Another coughing fit, the signal for you to move.
Akutagawa’s thin body curved over, convulsing with each violent hack.
“Here,” you muttered as you put a hot rag over his mouth.
He narrowed his eyes, obviously wanting to resist with every fiber of his being, but in his condition, he had no room to protest. Once again, he pushed his body to its limits in the heat of battle only triggering his sickness to break him down.
He hated to surrender to this weakness, but if he wanted to fight another day, resting and recovering were his only options.
Moving aside his fingers, he allowed you to cover his mouth with the warm cloth. With a shaky breath, he inhaled the moisture, loosening the mucus and allowing him to clear his throat.
After quickly checking your watch, you snatched the small, orange bottle at his bedside table.
“It’s been 5 hours,” you said, pouring out two, small white pills. “You-”
“I got it,” he grumbled as he swiped them from you and practically swallowed them whole.
You nearly jolted from the bed.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m not an idiot,” taking the water rest by his lamp and gulping it down.
With a sigh of relief, you sunk back down and ran your fingers through your hair.
Though you appreciated the extra pay from the Port Mafia, especially in regards for caring for their infamous, Silent Rabid Dog, you often wondered if it was worth it. He snapped at you frequently. He rarely made eye contact with you, and very rarely did he actually ask you for help resorting only to curt demands.
You dealt with your fair share of extremely difficult patients. It took little time for you to grow calloused to this sort of brash behavior.
Akutagawa’s level of difficulty exceeded normal patients, but you couldn’t blame him for that, not after everything he had been through. Anytime you noticed a hint of frustration or disgust bubble in the pit of your stomach, you simply reminded yourself of his cold and harsh upbringing.
Simply put, he trusted no one. Even more so, he doubted someone who constantly saw him at his most vulnerable, at his weakest. Growing up in the slums, a world in which the only the savviest and the strongest could survive, his nerves had been wired to treat everyone like a threat, like everyone was out to break him down. So many times had he been betrayed and beaten down by those he thought he could once put his faith in, living in this borderline paranoia was the only way he knew to conduct himself.
You may have been assigned to caring for him, but how could he know whether or not you would use your knowledge to turn against him?
On the other hand, considering the long, two months you had been nursing him back to health, he had to admit your patience throughout this. If you had not attempt to kill him now with the stunts he pulled and constant berating, nothing at this point could push you over, so it seemed.
As much as the feeling disgusted him, he admired your tolerance.
Even more so, he found immense comfort in being looked after. Aside from administering medication, you brought him warm foods to soothe his throat, constantly stinging and burning from his coughing fits. You massaged his back to loosen the thick, mucus in his chest. Bringing him fresh blankets and heating pads always ensured his warmth. Such gestures brought at least a little solace to his bitter heart, but revealing such tender emotions might cause a loss of respect in his character and position.
So, these feelings remained hushed, and he kept his hardened persona even around you.
A part of him hoped that maybe, just maybe, you could see through his disguise.
Once his fit subsided, Akutagawa swallowed hard before he sunk back into the pillows. As he pulled the covers over his shoulders, you placed the back of your hand on his forehead dotted with sweat.
“Your fever’s up,” you muttered more to yourself than anything. Taking an ice pack, you wrapped it in a rag and slid it in the space between his neck and the cushion.
He grimaced for a moment upon contact before adjusting to the cold.
“Let me know if your body starts aching,” you stated as you placed some tools strewn over the bedside dresser. “I have your pain medicine.”
He simply grunted in reply.
With a quiet chuckle, you started to rise from the edge of his bed, another shift of work finally complete. Tomorrow would come, and another day of taking commands and insults would begin.
Do no harm, you often reminded yourself.
That was your lot on life, and even if a patient showed no appreciation, you could at least retain that satisfaction within yourself.
Suddenly, a small cough caught your attention, and cold fingers clasped your wrist. You blinked in attempts to process what just happened. Slowly, you turned your head and sure enough, Akutagawa was reaching for you. His silver, sunken eyes dart from your scrutinizing gaze.
“I,” he cleared his throat. “I might need them pretty soon.”
“If you’d like, I could-”
“I,” his eyes shifted back and forth as he tripped over his words. “I might need more water...and the ice might melt soon.”
You took a moment to watch him with a raised brow. His hand tightened around yours, and you noted him slightly tugging you back.
Sensing that you were onto him, he dropped your hand and turned from your line of sight.
“You know how dizzy I get with a fever!” he snapped. “Makes it hard to get anywhere...”
A smirk teased the corners of your lips. With a sigh, you put your bags down and sat on his bed again.
“If you wanted me to stay,” you said with a chuckle and a gentle stroke of his hair. “you can always just ask.”
He simply sulked after closing his eyes.
“I didn’t say I necessarily wanted you to stay,” he grumped into the blankets.
“Right, right,” and you continued to brush the top of his black hair.
But, you need me to stay...
Not once did he fight your gestures. His blinking slowed a little at a time before he finally closed them. His body shifted until his sides were barely touching you, and almost in an instant, he was lost in his dreamworld.
You couldn’t help but smile at his pale face so at peace, framed by his ebony hair, cheeks tickled by the white tips.
He may have been the terrifying demon of the Port Mafia, but you knew better. You finally could see through his disguise, and all he needed was a little tender love and care.