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Just the Flu!

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“...I’m home.”

 

Choromatsu furrowed his brows from his place at the kotatsu, peering back towards the door from over his shoulder. Osomatsu was there, slowly kicking his shoes off, while he balanced himself with a hand against the wall. “Welcome home.” Choromatsu greeted, closing the magazine he had been skimming through. It's not like he’d be able to focus on it with the meddlesome eldest being home.

 

And Choromatsu fully expected to be pestered; he expected Osomatsu to whine about losing all his money at pachinko or about how hungry he was. But, to his surprise, Osomatsu walked right by him to sit at the opposite side of the kotatsu, tucking his legs beneath it, before practically dropping his head onto the table.

 

“What’s with this mood?” Choromatsu asked suspiciously, eyes narrowing slightly. Osomatsu was never this quiet, it was kind of disconcerting. His only real answer was a shiver, before Osomatsu lifted his head slightly. His cheeks were flushed, eyes glassy and unfocused. “Are you serious?! You’re sick, and you thought it was a good idea to go out today?! You didn’t even take a coat! It’s freezing out there, Osomatsu-niisan!”

 

“Mmm…’s probably fine…” Osomatsu muttered, sniffing pathetically. It didn’t sound like it offered any relief, though. Choromatsu scowled, reaching across the table to feel his brother’s forehead. Burning! He was actually burning up! Osomatsu let out a little sigh, leaning into Choromatsu’s cool touch.

 

“Have you taken any medicine, at least? Or checked your temperature?” Choromatsu asked, pulling his hand back and rubbing the back of his head. Osomatsu shook his head slightly, his eyelids drooping sleepily. “Stupid eldest...you’re a damn child!” Choromatsu threw his hands up in exasperation, before pushing himself up off the floor. “Just...stay here and rest, I guess. I’ll find you something to take for that fever.”

 

Osomatsu gave only a slight nod, closing his eyes and clearing his sore throat. He felt...disoriented. Things were spinning, it felt like he was floating. The trip home had been an adventure in itself, and he was fairly certain anyone who saw him probably thought he was drunk. There were several times he was sure he’d collapse, but here he was! No silly flu was gonna take him down!

 

Except it was, and it was taking him down hard. He couldn’t remember a time he had felt quite this awful. Well, there was that time, when he was a kid. Death had been after his ass back then, and thanks to Iyami, Death had almost succeeded. That was a long time ago, though! As an adult, he was way tougher, so he’d be fine! Right? Right?!

 

Osomatsu’s eyes fluttered open as a steaming cup was sat down in front of him, brows furrowing as he looked up to see who had joined him. Ichimatsu gave him his usual silent stare, before taking a seat beside him. “Choromatsu ran out to get some medicine. He said some tea might do you some good.”

 

“Ah…” Osomatsu lifted his head slowly, reaching out to grab the cup. He hadn’t even heard Choromatsu leave, had he really dozed off that suddenly? It didn’t feel like it. Coughing lightly, Osomatsu brought the steaming glass to his lips, savoring the warmth on his throat. He was even more delighted to taste that it was made just to his liking. How thoughtful! “Perfect...thanks Ichimatsu.” He gave the fourth brother a tired smile.

 

Ichimatsu nodded slightly, working on peeling an orange he must have grabbed for a snack. “Choromatsu was right, though. You look like shit.” Osomatsu pursed his lips and puffed out his cheeks at that, making a mental note to get back at the third brother. It wasn’t his fault he was sick!

 

“Choromatsu doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.” Osomatsu grumbled, taking another sip, before sitting the mug aside and lying his head back down. “It's just a flu, not that big of a deal. Just you wait, when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be fine.”

 

“Why did it take so long for you to even mention that you were sick?” Ichimatsu asked, popping a slice of the orange into his mouth. “I remember you whining a lot more. Wanting attention and for us to take care of you.”

 

“I didn’t feel so bad this morning.” Osomatsu admitted, lifting a hand sluggishly to rub his aching head. “It didn’t get bad until I was playing pachinko. Then I got dizzy, so I figured I should hang out there for a bit until my head cleared. Except it never did, so…” The eldest brother shrugged slightly, reaching out to snatch a slice of the orange for himself. Ichimatsu let him.

 

“Che...take better care of yourself, idiot.” Ichimatsu muttered, before silence filled the room once more. Osomatsu found his eyes slipping closed again, humming tiredly as his mind started to drift off.

 

Just like before, he had no idea how long he had dozed off before he woke again. Feeling even worse than before, he thought bitterly as he lifted his heavy head from the table. His entire body shivered, despite the blanket that someone had wrapped around him and he sniffed miserably. Medicine...he needed medicine, didn’t he? Right, where was Choromatsu? Sighing softly, he made a move to stand.

 

The entire room spun, and he quickly sat himself back down, clenching his eyes shut. Oh, that was bad; his stomach churned uncomfortably and his head throbbed behind his eyes. “S-Shit…” He muttered softly, pressing a hand to his head.

 

“You’re finally awake, Osomatsu-niisan!” A loud ‘whisper’ made Osomatsu wince slightly, peeling an eye open to look up at the smiling fifth brother that sat nearby. Unsurprisingly, Jyushimatsu was bundled under multiple blankets, hiding himself from the cold that he hated so much. But even so, he had spared a blanket for Osomatsu...he really must look like shit, after all.

 

“I...yeah…” Osomatsu acknowledged, coughing hard as he pulled the blanket more around him. He was actually freezing! And his stomach...shit, not good. “I-I need…!”

 

Jyushimatsu’s pupils dilated, giving his eyes a cat-like appearance, as he watched Osomatsu quickly throw a hand over his mouth. Oh! Oh no! “Ah! Hang on just a second, Nii-san!” The fifth brother practically sprung from his cocoon, rushing towards the kitchen and grabbing a bucket from under the cupboard. He launched himself back towards Osomatsu, skidding across the floor with the bucket outstretched towards the eldest brother.

