Where am I?

The ceiling above him was hazy as he opened his eyes and slowly pieced together the events of the day. Between having been barely conscious for most of it, and the almost rhythmic drip of the IV fluid that was flowing into his veins, it was slow-going. With each blink, and in between glimpses of the pristine white-tiled ceiling, different faces donning white uniforms and surgical masks seemed to analyze him.

Great, the hospital, He thought, and if he could move right about then, he would groan and shove his face into his too-stiff hospital pillow.

God knows how much he hated it there — how much he despised the stiff pillows, the scent of antiseptic, and the too-clean everything. Don't get him started on the food either, because, while he would never complain if it meant that it discredited the efforts of the nurses and doctors who oh-so-readily tried to help him, he would rather be able to eat actual food.

He blinked once again, and this time he noticed flashes of black and red from the corner of his eye. Had those flashes been there before? He couldn't tell, but the colors seemed familiar and comforting.

What happened? How did I get here?

He recalled the suffocating plastic of an oxygen mask, flashes of Shintaro's anxious face, and Ayano's tears as they ran alongside his stretcher. Above all, he remembered Takane's hand clutched tightly around his, her eyes never leaving his face even as doctors swarmed his stretcher.

If he could sigh, he would, because he hated that this wasn't the first time that this happened.

Why now, too? Why when we were just starting to have fun?

The four of them had been at the arcade, and, though everything was fine at first, Haruka eventually started to feel fatigued. He tried to tell himself that the tightness in his chest was just excitement and that he'd be fine! He couldn't seize up when he was enjoying himself with his friends! That'd just be distasteful on his part and it'd ruin everyones' day!

Well, in the end, one thing lead to another, and…

Look where we are now, He thought bitterly.

Time was always hazy whenever he came down from an attack like this. It didn't help that he was prone to getting lost in thought anyways. That, combined with, you know, a terminal condition, only meant for more lost time on his part.

Time must have passed because whatever the doctors seemed to be pumping into his system seemed to be working. His breathing was a little less labored, and somewhere along the line, a doctor must've removed his oxygen mask. He felt a little stronger and managed to lift his head a little bit, enough to alert the person sitting next to him.

"Hey," softly said the person from next to him, and Haruka found himself blinking up at none other than Shintaro Kisaragi, "you're finally up."

From behind the other boy, the window showed that the sky was cast in a bright orangey-red. It'd be around sunset by now, and that made him feel even worse. How much time had Shintaro spent there? They had school tomorrow, and he robbed them of the last of their weekend. Great...

"Hey," Haruka sat up a little higher, using the backrest behind him to support his still weak body. The sound of his heartbeat pounded a little too-harshly in his ears, but he'd had worse. He could deal with this. It'd be the least he could do for wasting his friend's time, "Sorry about all this. Thanks for coming."

For a second, Shintaro's relieved smile faltered, and Haruka wondered if he did something wrong. He watched the other boy take his earphones out of his ears and bunch them up into his pocket, though he not once took his hand off of his phone or his eyes off of Haruka.

"Dude," Shintaro said incredulously, sounding a little offended, "you just woke up from that and that's what you're worried about?" Seeing Haruka's worried look, Shintaro sighed, "Seriously, we don't mind."

He felt a little guilty that he was happy to see his friend there — even if it meant that he was wasting the other boy's time. But Shintaro couldn't have been lying. Really, the boy was smarter than he'd ever be, but he couldn't lie to save his life. Now, if anything, Shintaro looked more worried, and it was almost enough to distract Haruka from his words.

"Wait, we?"

It was then that Shintaro's relieved expression faltered, and he raised an eyebrow, nodding towards the lower portion of the hospital bed.

Haruka followed the other boy's look, and his breath immediately hitched at what he saw.

To people other than him, Takane would not be considered a "pretty" sleeper. She drooled, slept in ways that made her messy pigtails frizz and tangle, snored, and, in all ways except the rise and fall of her chest, looked dead to the world.

But there she was in all of her zombie-like glory, using the edge of his hospital bed (and consequently one of his legs) as a pillow as she slept. The sight shouldn't have made his blood rush to his cheeks but it did.

