Summary: He had been to the hospital enough times to know his way around the halls. That doesn't mean, however, that Neji imagined himself to be there for this reason. "It should have been me."
As he walked past the nurses' desk, the staff in attendance only nodded to him in acknowledgment. He had been to the hospital enough times to know his way around the halls. In fact, he had been in its rooms, fighting with death, for more times than he cared to remember. All those times, he had won, obviously. Unfortunately, he cannot say the same for everyone who has been confined within the hospital walls.
He imagined Gai's death to be quiet. He would not die of old age. No, he was too much a man of action to meet his end that way. He cannot, however, picture him dying a swift death on the battlefield either.
It would be eight day since they returned from their A-rank mission in Suna, six days since the reassembled members of Team Gai have been discharged from the hospital and have been issued a clean bill of health, five days since Gai treated them to dinner to celebrate his successful operation, and two days since they learned that said operation was not as successful as they thought, as Gai was suffering some fatal post-operative complications.
Aside from experiencing severe pain, Tsunade would explain to them, he would lose his ability to walk, and eventually lose his ability to do anything else. Being a medic-nin, she would offer him an alternative to simply waiting for the worst to happen – a surgical procedure that would attempt to restore his health, or at least, to prevent him from losing his ability to function as a human being. It was a dangerous operation, Tsunade would warn, and there would only be a one in three chance of it being a success.
A one in three chance may not be much, but it was better than nothing. "Besides," Gai would add, "I'm good at games where I only have a one in three chance of winning, like rock, paper, scissors with Kakashi." He would then let out such a boisterous laugh, that they would almost be convinced by his touch guy act. The pained look on his face, however, would make it clear that even laughing was causing him pain.
Lee would match the loudness of Gai's laugh with the loudness of his cries, but he would nevertheless pump his fist in the air and cheer for the man he had always looked up to.
Tenten would close her eyes and let out a long sigh – a combination he was yet to decipher the exact meaning of. After a few moments of silence, she would put her hand on Gai's shoulder and say to him: "stay strong". He would appreciate that she did not blatantly lie to him by saying things like "you're going to get through this" or "you're going to beat the odds".
He would say nothing, of course, but in his mind, he would be replaying Gai's comment about being good at rock, paper, scissors, and then go thinking of all the times he had lost to Kakashi in that game. He would catch himself before a frown forms on his lips, and for once, believe their former mentor when he says he's good at games where he only had a one in three chance of winning.
Before entering the operating room, Gai would tell them not to worry, and go as far back down memory lane as to remind them of the operation Lee underwent after their first Chuunin exams. "He did not stand much of a chance then, either, but he survived" he would say, "so I would too."
A day later, they would find out he wouldn't.