 

Osomatsu wasted no time, snatching it away and emptying his breakfast into it. His entire body seized up, forcing everything it could out, his throat practically on fire now. Tears streamed down his flushed face, and there was a tiny part of him that really hated himself for not holding them back, but it hurt ! Out of the corner of his eye, Osomatsu could see Jyushimatsu watching him, a sleeved hand pressed to his mouth and his brows furrowed with worry. No, no, no, there was no reason to be worried about him like that!

 

“Choromatsu-niisan will be home soon with medicine.” Jyushimatsu seemed contemplative, rocking forward and backwards. “But I don’t know if he grabbed anything for your tummy...if not, we’ll call Totty!” The yellow Matsu bounced over, rubbing Osomatsu’s back comfortingly. “You’ll feel better in no time, Nii-san! Ichimatsu-niisan is setting up the futon too, so you’ll be able to sleep really good!”

 

Osomatsu nodded slightly, breathing hard as his stomach finally seemed to settle a little. His entire body shivered weakly, his eyes still wet and his face a blotchy red. It was hard to really understand Jyushimatsu when his ears were ringing and his head was throbbing, but he did his best to catch up with his words.

 

“Oh, ew!” A new voice suddenly resounded in the room, and Osomatsu winced as it only made his head feel ten times worse. But he could recognize that screech anywhere; the youngest brother was home, and clearly unimpressed by Osomatsu’s condition. “That’s disgusting…! Ugh, Jyushimatsu-niisan, go clean that bucket, please? I’ll go get him something else to wear.”

 

Osomatsu blinked slowly, glancing down at himself. What was wrong with his hoodie? Oh, ew was right. Apparently not everything had made it into the bucket, after all. And he only just noticed that his hand had gotten some gunk on it too, probably from when he tried to force it back. Letting out a quiet whine, he wiped his hand as best he could on his hoodie.

 

“Un! I’ll clean the bucket and get you a wet cloth to clean up with, Nii-san! I don’t mind, it's not your fault you’re sick!” At least Jyushimatsu didn’t seem to feel any disgust by his predicament. “Hum, I hope Choromatsu-niisan gets home soon…”

 

Todomatsu approached Osomatsu, almost reluctantly, before he forcefully pulled the hoodie off of his brother as carefully as he could. Of course, Osomatsu protested, shivering a little as the cold air hit his bare skin. “He will be, I caught him outside the store while I was on my way home. You owe me, too, Osomatsu-niisan! I gave him some extra money for medicine!”

 

Osomatsu didn’t even have the strength to retort to that, slowly lowering his head to the table once more. It felt as if he were getting worse by the second, and he couldn’t help but feel a little worried for himself. He never got this sick, so why now? Why was it so bad?

 

Todomatsu lingered for a moment, frowning worriedly. Even while sick, Osomatsu always had enough energy to whine and bicker. Always after their attention. But right now, he barely seemed to have the energy to keep his head up. “I’ll get you something warm to wear, Nii-san.” Todomatsu mumbled quietly, gently patting the eldest’s head. He didn’t even complain when he felt Osomatsu’s sweat-soaked hair.

 

Everything was starting to feel unbelievably hazy, Osomatsu thought to himself. There was a constant buzz in his head, one that made him just want to close his eyes and sleep for as long as he could. But he really didn’t want to worry anyone by just passing out like that. Damn, it was freezing in here, wasn’t it? Whimpering pitifully, Osomatsu tugged the blanket Jyushimatsu had spared for him tighter around himself, letting his consciousness drift off yet again.

 

This time, when Osomatsu gained some semblance of awareness, he was being moved. It was harder than before to force his eyes open, but when he did, he was met with blue fabric. Karamatsu was carrying him on his back, presumably up the stairs. But Osomatsu didn’t even remember hearing Karamatsu or feeling himself being lifted. There was a hand resting on his back, too, now that he thought about it.

 

“If he’s not doing any better in a few hours, we’ll have to take him to the ER. I really hope one of these medicines does something for him.” Choromatsu’s voice came from behind; it was his hand on Osomatsu’s back then. Probably holding him in place so he didn’t fall back.

 

“Perhaps we should wait for mommy to make that decision, hmm~?” Karamatsu’s deeper voice reverberated throughout his entire body, the vibration making the buzz in Osomatsu’s head intensify for a moment. He let out a weak groan, clenching his eyes shut and burying his face into Karamatsu’s shoulder. “O-Oh, brother! You’re awake.” The second brother’s tone turned softer, quieter. Needless to say, Osomatsu was thankful for that.

 

“We’re getting you changed and putting you to bed. I grabbed a few different medicines to try, but let’s worry about your fever for right now.” Osomatsu hummed quietly, the only response he felt capable of giving right now. It was easily mistakable, but Osomatsu was pretty sure he could feel Choromatsu’s hand rub his back comfortingly through the blanket.

 

As soon as they made it to the bedroom, Karamatsu gently lowered Osomatsu to the couch with Choromatsu’s help. “Todomatsu sat out some sweatpants and a sweatshirt for you to wear, Nii-san. Is that okay? Do you need help changing?” Choromatsu asked, leaning down so that he could keep Osomatsu’s attention. At first, he wondered if Osomatsu even heard him, with the way he stared back blankly and blinked lazily. But finally, he nodded slightly.

 

Karamatsu and Choromatsu glanced at one another worriedly. “Uhm...alright, Aniki. I’ll lift you back up so that Choromatsu can help you dress, but try and cooperate if you can.”

 

It took longer than it should’ve to change Osomatsu’s clothes. The poor guy really did try to help, but it was almost as if lifting his limbs was even too much work now. In the end, though, they succeeded and Osomatsu was immediately tucked into the futon. Choromatsu went right to work, digging the different medicines he bought out from the plastic bag he carried, examining each one thoroughly.

 

“So, his fever’s the worst right now, right? If we get that taken care of, at least it might help with the chill he has.” Choromatsu popped the lid off, shaking two tablets out of the small bottle. “Don’t go falling asleep yet, Osomatsu-niisan! You need to take these!” The third born scolded, nudging Osomatsu when he noticed the eldest’s eyes slip closed.