"Did you seriously not feel her until then? You sure you're alright?" Shintaro said in a way that made Haruka think that he had meant it as a joke before seemly thinking that something might be wrong with his nervous system for him to not feel the weight of a whole teenage girl on his leg. "Wait, you're actually feeling okay, right?"

All Haruka did was send him a panicked look in return, eyes glued to the sight of the girl whose head was basically on top of him.

"Ayano wanted to apologize, by the way," After a moment of awkwardness, Shintaro continued, not being able to read the mood or the situation at all, "she said she had to make dinner for her siblings or something. So she had to leave."

Haruka made a choked noise in response, hardly acknowledging the other boy's words.

This was all so weird, because, as a child, he learned what it was like to be alone. Back then, his only friend was one of the nurses that were assigned to him. He remembered that he liked her. She was sweet and always snuck him triceratops stickers whenever she was assigned to him.

In a way, she reminded him of his mom. Except that she was... Y'know, alive and healthy. But then, one day, she gave him a triceratops plushie instead of the stickers and told him that she wouldn't be around anymore because she had her own family to return to.

(That also reminded him of his mom, because, though he knew that it wasn't her choice, she still left him).

And, just like that, though now with a green triceratops plushie in his arms, he was alone again.

Now, having not one, but two people in the room with him, was stifling — but not in a bad way. Like the heat in a sauna, it's weird at first but it's what you're there for.

…Also, YEAH, Takane was drooling a bit. He didn't really care, per se, but it's still really awkward to just... Sit there when your leg was right under that aforementioned wet-spot.

"Senpai," Shintaro said, and Haruka snapped his head back up, "you good? You spaced out again."

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry," Haruka said, but the idea of being alone was still something at the front of his mind. Shintaro's eyebrows were furrowed in the way that Haruka knew meant that he was thinking about something, and Haruka knew that the raven-haired boy would probably tell him to rest.

(And then he'd wake Takane up so they could leave him alone to rest. He knew that Shintaro probably meant well, but Haruka didn't want the sound of his heart monitor to be his only company again).

"Really! I'm just thinking about a few things," Haruka reassured, waving his hands in front of him, "like how we didn't get to play the game Ayano wanted to check out!"

It sucked that they didn't get to completely check out the arcade like they had wanted to (another reason why Haruka cursed his illness). Ayano had looked so excited to play that one game too...

"The Jojo's Bizarre Adventure game?" Shintaro asked, an eyebrow raised, "If that's what you're worried about, don't. I promised her that I'd go back with her and teach her how to play."

"Really?" Haruka asked, surprised, "you promised her?"

Haruka smiled at the way Shintaro's cheeks flushed when he realized the weight of his words, thinking it was sweet that Shintaro finally seemed to be making the effort.

(The younger boy was still pretty self-centered, but Haruka's noticed that he'd been trying more lately with the way he indulged Ayano and the way that he was here with him right now. He was glad that Shintaro had finally started to grow up).

"Shut up," Shintaro grumbled, seemingly trying to hide his face in the collar of his jacket, "it was the only thing that would get her to stop crying about it."

Haruka could read both of his juniors like a book, and now was definitely one of those times. Shintaro cared a lot, even if he didn't know how to show it. Haruka just hoped that he could be there the day Shintaro tried to teach her how to play. It'd be fun — especially if Takane was there too. She'd poke fun at them, and maybe he'd get to play her in something! That would be fun! Even if he lost!

From her resting place on the edge of his bed, Takane shifted a little bit, and now her hair was covering her face.

He and Shintaro locked eyes, both noticing her movement and both not knowing what to do about it. Should they wake her up or not? If so, how should they do it? Last time Shintaro tried, at least, Takane, without even opening her eyes, threw a pencil at Shintaro with a scary amount of accuracy, and the raven-haired boy barely managed to avoid it.

..Throwing a pencil wouldn't be that big a deal if it didn't stick into the wall behind Shintaro's head.

Well, when he tried to wake her up, he didn't get any pencils thrown at him, and Haruka supposed that he did want to talk to her, but at the same time, she just looked so comfortable...

Just as he thought that Takane snored loudly, and he heard Shintaro try to stifle a laugh.

