oikawa’s cheeks, his lean fingers trailing across the sharp contours of Oikawa’s jaw, and he remembers, in disjointed fragments, snippets from that day in the on-call room—streaks of ink on bare trembling skin, slightly parted lips, cold fumbling fingers. Something warm and hazy unfurling in his ribcage, a lingering glance or two. Still summer air, charged with unspoken promises, emotions for which there were no words. These are the thoughts that flit across his mind as he parts Oikawa’s mouth with his gliding tongue, half-expecting some sort of hesitation or reluctance, only to be met with an equal measure of heat and tenderness and want.
‘Well,’ Oikawa says a little breathlessly, when they pull apart some time later, ‘that wasn’t too shabby, considering I waited three months for it.’
‘Your comprehension skills are as abysmal as ever, Iwa-chan,’ Oikawa says. ‘I’ve been waiting for a call, or at least a text, for three months now—’
‘Why didn’t you call?’ Iwaizumi says, and thinks about all the times he’d spent his evenings pacing around nervously in his living room like a lovesick, jilted lover, debating whether or not to call Oikawa; the sheer memory of it makes him want to curl up in embarrassment and die.
‘Well, I did strongly recommend getting my nephew admitted here under the care of a very capable Dr. Iwaizumi Hajime, didn’t I,’ Oikawa retorts.
‘Isn’t that just a really, really roundabout way of trying to contact me?’ Iwaizumi says, incredulously. ‘You could have texted.’
‘Texting’s too banal for me,’ Oikawa says, haughtily, and Iwaizumi finds himself seriously considering between socking Oikawa in the face, or pulling him in for another kiss. It’s a close call, but Iwaizumi doesn’t fancy getting his medical license revoked for breaking the nose of an insufferable asshole, so he makes do with the latter, and contents himself with Oikawa's surprised, muffled squeak, and a pair of fumbling hands making their way around his hips.
(Iwaizumi ends up staying in the hospital late into the night again, although this time, he thinks that he really doesn’t mind.)