 

Karamatsu smiled thinly, kneeling down at the head of the futon. “Todomatsu mentioned that he threw up earlier, so maybe he has a stomach bug?” He asked thoughtfully, shaking Osomatsu’s shoulder to disrupt his sleep yet again. Osomatsu let out a tired, hoarse groan, blinking up blearily at the two. “Jyushimatsu was getting you some water for the medicine. Just please be patient, brother. You can sleep soon.”

 

Right on cue, the fifth born jogged into the room with a water bottle. “I got it, I got it! Here you go, Nii-san!” Jyushimatsu thrust the bottle out proudly towards Choromatsu, before kneeling down beside Osomatsu. His sleeved hand reached out to gently pat the eldest’s head reassuringly, something that Osomatsu would normally grumble about. Don’t go looking down on Onii-chan like that , he would say teasingly. Jyushimatsu really wished he had the energy to say it now. “Don’t worry, Osomatsu-niisan! You’ll be better soon!”

 

Getting Osomatsu to take the pills was a bit of a challenge  Not because he didn’t want to; on the contrary, he was quick to pop them in his mouth as soon as Choromatsu handed them to him. But swallowing turned out to be a struggle, even with the aid of water. Eventually, he ended up spitting them out in a spray of water that made the others recoil in disgust, a coughing fit rattling deep in his chest.

 

“You’re seriously a pain, you shitty eldest!” Choromatsu grumbled, wiping himself dry with his sleeve. He had avoided most of the spray, but couldn’t get away in time to remain untouched. If he got sick because of this, Osomatsu would pay dearly, he swore it. “Tilt your head back, let me see your neck.”

 

Osomatsu waited for the coughing fit to pass, before doing as instructed. Choromatsu scooted himself forward and reached out, letting his fingers run against the older’s neck. It was definitely swollen. “You’re a complete mess. How could you not have realized you were this sick earlier?” Choromatsu let out an exasperated sigh, glancing at the bottle of pills. “Can you swallow at all?”

 

“Yeah, just hurts.” Osomatsu mumbled, giving his brothers an apologetic look. If it hadn’t been for the cough, he was sure he could’ve gotten them down. “I’ll just try again, I can probably--”

 

“No, there’s no point in forcing yourself if you don’t have to. I bought liquid medicine too and it helps with fever just the same. Hopefully it’ll be a little easier to get down.” Choromatsu grumbled as he dug through the plastic bag. He pulled the bottle out, giving it a good shake, before measuring it out carefully. “Just don’t whine about it tasting bad. Its for your own good.”

 

“Mmm…” Osomatsu practically ignored the order, reaching out to take the little cup and down the disgusting, red liquid inside. It took a few tries, but he finally managed to swallow it down, his face scrunching up at the painful burn in his throat. But it was finally done! “There. Can I...can I sleep now…?”

 

Karamatsu, Choromatsu, and Jyushimatsu all looked between one another nervously, before the third born finally let out a resigned sigh. “Yes, get some rest. We’ll all take turns checking on you, just in case.” He reassured, reaching out to pat the eldest’s shoulder.

 

That was all Osomatsu needed to hear. Even though he was sure his brothers were still speaking to him, their voices quickly became muffled background noise. His heavy eyelids slipped close and it only took seconds for him to drift off completely.

 


 

All day. Osomatsu had slept all day without any sign of waking. It was alright, Choromatsu supposed. His fever had settled a bit after they had given him the medicine, and Matsuyo said that so long as it didn’t go and get bad again, letting Osomatsu rest was the best option. None of the brothers really liked it, though. This was too much like back when they were kids, when they were so sure they were going to lose the oldest brother. There wasn’t a single one of them that really wanted that, as much as they may have said so out loud.

 

Choromatsu shifted in the futon so that he was facing Osomatsu. How was he supposed to sleep when he felt so worried? Dammit, this really was the worst.

 

“Choromatsu-niisan…?”

 

Choromatsu blinked in surprise, lifting his head a little so that he could see Todomatsu over their oldest brother. The youngest was lying a little closer to Osomatsu than usual, one of his hands gripping at the sweatshirt he wore. Sighing, Choromatsu laid his head back on his pillow. “What’s the matter? Have to go to the bathroom?” He asked.

 

Todomatsu let out an indignant huff, his cheeks puffing out a little. “No! I just...do you think Osomatsu-niisan’s really going to be okay? He was really bad earlier. I haven’t seen him that sick since...well, you know.” He mumbled quietly, fiddling with Osomatsu’s sleeve thoughtfully. “I mean, I know he’s a pain in the ass and he’s complete trash, but--”

 

“I’m worried too.” Choromatsu cut off Todomatsu’s rambling, running a hand through his hair tiredly. “I remember that time back then too, trust me. We were all scared for him when that...Death guy suddenly showed up. We beat the hell out of that guy though, and Iyami too for the stunt he tried to pull.”

 

“Ahhh, I remember that!” Choromatsu nearly jumped out of his skin at Jyushimatsu’s sudden intrusion into the conversation. The fifth brother was right behind him, he might as well have yelled into his ear! “We used bats, right? Didn’t we? And dad helped too! Ahaha!”

 

“Ehehe~! That’s right Jyushimatsu-niisan, I remember now. Osomatsu-niisan really is hopeless without us, isn’t he?” Todomatsu giggled a little, glancing up at his older brother’s sleeping face. It was difficult to see in the dark, but his breathing seemed labored. Rest was definitely important in this situation, but was it really wise for them to skip out on giving Osomatsu more medicine? None of them were really so sure, even Matsuyo had been conflicted.

 

“Choromatsu-niisan? Can we check his temperature one more time? Just to make sure he’s okay before we actually go to sleep?” Todomatsu pleaded quietly, fidgeting a little. He didn’t like the idea of falling asleep, only for something to go wrong as they slept.