..So yeah, she seemed to be comfortable. At least she had stopped drooling...

Takane wrinkled her nose in her sleep, the hair that was covering her face moving with the action

It must be uncomfortable for her to have her hair in her face, he tried to reason with himself, because yeah, he didn't understand how people could live with long hair (his bangs got in his eyes all the time! He didn't understand how people with long hair could deal with it), and because he knew damn well that he was just trying to make excuses. He wanted to see her face and touching her hair was a plus! Takane never usually let him do it!

In a brief moment of bravery, Haruka reached out and brushed her hair out of her face. His eyes felt glued to the scene, but honestly? He didn't mind it, even if Shintaro was undoubtedly watching and would definitely tease him about it later. But he allowed himself to smile all the same because all of this was worth it.

He'd miss it, the ways they'd talk in class, the way he'd laugh and offer her his cardigan to sleep on whenever she came particularly close to passing out and hitting her head on her desk. It was times like this when Haruka wished that he wasn't actually dying and that lovesickness was the disease he had instead. It's ironic, really, that a heart as weak as his was still capable of loving.

"Hey, Shintaro," Haruka breathed, voice quiet, "What are you guys going to do when I'm not around anymore?"

At his words, Shintaro's playful smile quickly dropped from his face, "What?"

"When I'm not around anymore," Haruka repeated, feeling oddly numb as he spoke, "What will you all do?"

"Hey, don't go talking like that," Shintaro stammered, and Haruka saw his hand clench around his phone, "it isn't funny."

He's tempted to tell him then and there that, no, it isn't funny that he isn't going to get better. That he's been damned to death from the start and that there's no way in hell that he's going to make it past 17-years-old.

"Sorry, sorry," Haruka said with a forced smile, "I was just curious is all."

Shintaro looked like he was about to say something but lost courage halfway through. He was sitting rigid in his chair with his head bowed. It was quite a weird position for him, and Haruka felt a little sorry that his words would probably cause the other boy to have a crick in his neck.

"…I don't want you to not be here anymore," Shintaro mumbled, shockingly earnest.

Haruka smiled a little bit at the words, knowing how hard honesty like that was for the other boy, "…Yeah, I know."

And honestly? He wanted it too. He wanted to play video games with them on the weekends and late on school nights. He wanted to see if pulling an all-nighter was worth it. He wanted to continue getting better at video games and wanted to enter a competition for himself. He wanted to celebrate his school's culture festival next year and maybe even win again! He wanted to face Takane in a match sometime and see if he could win. He wanted to be in her class again, even if it meant that he got held back (because really, with her at her side, it'd be worth it).

He was the type of person that got stuck in his mind a lot — the kind of guy that managed to get lost in his own train of thought. And somehow, in the maze that he's created within his mind, his thoughts always lead back to her.

"Just, in case anything happens, take care for me, okay?" Haruka's hands tightened on the corners of his blanket, his knuckles white, "I don't want it either, I just — I know that this is going to happen again. So please, take care."

The words "take care of her" are at the tip of his tongue, but for some reason, he can't bring himself to say them.

Maybe it's because this was an issue that now extended past Takane and his little class. It extended to Shintaro, to Ayano, to , and even to the school's cafeteria cooks who recognized him for his insatiable hunger.

(Or maybe it was because he's a coward that probably wouldn't even have the courage to confess to her when he's on his death bed).

...He was worried about them all, and he wanted them to be happy. But, thinking about a classroom that's empty besides one student and two desks worried him the most.

GOD, It was scary — so incredibly scary, not knowing the outcome of the future that was predetermined for him. At the same time, he wanted to laugh at the sheer audacity of it all — that he still desired to live in a world that wanted him dead.

(He knew that things like that — feelings — were the reason why his father wanted him to be so distant from everyone else, why he didn't want him to have friends like Takane, Shintaro, and Ayano because it would make him less accepting of death. It took him 15 years to screw that distance up, but he doesn't regret it in the slightest, even if it made him feel like there are flower petals trapped in his throat and that there are thorns wrapped around his lungs).

He coughed a little, and he felt Shintaro's worried eyes on him immediately. Somehow, the thought that he had friends that actually cared about him make the metaphorical thorns in the chest ease just a little bit.

