The small group of white-suited men congregated before the door leading to the kitchen. One of them knocked hesitantly, calling for their captain. Silence. He knocked again, louder, more urgently. No response. Sharing uneasy looks with his fellows, he turned the handle and pushed the door open.
Darkness. Lights off, vacant chairs lined up neatly with the tables. The room looked empty. Then, after their eyes had adjusted to the dimness, they spotted him. Slumped on a tall stool by the bar running along one wall, lying on the countertop with his face turned to one side and his arms framing his head, unmoving.
They rushed to him, stared in shock at the dozens of empty bottles scattered around him. He had never seemed like a drinker to them, and to drink so much at once… They tried calling him, shaking him. Nothing could rouse him. He reeked of alcohol, and as their attempts to wake him continued to prove fruitless, they grew increasingly fearful.
Had he poisoned himself? Should they try to treat him for it? He was their doctor as well as their captain, and without his guidance, they were uncertain how to proceed. He was still breathing, and his pulse was steady. Rarely had they ever seen their captain look as vulnerable as he did. Rarely had they ever really remembered just how young he was.
They carefully pulled him from his seat, maneuvering him into the arms of their burliest member, who seemed most capable of carrying him. They took him to his room, laid him out on his bed. He stirred, briefly, when they tried setting him down. One hand clutching a fistful of fabric from the sleeve of the one carrying him, he mumbled a name, then fell still once more, oblivious to their renewed efforts at waking him. Who was “Cora-san”? No one knew.
They covered him with blankets and set up a watch outside his door, checking in on him every few hours. He slept as though dead, unresponsive through the night. Toward morning, they were alerted to the sound of running water coming from the washroom. He had vanished from the bed, somehow bypassing all of them. They milled about in the hallway, each wanting to see for themselves if he was really alright.
He emerged a short time later, water dripping from his dark blue hair. Noticing them all waiting for him, he smiled, the same lazy, slightly cocky grin they were accustomed to seeing. There was no sign of the state he had been in less than half a day before, save for a certain hollow look in his eyes. He smiled for them, but his golden eyes were haunted.
A moment passed. One of the men stepped forward, twisting his cap in his hands. “Captain, we uh… we just wanted to…” He trailed off, glanced at the others, cleared his throat. “We’ll always be here for you, Captain. Just wanted to remind you.”
The young man regarded all of them individually, meeting each of their eyes with his own. A trickle of water slid down his forehead, met the corner of his eye, continued in a glistening trail down his cheek. He brushed it away carelessly, smile never wavering. “Yeah. I know.”