 

“Honestly, Totty…” Choromatsu sighed, but he pulled himself free from the futon covers. “We checked before we went to bed. It's only been a couple hours, so I’m sure he’s fine. But if it’ll help you sleep, then I suppose there’s no choice.”

 

"Hmph. You would've done it anyway." Ichimatsu's voice came from the other end of the futon. Choromatsu scowled in his direction as he reached towards the head of the futon to grab the thermometer. "You were just waiting for an excuse, right? I heard you moving around down there."

 

"Now, now brother. We're all concerned for Aniki's wellbeing. Allow me to get the light!" Karamatsu was on his feet in the blink of an eye, the light clicking on before any of them were really prepared. There were a few hisses and groans as their sleepy eyes attempted to adjust. "Perhaps I should've given some more warning, forgive me. But now we can check…"

 

Karamatsu's voice trailed off as he looked down at Osomatsu, a grim look on his face. The eldest was flushed yet again, his chest heaving with the effort of circulating air through his lungs. They didn't need the thermometer to tell them that the fever was back with a vengeance. "Choromatsu. Wake him up, he needs more medicine. Let's check his temperature anyway, just to be safe."

 

Choromatsu swallowed hard as he got to his knees. He gripped Osomatsu's shoulder and shook him hard. "Osomatsu-niisan, get up. Time for more medicine." He urged, pausing for a moment. His heart practically dropped into his stomach when he got no response. "O-Osomatsu-niisan! Wake up, idiot!" He called a little louder, shaking him once more.

 

"Nii-san, come on!" Todomatsu sat up, trying to assist in rousing the eldest. He was always a heavy sleeper, that's all this was. Sure he was sick, but that didn't mean anything was wrong . It didn't have to be something bad! "Seriously Osomatsu-niisan, open your eyes! You're scaring us!"

 

"My little Jyushimatsu, I need you to go wake mommy and daddy, please." Karamatsu urged, kneeling down to thread his fingers through Osomatsu's hair. The locks were absolutely soaked with sweat. Jyushimatsu was on his feet in a flash, his figure nothing more than a blue blur as he ran out of the room. "Give me the thermometer, Choromatsu. Let's see how bad you are, Osomatsu."

 

Carefully, the second born pushed the thermometer into Osomatsu's mouth, making sure it laid under his tongue. There was no resistance at all, no struggling to move to get ]away from it. Did Osomatsu even notice it at all? The four remaining brothers waited with baited breath for the little device to give them the answer they dreaded. It only took half a minute for it to beep a couple of times.

 

40.6 C.

 

"Ichimatsu, call an ambulance." Karamatsu ordered without hesitation. Ichimatsu didn't argue. He scurried out of the room, his entire body tense as he went. "Get some ice on your way back!" Karamatsu called after him, taking a deep breath. He didn't really know what to do in this situation, he wasn't equipped for this at all. He wasn't a doctor.

 

"We need to get him out of the futon. Totty, can you get something else for him to wear? Something thinner. We have to get him out of these, they're too warm for him right now." It was Choromatsu's turn to step up, which Karamatsu was thankful for. "Karamatsu-niisan, help me get him up. We need to work on cooling him off."

 

Todomatsu nodded, trying to push back the tears that were flooding his eyes. This brought back such awful memories from their childhood, when they thought for sure they were going to lose their oldest brother. He could remember the doctor visiting them, he could remember those words that had floored all of them. "There's nothing more I can do." The doctor had said. But Osomatsu had escaped death back then, and he could do it again! That's what Todomatsu wanted to believe.

 

Karamatsu positioned himself behind Osomatsu, lifting the eldest and propping him against himself. Choromatsu immediately went to work on removing his sweatshirt, grimacing at how damp it was. "His skin looks kind of blotchy...a rash, maybe?" Karamatsu asked, frowning as he examined the splotches of pink that ran along Osomatsu’s face and chest.

 

"Let's hope it's nothing. Could just be a side effect of the fever." Choromatsu answered immediately, tossing the wet article of clothing away. Todomatsu returned to their side, a red tank top and black shorts draped over an arm. “This will do, thanks Totty.”

 

By the time they managed to get Osomatsu into the lighter clothing, Matsuyo and Matsuzo were both dragged into the room by a rambling Jyushimatsu. The fifth born seemed to be trying to explain the situation, but he spoke too fast and his words just ended up a slurred mess. But once they were in the room, Matsuyo didn’t need any explanation. The poor woman immediately rushed over, sitting on her knees and pulling Osomatsu away from Karamatsu's hold.

 

Matsuyo didn't need to ask about his temperature. The body heat rolling off of her oldest son was more than enough to tell her it was bad. "We need to get him to the hospital, now ." She said, looking towards Matsuzo with worried and desperate eyes.

 

"Ichimatsu's already calling for an ambulance, mommy." Karamatsu reassured, gripping hee shaking shoulders in an attempt to steady her. This wasn't the first time Osomatau had been in this predicament, but it didn't make it any easier. Still though, Matsuyo managed to keep her composure for the most part. It never failed to amaze Karamatsu, the strength their mother possessed.

 

"Good, you made a good decision." Matsuzo praised lightly, walking in and running a comforting hand through Osomatsu's hair. The eldest brother's face was starting to contort into a more uncomfortable expression, a soft whine falling from his lips. It made everyone's heart throb with worry.

 

Ichimatsu finally returned to the room just a few more minutes later, a cloth bundles up and full of ice in his hand. "The ambulance should be here in a few more minutes. And I brought some ice."

 

"Thank you, Ichimatsu. Let me have it." Matsuyo coaxed the awkward fourth born over, taking the ice from him and pressing it to Osomatsu's forehead. Osomatsu seemed to flinch a little at the sudden cold, but soon enough, his head was leaning into it. "That must feel good, you're burning up after all...but we'll get you some help and you'll feel better before you know it." Matsuyo cooed quietly, holding her son close.