"Also, Shintaro," Haruka said before Shintaro could properly respond to his last statement, smiling in a way that was kind of bittersweet, "you better make some more friends while you're at it."

For a moment, Shintaro just stared at him, as if not believing what he was hearing, before he smiled a sad smile — a smile that revealed years of festering sadness, "Wow, always going back to that. I can't say I'm surprised."

"You don't give me much to work with," Haruka sat up, wiping his tears with his sleeves, hating the way that the crisp hospital gown material felt against his skin. That action pulled his blanket up a little bit, making Takane shift, and he froze.

It was a miracle she hadn't woken up yet, really. He always had a quiet voice, but still, stifling sobs was hard and he was sure that he'd shifted around a lot by then.

He supposed that he'd seen her sleep through worse (like the time almost set the classroom on fire while trying to find a 'quick alternative' to heating up the stove), but, strangely, the thought of waking her up now terrified him.

It was then he noticed the bags around her eyes and how red they were — as if she had been crying.

(He knew that she had. He remembered that at least. It was probably one of the first times he ever saw her cry, and he hoped that he wouldn't have to see it again, or at least when he was in a position where he couldn't comfort her).

"Ah, I made her cry. How could I do that?"

"Who? Ayano?" Shintaro looked up from his phone and shook his head, "she cries at everything. Don't take it to heart."

Haruka frowned at his comment but was too distraught to correct him at his disregard for the brown-haired girl's feelings.

"No.." Haruka ran a hand through his hair, cringing slightly as he found it damp with sweat, "Takane."

"Oh yeah, she was bawling like a baby," Shintaro said, looking oddly haunted for someone who usually smirked when Takane was at her worst, "That.. freaked me out too."

He'd had attacks like this before, and Takane had witnessed some of them. She had lost her composure for some of them but.. she was still so cool. She's tough and strong, and while she's tiny, he knew that she could pack a punch. And, though she might not want people to see this side of her, she was also kind. He knew that far too well.

…Of course she was going to be scared for him. He didn't like the thought of being so blind to how she felt.

"Your heart stopped, man," Shintaro said shakily, and...OH,that's probably why they're all so messed up about his condition and why he felt weaker than he usually did, "it was scary as hell."

Haruka looked down at his hands and realized that, though their grip on the pristine hospital sheets was strong, they shook, and his limbs felt like jelly. He was tired, and even though the only thing he had done since waking up was talk to Shintaro, he felt like he could sleep for days. Was this how Takane felt? She was tired all the time, right? Wow. To put it lightly, it sucked.

"I've never seen someone call an ambulance that quickly though," Shintaro chuckled awkwardly, "Takane was on it before you even hit the floor. It'd probably be world-record worthy or something."

Haruka let out a light laugh, because, of course, only Mr."I have an IQ of 168" would try to joke in a way that was as awkward as that.

"There's a new time for everything," Haruka said sheepishly, "But really, sorry again for the scare."

"I told you before, don't worry about it," Shintaro said firmly, "Besides, I'm sure she'd tell you the same thing."

Shintaro nodded towards Takane as he spoke, but Haruka knew he was talking about her without even looking at him.

He took that moment to look at her face and, while she did look like a mess, to Haruka, she looked wonderful. The scene was just so Takane that it honestly hurt.

"I think I love her," Haruka blurted, making Shintaro freeze, "I just... Wish things could be different."

He knows that it's a foolish wish, because he simply didn't have the time to make a difference. His heart was a ticking time bomb, and as he balled his hands into fists, he felt the searing heat in his eyes return.

"Then why don't you, y'know, tell her?" Shintaro said, equally as quiet, "it can't be that hard, can it?"

"Do you know how unfair that'd be?" Haruka wanted to laugh, and maybe he would have if his chest didn't hurt so god damn much, "I'm sick, Shintaro. It just wouldn't work."

Haruka felt something hot, wet, and angry rise up inside him. He couldn't do it. He couldn't tell her as much as he wanted to because he knew just how much harder it would make his death on her, even if she didn't like him back.