 

It only took another ten minutes for the sirens to be heard, right outside their house. Jyushimatsu gave their mother his best, reassuring smile, before lifting his oldest brother into his arms bridal style. If Osomatsu was awake, he could only imagine the indignant argument he'd put up, being held like this. But he'd forgive him in the end, Jyushimatsu knew it! It was for Osomatsu's own good!

 

The paramedics seemed surprised, having their patient delivered to them, but were grateful all the same. They loaded Osomatsu onto the stretcher and put him into the ambulance, mumbling different medical terms back and forth that the Matsuno's couldn't possibly understand. It was quickly decided amongst them that Matsuyo and Choromatsu would ride in the ambulance, Matsuyo being more attentive to what was said and Choromatsu being the closest to Osomatsu. The rest of them would pile into the old family car and follow after.

 

From there, everything just felt like it passed by in a blur.

 


 

Somehow, sitting in the waiting room was absolutely exhausting. Maybe it had to do with how tense the atmosphere was, it was pretty much suffocating! But there wasn't a single one of them willing to step away when they had yet to hear any news of Osomatsu. The last they heard was from Matsuyo and Choromatsu; more from the latter. Matsuyo had been inconsolable at that point.

 

"He stopped breathing...his heart stopped for a second." Choromatsu had said, his voice uncharacteristically monotone as he forced the words out. Everyone was left stunned from that point on, thoughts racing wildly with possibilities and eventual outcomes. The most prominent one was at the forefront of it all.

 

They could be planning a funeral tomorrow.

 

Karamatsu sat beside Todomatsu, an arm around the younger's shoulder as he tried his best to offer what comfort he could. At least the tears had stopped, but Karamatsu knew that didn't mean he was no longer needed. The way Todomatsu leaned into him and buried his face into his chest...if he were being honest, he needed the comfort and distraction just as much.

 

Ichimatsu and Jyushimatsu sat together too. They didn't speak, there weren't any tears either. Ichimatsu leaned his head against Jyushimatsu's, picking at his own pant leg thoughtfully. The fifth born just fidgeted now and then, gripping the older brother's free hand with his own. There was no sign of a smile on that usually bright face. At least they were able to keep each other grounded.

 

Choromatsu wasn't so lucky though. He sat straight up in his seat, both hands gripping at his pant legs loosely. The expression on his face was completely unreadable and blank, completely betraying the irrational mess of thoughts that were rampaging around inside his head. There was no shitty eldest to distract him from said thoughts this time. It felt like he was standing on a battleground all alone. Osomatsu didn't have his back this time, because Osomatsu was the center of his racing thoughts.

 

The only thing he could really focus on was that quick, horrid beep that had signalled his brother's heart stopping. It had happened so quick, he wasn't sure he had heard it right. It was only when the paramedics said it out loud that he understood just how serious this was becoming. This just didn't make sense though! How did Osomatsu go from not knowing he was sick just this morning to...to...this.

 

"Choromatsu...brother?" Choromatsu nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, blinking a few times to snap himself out of his daze. Karamatsu was calling to him, his expression full of worry not just for Osomatsu, but for him too. "Brother, I know that I'm not Osomatsu, but if you need to talk or...if you need to lean on me, you know I'm here for you. You don't have to sit there by yourself."

 

The third born just stared up at his direct older brother. A slow sigh passed through his lips and his tense shoulders finally sagged a little. As much as Choromatsu wanted to accept Karamatsu's offer, it just didn't feel right. Even if hin and Osomatsu butted heads more often than not, Osomatsu was still his partner. It had been that way since they were kids. In this sort of situation, it felt like Osomatsu was the only one he could lean on. He was sure the others understood that feeling too.

 

"I'm sorry, Karamatsu-niisan. I can't. I'm...you're not…" The words that he wanted to speak completely evaded him, but Karamatsu seemed to understand. He gave his younger brother a sad smile and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. There were no hard feelings.

 

"What's wrong with my boy?! Is he okay?! God, please tell me he's okay!"

 

Matsuyo's shrill, strained voice echoed through the empty waiting room, all of the brothers sitting up and looking in her direction. Matsuzo held her back as she tried to demand answers from the poor doctor that had only just stepped out of the back. Said doctor looked stunned for only a moment, before his expression returned to a calm, but sympathetic one.

 

"He's resting." The man said simply, clearing his throat before Matsuyo could interrupt and say anything more. "You're son's very lucky, if I'm being completely honest with you. Had you all gone to sleep, chances are he would've been gone by the time you woke up."

 

Matsuyo let out a shaky breath, burying her face into her hands. She felt like such a failure! How could she let this happen to one of her babies?! Matsuzo rubbed her back comfortingly, brows furrowed worriedly, before he turned his attention back to the doctor. By now, the brothers had gathered around them as well. "What's wrong with our Osomatsu?" He asked quietly.

 

"Well, to put it simply, your son's immune system basically shut down temporarily. Chances are, he came into contact with a little bacteria that ended up causing a rapid infection. And it didn't stop with just that single strain." The doctor explained slowly, glancing at his clipboard. "He has multiple infections. Pneumonia, strep throat...they weren't quite to the point of being considered severe yet. The biggest issue was his fever and that he was losing oxygen."

 

"But...b-but he's okay now...right?" Todomatsu asked meekly, gripping Karamatsu's arm tightly. It looked like it hurt, but the second brother just bared it. "You said he's resting, so he's okay? Right?"

 

"He will be, yes. Osomatsu's going to have to stay here for awhile, until the infections clear up and his immune system is able to function on its own again, but there shouldn't be anymore danger to him while he's here." The doctor smiled kindly as the entire family let out a heavy sigh of relief. "We're working on getting him into his own room right now, so you'll be able to see him shortly. But I do have one more thing I'd like to discuss."

 

"One more thing? Is there something else wrong?" Choromatsu immediately asked, his fists clenched at his sides. Naturally, his mind immediately went to the worst possible scenarios. What if Osomatsu had something worse than the infections? Disease? Cancer? Whatever it was, he would do whatever he could to help! Even if it  waiting on his shitty, older brother hand and foot.

 

As if sensing his concerns, the doctor shook his head and gave a placating smile. "Please don't worry. It's just that I went back to look through Osomatsu's medical records that we have on file. Sometimes, looking at past conditions helps us determine present ones." He explained, tapping his pen on his clipboard thoughtfully. "Osomatsu used to get sick a lot as a baby and a kid; it looks like a few times were pretty serious."

 

"They were. We almost lost him a few times." Matsuzo admitted. Matsuyo sniffed softly beside him, prompting him to keep a calming grip on her arm. Where was the doctor going with this exactly? "But he was always getting himself in situations when he was little. Running out to play in the rain or snow without a coat, refusing to stay away from his brothers when they were sick...he was just a kid being a kid."

 

"Even so, it's not likely that he would get sick as severely as he did while his brothers usually seemed to suffer mild ailments." The doctor shook his head thoughtfully. "I'll be blunt with you here. After looking through his medical records and seeing just how severe his infections are now, plus how quickly they spread, it's very likely that he has something we call Primary Immunodeficiency Disease. I honestly don't know why no one diagnosed him earlier and I'm very sorry they didn't."

 

Disease. The five brothers could feel their hearts simultaneously drop into their stomachs. The word "disease" could only be something bad. It could only result in something bad . Right? Todomatsu could feel his bottom lip tremble, even as Karamatsu wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him close. Jyushimatsu looked at Ichimatsu with some confusion, looking for answers. He didn't understand, of course he didn't. But neither did Ichimatsu. The fourth born could only turn his gaze towards the floor and shake his head slightly.

 

"D-Disease?" Choromatsu choked out, hands shaking slightly. He was feeling a little shortness of breath, tears starting to fill his eyes as the room spun. "D-Disease, like…? Osomatsu-niisan can't be that sick, he just...w-what is that? What does it mean?"

 

"I know the word 'disease' is scary, but please don't worry. It simply means that your brother's immune system doesn't work the way it's supposed to and it likely hasn't from birth. It explains why he contracts infections so easily and why they spread so quickly. Not to mention the severity of them." The doctor explained slowly, looking at each of the brothers to make sure they understood, before looking at Matsuyo and Matsuzo. "Considering you gave birth to identical sextuplets and they were fairly premature, it's not surprising that at least one had a complication like this. But not to worry, his case doesn't seem to be overly severe. He'll be just fine, he'll just need to take some precautions from now on."

 

"We want to see him." Ichimatsu finally spoke up after a brief moment of silence. It wasn't really a request and he didn't care if it sounded rude. It was what they all wanted at this point. What they needed. "They should be done putting him in a room by now, right? Let us go see him already."

 

The doctor sighed tiredly, motioning a nurse over. "I'll have her take you, just make sure you don't make much of a ruckus and let him rest as he needs to. I need to talk a bit more with your parents."

 


 

For the longest time, it felt as if he were floating. It was kind of peaceful in a weird sort of way, but still unsettling. For a man raised with five little brothers, peace just didn't feel natural. Even so, Osomatsu took it in stride and just allowed it to envelope him. Once he woke up, he'd be surrounded by the familiarity that was his family, so there was nothing to worry about.

 

But then the peace came to an abrupt halt.

 

It didn't feel as if he were floating, not anymore. It felt more like was being crushed. Like his lungs were being wrung dry of any oxygen. And he was hot, so damn hot! The fever? This was because of his fever, right? Yes, he went to sleep while he was sick! That had to be it! All he had to do was open his eyes and tell someone. Get some help! He could hardly breathe !

 

Osomatsu couldn't open his eyes in the end, as much as he tried to force himself to. It was like he was caught in some kind of strange in between of awareness and sleep. That only made his fear worse in the end. Especially when he heard his brothers talking to him, telling him to wake up. He was scaring them. Imagine how the hell I feel , he wanted to scream.

 

The voices came and went, though. Eventually, there were some he didn't recognize. They were talking, saying a bunch of stuff he didn't even remotely understand. But Matsuyo was there with him, and Choromatsu too. He could feel his mom's hand stroking his hair back and her voice cooing at him softly. And his little brother's hands were clinging onto his for dear life. Was it too much to ask for his eyes to open already, Osomatsu asked himself desperately. He just wanted to tell them he was here, he was okay.

 

Then everything went blank, just for a second, like power flickering during a storm. He was there, and then he wasn't. Then he was again. When awareness came back, though, his mother's sobs were uncontrollable. What the hell happened?! Osomatsu could practically feel his heart break at his usually strong mother's cries.

 

"Don't you dare leave us. I swear I'll never forgive you if you just give up." Choromatsu's voice whispered near his ear, shaking and layered with something Osomatsu had never heard from him before. He couldn't promise his little brother that though, as terrifying as the thought was. And sure enough, his mind went entirely blank just after that. It was the last he could remember.

 

Until now, that is.

 

Osomatsu's eyes fluttered open slowly; at least, they tried to. His eyelids felt so damn heavy and his body felt so sluggish, he wasn’t even entirely sure if he was awake! No, that wasn’t true, he was definitely awake. He could hear some buzzing from something in the room and a few beeps now and again. And the eldest brother was sure the soft cushioning he felt under him wasn’t the futon he had fallen asleep on. But then, where…?

 

It took some effort, but Osomatsu finally forced his eyes to open. The room was dim, so that was a plus. It wasn’t his room though. There were different machines around the room that were emitting all kinds of different noises that grinded on his nerves. Attached to the majority of them were wires and tubes that all seemed to lead back to him. There were IVs and monitors and…

 

Osomatsu let out a shuddery breath, lolling his head to the left and the right. There wasn’t anyone else in the room with him, which he didn’t understand at all. He could gather that he was in the hospital, but if that were the case, surely someone would be there with him. There was no way his family would just...leave him here on his own, right? They wouldn’t just drop him off here and leave, especially when he had no idea what was going on! Right?!