(There was a part of him that was tempted to do it anyway, and he felt ashamed that that part existed. He was selfish enough for enjoying the life that he wasn't supposed to live full term. He would inevitably subject his friends to sadness after his death. He hated that he'd become such a bad person).

"Bullshit," Shintaro said, eyes narrowing, "You'll get better."

He trailed off there, looking at Haruka as if expecting him to fill the silence with his usual "I'll be okay!".

But Haruka didn't respond, and for once, he couldn't bring himself to fill that silence, because even he didn't want to accept it.

"You'll get better," Shintaro repeated, filling up the silence and sounding like he's trying to convince himself more than convince Haruka. It's the disbelief in his voice that made Haruka decide that this wasn't the right time to tell him the full extent of his diagnosis — not when the shouts of overworked nurses and doctors echoed the hall outside, when Takane was still asleep on his leg, and when neither of them were ready to accept it, "Just promise me that, alright?"

Haruka smiled sadly, wishing that he could make that promise.

"I'll try my best."

Just as he said those words, the hospital intercoms seemed to flare to life, the crackling loud sound making him wince.

"Code Blue in 402. I repeat, code blue in room 402," the person on the intercom said. Both he and Shintaro looked up to the ceiling in sync. He'd always done that, even though he probably should've gotten used to the sudden noises by then.

"Do you ever get used to that?" Shintaro said a little awkwardly, though the weight of the previous conversation was undoubtedly still processing through his mind, "It's like the announcements at school but worse."

"It's a process," Haruka smiled back, hands clasped tightly in his lap.

(He is used to it. It's just that he knew that, one day, one of those "code blues" would be for him. He hated that some part of him was already seeking them out as if waiting for that day to just come already).

The intercom crackled to a close with a loud ringing noise, and Shintaro grumbled once again about how needlessly loud the thing was.

"Ngh," The sudden noise seemed to be good for one thing, at least. He and Shintaro froze as Takane shifted, leaning her head on one arm while the other rubbed at her eyes. She didn't immediately open her eyes (she never did. In class. Mr. Tateyama sometimes applauded her when she made a particularly long show about waking up. Takane always ended up throwing some school supplies at him in retaliation), but Haruka could see the way that her eyes fluttered under her eyelids. He was used to seeing her tired, so he knew that it'd be a few seconds before she realized what was going on and yelled at him for it. The usual.

It was strange that he found himself looking forward to it.

Reaching out a shaky arm, ignoring Shintaro's curious stare and the lingering cloud of emotions that had just throttled both of the teenage boys, he poked Takane's forehead. It took her a second, but suddenly, her eyes snapped open, and Haruka would have probably had another heart attack if that was the first time he had seen her wake up in that manner. She tended to make a show out of waking up, but when she did, it was like one of those scenes from horror movies where those creepy dolls snapped their eyes open. It was unsettling.

"Haruka!" Much like those creepy dolls in horror movies, she shot up, her eyes wide. She was very much caught off guard by her surroundings.

"Takane!" Haruka smiled down at her, glad she was finally awake, "good morning!"

"What time is it? How long was I out?" Takane wrinkled her nose as she caught sight of the hospital window, which showed the sun dipping into the horizon, "because it is NOT morning, Haruka."

She unconsciously wiped at her mouth, and Haruka remembered the drool spot. Oh well. There's no use mentioning it. He was too happy to care.

"How are you doing?" Takane asked him, and the amount of earnesty that he heard in her voice almost hurt, "because.. things weren't looking too good back there."

If his head wasn't as foggy as it was, maybe he'd be an outwardly flustered mess because she immediately grabbed his hand. Haruka's glad that the heart monitor wasn't going erratic due to his pounding heart.

At least the drool spot didn't seem to be bothering her. Or maybe she hadn't noticed it yet? Ah, it wasn't the time to be thinking about such things — not when she was looking at him with that expectant look.

"I've been better," he admitted, and the distress on her face made his heart hurt even more, "but I heard you were pretty good at dialing 911 though!"

She looked at him for a moment, her eyebrows furrowed and the look in her eyes hurt. He almost expected her to blow up at him, but he knew she probably wouldn't because this was a hospital and she was probably worn out from the whole ordeal.

Ah, I guess that's my fault too...