 

It suddenly felt awfully hard to get any air in his lungs, tears filling his eyes as panic started to set in. What the hell happened to land him here anyway?! Okay, he got a little sick, it wasn’t that big of a deal! There was no reason for him to fall asleep at home and wake up in the hospital! And without his family around? Wasn’t that a little cruel?

 

Trying his best to fight back a sob, Osomatsu shifted slightly in an attempt to squirm out from under the blankets. Okay, so he could be a pretty awful brother and son, he could readily admit to that! But was he so bad that no one even wanted to stay with him in the damn hospital?! What the hell was up with that? Osomatsu was pretty sure he’d never be so cruel!

 

It seemed to take nearly all of his strength to get the sheets off and sit up. By the time he did, he couldn’t seem to hold back his tears anymore. He was just...he was terrified! Terrified and alone! He just wanted to get up and find his family, or at least a doctor. Someone who could at least tell him what was going on! Sobbing softly, Osomatsu moved to push himself up off the bed.

 

That didn't really work out. As soon as Osomatsu put weight on his legs, they shook and buckled under him, sending him tumbling to the floor. Was he so sick that he couldn't even walk? Maybe he had been here for so long that he just couldn't? How long had he been in the hospital? If he wasn't already sobbing, he definitely was now. Wailing was probably more accurate, though sound struggled to get out of his destroyed throat.

 

"O-Osomatsu?!"

 

"Osomatsu-niisan!"

 

"Oh no...we didn't expect him to wake up so soon! He shouldn't be up and moving at all, he's very weak right now!"

 

Arms grabbed at him, wrapping around him and pulling him close; Osomatsu sobbed hysterically as he gripped at the familiar fabric of his brothers' pajamas. Said brothers were surrounding him, talking all together at once. There was no way he could understand what they were saying, but it really didn't matter right now. They were all here, they didn't leave him alone after all.

 

Osomatsu buried his face into the closest brother's chest, sniffling pathetically as hands stroked his hair and rubbed his back. In the back of his mind, he could only imagine how mortified he was going to be once he realized that he had just broken down like this in front of everyone. But for now, he couldn't bring himself to have any regrets.

 

"Okay, okay...boys, I understand you were worried and you're excited to see your brother. But for now, I need to get him back into bed and check to make sure he didn't pull anything loose."

 

Sighing shakily, Osomatsu slowly pulled back away from his brothers to look around. Jyushimatsu was the unfortunate victim that he had clung to the most, his pajama shirt soaked with his tears and snot. Yet, the fifth born didn't seem to mind at all. Jyushimatsu just beamed at him and reached out to pat his head.

 

A nearby nurse caught his attention too, and older lady who was scurrying around to check all the little machines that were around Osomatsu's bed. The one demanding that they get him back into bed, he figured. She seemed to notice him watching her, though, because she turned and gave him a slightly exasperated smile.

 

"You're lucky, it looks like everything stayed attached. But please, don't try to walk without asking first." She scolded lightly, peeling back the sheets in the bed. "You're on some very powerful drugs right now, so I'm sure you don't feel as bad as you are. And you're likely very out of it."

 

Osomatsu blinked slowly as both of his arms were seized and he was slowly pulled up off the floor. Karamatsu and Choromatsu were on either side of him, supporting the entirety of his weight as they slowly walked him back over to the bed. Shit, his eyelids were starting to feel heavy again. He didn't want to sleep again!

 

"We'll make sure he doesn't get up again." Karamatsu said softly as he and Choromatsu lowered Osomatsu back down onto the bed. Ichimatsu and Todomatsu helped pull his legs up onto the bed, before Jyushimatsu finished it off by tucking him in under the sheets.

 

"It's alright Osomatsu-niisan." Choromatsu reassured, reaching out to brush his brother's hair back. They could all see how confused and out of it he seemed, but how he also seemed to be fighting sleep. And Choromatsu had a feeling he knew exactly why. "We won't leave, Nii-san. We'll stay right here while you rest, don't worry."

 

"That's right, we promise." Todomatsu agreed, gripping his oldest brother's hand in both of his own. "Mom and dad are here too. They're just talking to the doctor right now, but as soon as they get done, I bet they'll stay right here too."

 

"Un! So don't be afraid to sleep, Osomatsu-niisan! You gotta get lots of sleep so you can win the big game! Hit a home run!" Jyushimatsu plopped down on the bed beside his oldest brother, smiling widely. It wasn't as bright as usual, but it was still, comforting sight to see.

 

"Sleep well, Osomatsu-niisan." Ichimatsu said simply. Osomatsu let out a sigh that sounded all too relieved, as he finally lost the battle against his eyelids. His eyes slipped close and sleep followed right behind.

 

***

 

The next time he woke up, Osomatsu felt so much more aware. Aware of the fact that he felt like absolute shit! A groan immediately ripped out of his throat; literally ripped. Grinding his teeth, he reached up to grab at his sore throat.

 

"So, how's it feel to get to sleep for a full twenty-four hours?" A tired voice asked from beside him. Osomatsu turned his head a little too fast in surprise, a slight dizziness making the room spit for a short second. Choromatsu sat beside him, looking more than a little ragged. His normally neat hair was in slight disarray, as if he had ruffled it. "Because if you want to know how it feels to be awake for twenty-four hours, I can tell you all about it."

 

Osomatsu gave his younger brother a very, slight smile. "Wasn't as good as you might think." He croaked, fighting back the tears that stung in his eyes from the fire in his throat. Choromatsu snorted at thay, leaning forward in the chair he was sitting in and grabbing his older brother's hand in a comforting grip.

 

"Well, at least I can take a little joy in knowing that as shitty as I feel, you have to be feeling ten times worse. Stupid eldest brother." There was no bite in Choromatsu's words, if anything there was sympathy. "I hope you know you scared the hell out of us. Be prepared to make amends for it, to each and everyone of us. Including mom and dad."