As he predicted, she didn't blow up at him. Takane was looking at him with an emotion he couldn't decipher — with her shoulders hunched and her hand's grip on his a little tighter.

"This isn't a joke, Haruka," she said after a minute's worth of silence, her voice quiet and her gaze on her shoes, "I shouldn't have to be 'that good' at it."

Yeah, he wished that she didn't have to either.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to do that to you guys," Haruka said sincerely, sitting up a little straighter, "but thank you, Takane, you're probably the reason why I made it here on time."

Takane made a face at his words, her nose scrunching up in a way that he found was absolutely adorable

"You made it because you made it... And you know I didn't mean it like that," Takane mumbled, dragging her thumb across the back of his hand absentmindedly, "Stop apologizing for something that isn't your fault."

The phrase "I'm sorry" was at the tip of his tongue, but he managed to swallow it down and nod. She locked eyes with him for a moment before her gaze quickly went elsewhere (she sure seemed focused on her shoes!). He knew how hard it was for her to be sincere like this and he didn't mind it at all. She reminded him of Shintaro in that way — unable to express too much of her feelings in too many ways at once. Speaking of Shintaro, he was probably just watching them talk. Poor guy. Maybe Haruka should mention that he was there...

"Really.." He was shaken out of his train of thought when Takane spoke again. Her eyes were still focused on her shoes, but her grip on Haruka's hand was tight, "you're not a burden or anything for any of us."

...She really was a sweet girl (not that he ever doubted it). He placed his other hand on top of hers and smiled at her. Her grip on his hand loosened but remained firm.

Haruka couldn't fight the smile on his face. When Takane finally managed to meet his eyes, she flushed at the sight of his smile, freezing in her tracks as if just realizing how she was acting. Haruka smiled and watched patiently because he knew she just happened to act like this sometimes (though he didn't know why). He'd wait as long as he'd have to for her.

She paused, took a death breath, and asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm still here," Haruka said, and while she looked like she wanted to ask him to elaborate, she was cut off.

"You left a drool stain on the blanket," Shintaro said unprompted, having enough of the moment. Takane whirled around like she hadn't realized he was even in the room, eyes wide as she looked at the younger boy. "Aren't you supposed to give flowers or something for gifts instead of that?"

"Shintaro," she said curtly, turning her cold gaze on the other boy, "how much did you hear?"

Shintaro did nothing more than smile smugly at her, and Takane bristled.

"This might be a hospital room, but I am not afraid to fight you," she threatened, and Haruka couldn't help but think about how quickly she could change moods. From sweet to feisty just like that. Well, it was Shintaro she was talking to... Shintaro was his friend, but yeah, he knew that the other boy wasn't... the greatest with social cues.

If Haruka had to compare Takane and Shintaro to animals, he'd probably compare them to cats. The sheer amount of determination and provocation in their eyes as they stared at each other made him think of cats that were about to fight, with their backs arched and their ears folded back.

He didn't like the idea of his friends fighting, but it was kind of funny to think about. Sleep-deprived cats Takane and Shintaro. Maybe he'd draw that later…

"I'd advise against that," broken out of his thoughts by the sudden words, Haruka turned toward the doorway, where a brown-haired man stood, a bottle of water and a pack of chips in his hand. "I don't want to sign ANOTHER set of patient documents."

" ?"

The unexpected visitor, none other than his teacher, mock-saluted as he walked into the room, a grocery shopping bag in his other hand. The man was still in his work uniform (if you could even call it that) consisting of his red turtleneck and his white lab coat. Haruka always thought that his teacher's odd teaching-attire suited him and that it would be really weird if came into their class one day wearing a suit.

"Here, take these," handed the bottle of water and chips to Haruka, who took them gratefully, "I know they have their own food and water here, but if you'd ask me..." leaned in close, hands cupped around his mouth so the nurses outside the room wouldn't hear him, "it's complete garbage."

At his words, one of the nurses poked her head into the room, "Everyone all right in here?" She eyed for a moment, the man as stiff as a board, before setting her gaze on Haruka, "Please be sure it take it easy, Haruka. You know how serious these things can get."

He knew that nurse. She came in often to help reset the IV machines connected to him whenever they started beeping. He smiled apologetically at her, and when she saw that he was fine, smiled back and stepped back into the corridor.

When the nurse left, deflated as if he had been holding his breath the entire time, "God, I haven't felt that scared since I came home late from work last week, and I have Ayano as a daughter."

"Maybe I should tell the nurses what you said," Takane teased back, a smug grin on her face, "serves you right for talking shit."

"Takane Enomoto!" gasped, clutching his chest in mock offense, "language!"

They stuck their tongues out at each other, and it was times like that where Haruka had to remind himself that was their teacher instead of their classmate.

"Besides, you're not the one I'm here for," turned back to Haruka, ruffling his hair in the way only a father could, "I'm glad you're okay, kiddo, you had us worried there for a second."

The older man's voice sounded tired, and through his messy bangs, Haruka saw the dark circles under his eyes.

..Yeah, he knew he worried them. He hated that he did that to them but he still did anyway. He didn't mean to be like that — He didn't mean to be so weak. He'd change it if he could, just so everything would be okay.

(Just so they'd be okay).

"Me too," Haruka said quietly, looking down at the IV that was coming out of his left hand, "I'm glad I'm okay too."

looked down at Haruka with an expression that he couldn't decipher, his eyebrows furrowed as he removed his hand from Haruka's now mussed-up hair.

But he was quick to smile at him once he saw Haruka staring, sending him a quick wink before he turned to the youngest person in the room.

(Haruka swore that he saw the older man's eyes change colors for a moment, from dark brown to a scarlet red. He wondered whether that was just a side-effect of the medicine they gave him or a trick of the light from the setting sun from his room's window).

The whole time, Shintaro hadn't looked all that interested in the conversation, and Haruka didn't blame him. Shintaro didn't know , and even if he did, they didn't seem like the pair that would get along all too well. There's also the fact that Shintaro and Ayano are, y'know, friends (or so Haruka liked to think), which made the situation a little more complicated.

If Haruka had to guess 's number one priority (besides using the school budget to buy an… odd fish specimen), it'd have to be his family. So Haruka probably should've seen this conversation coming.

"YOU," Kenjirou pointed directly at Shintaro, who jumped in his seat when he realized that he was being acknowledged, "don't act like I don't know who you are."

"Who? Me?" Shintaro said defensively, holding his phone close to his chest like it was the only thing he had that was worth protecting, "what did I do?"

Haruka saw the look that had, the look that both he and Takane had come to identify as "The-Protective-Father-That-Would-Do-Anything-For-His-Little-Girl" look. And it was aimed right at Shintaro.

Takane exchanged an amused glance with Haruka, and Haruka grinned back, watching as she turned back to the scene with an eagerness that seemed to energize her.

"Oh, you know what you did!" Kenjirou accused, and Shintaro looked like he'd rather be anywhere other than there, "what are your intentions with my daughter?"

"What are you talking about!?"

Instead of fully focusing on the scene, Haruka looked at Takane. She was entertained by the scene in front of them. He knew that, if they were in any place other than a hospital room, she'd probably sit back with some popcorn and laugh at the absurdity of it all. He liked to think that he probably would too if he had the chance to witness this again outside of this situation.

You won't get the chance to. You're going to die. A voice hissed in his mind

Shut up, he wanted to tell it. Shut up shut up SHUT UP.

"Hey, Haruka?" Shaken out of his thoughts, Haruka realized that he didn't need to face Takane because he was already looking at her. He absentmindedly hoped that she didn't think that he was creepy for that, because Takane thinking he was a creep would break his heart. But she didn't seem to notice, her eyes locked with his and her cheeks slightly pink as she spoke, "I didn't get a chance to say it before, but I'm really glad you're okay."

His heart swelled at her words (which, for someone with his condition, might not be the best thing). He didn't say anything as he smiled back at her, knowing that he would probably say too much. He squeezed her hand gently, and after looking down at their hands curiously, Takane looked up, smiled, and squeezed back.

There were so many things that he wanted to tell her and so many things that he wanted to do. But now, with his friends crowded around his hospital bed, the knowledge that he wasn't alone anymore, and the feeling of his hand in hers, Haruka knew that he wouldn't change this moment for the world.