 

"So mean to Onii-chan…" Osomatsu whined weakly, before movement caught his attention. Shifting a little, he glanced near the foot of his bed, a bigger smile stretching across his face. At the foot of his bed, Ichimatsu and Jyushimatsu were fast asleep. The fourth born was curled up, taking up as little room as possible, while Jyushimatsu was half hanging off the edge.

 

On his right side, Todomatsu and Karamatsu sat in the only other chairs available. Todomatsu was closer, slouched over so that his upper half rested against the bed and his hand gripping Osomatsu's loosely. That was gonna smart in the morning, Osomatsu thought sympathetically. Karamatsu wasn't going to be much better off; he head was hanging over the back of the chair, his arms still crossed over his chest.

 

They must've all stayed awake for as long as they could, before exhaustion got the better of them. It filled Osomatsu's heart with such a sense of caring and love...it was a rare reminder that as much of a pain as his little brothers could be (and him too), they all still loved one another in the end.

 

"Where's mom and dad?" Osomatsu rasped out, turning his attention back to Choromatsu. The poor third born was running a hand through his hair repeatedly, probably from stress. At least that explained his disheveled look, Osomatsu figured.

 

"Well, they were here all of yesterday. They wanted to stay tonight too, but there wasn't really anywhere for them to rest." Choromatsu explained, fighting back a yawn. "We convinced them to head home for the night and sleep, that way they could bring us some proper clothes. We've been in our pajamas since you got here, do you have any idea how disgusting I feel?"

 

"Well, sorry ." Osomatsu muttered, struggling to pull in a deep breath for a moment. It was only then that he noticed the hose running up into his nostrils. Oh. "So, I...I was pretty bad off, huh?" He asked quietly, fiddling with the hose absentmindedly.

 

Choromatsu remained quiet for a second, before releasing a heavy sigh. "We couldn't get you to wake up." He explained slowly, picking at his pant leg. "Your fever turned pretty severe, but the biggest problem was you weren't, uh...well…" Choromatsu motioned towards the hose Osomatsu messed with, clearing his throat nervously. "You weren't getting...you know...oxygen."

 

Osomatsu closed his eyes, swallowing painfully hard. So that's how it had been, huh? Even now, he was being supplied with oxygen to help him breathe a little easier. A blessing, considering his throat still felt swollen. "It's alright now, though. Right? I'm feeling better already." Osomatsu tried to reassure the third born, rubbing his thumb along the back of the younger's hand.

 

Choromatsu exhaled shakily, shaking his head slightly. "You'll be here for awhile, Nii-san. And things are going to have to change a bit when you go home." Choromatsu spoke slowly, wondering just how Osomatsu was going to take the news.

 

After having talked to the doctor for a couple of hours, Matsuyo and Matsuzo had both filled the brothers in on a few things. It was all changes that needed to be made to Osomatsu's health and daily routine if he was going to avoid these sort of issues in the future. But they weren't necessarily small changes, and the expression on Osomatsu's face gave away just how wary he was about them.

 

"First of all," Choromatsu started, squeezing Osomatsu's hand a little to calm him down. "Let me explain what the doctor told us. He said you have something called Primary Immunodeficiency Disease; it sounds pretty bad, trust me, I know. It scared us all when he told us, and it is pretty serious. But it's not as bad as you think." Osomatsu seemed alarmed for a minute, before relaxing a little at his brother's reassurances.

 

"So, basically what it means is that your immune system is really bad. And it has been since you were born. Actually, he told mom he was surprised you didn't run into more serious issues sooner." The third brother continued, glancing around the room. It would be easier to do this if the others were awake to help, but they deserved their sleep. "After they did some blood testing, he confirmed it. But to avoid things like this from happening, you need to change some habits."

 

"Well, this is just great." Osomatsu huffed, closing his eyes and cursing whatever deity above thought this was funny. What exactly did this mean for him? It couldn't mean THAT many changes, right? He had survived for this long just fine! "What changes?" He finally asked, stubbornly refusing to make eye contact.

 

"You need to stop smoking, for one." Choromatsu said immediately. He wasn't going to lie, he was pretty gleeful about that one. After nagging Osomatsu for years to stop that nasty habit, he finally had no choice. "And don't think about trying to stash your cigarettes anywhere. I already told mom and dad about all of your hiding spots." Osomatsu ground his teeth in annoyance, but didn't say anything.

 

"Your drinking's gonna be limited too. You can still have one or two every now and then, but it can't be a regular thing. And when you go out, you have to wear a mask. Even if you just go for a walk or to the pachinko parlor, you have to wear it." Choromatsu was at least more sympathetic about those two. Wearing a face mask so often would be suffocating and drinking? Having a beer with his brothers was one of Osomatsu's favorite past times.

 

"This really fucking sucks. I've been fine all this time! This is just precautionary garbage that the doctors are putting in everyone's heads." Osomatsu muttered childishly, yanking his hand away from Choromatsu and gripping the sheet. This was so damn frustrating!

 

"You almost died."

 

"I'm fine . I will be fine ."

 

"No, you don't get it! Your heart stopped , Osomatsu! You stopped breathing!"

 

Osomatsu's anger dissipated in record time, his head turning so that he could look at Choromatsu again. He had his head down, both hands gripping his pant legs now. And...shit, were those tears? Osomatsu felt guilt grip at his heart; he was such an insensitive asshole sometimes. More worried about himself, instead of worrying about his brothers and parents. He never stopped to consider how this had affected them.

 

"M-Mom and I were in the ambulance with you." Choromatsu choked out, more tears starting to drip from his eyes. He hadn't really discussed it with anyone, aside from glossing over it when they first arrived at the hospital. Frankly, he didn't even want to think about it. That one, terrifying second. "The EMTs were t-trying to treat you. T-Trying to get your f-fever down and get air into you. But...b-but the heart monitor just...went flat, and your chest wasn't moving…!"

 

Osomatsu felt his own tears starting to well up in his eyes. Dammit, he just wanted to sit up and hug his little brother. Hold him and reassure him that everything was fine. "Choro-chan, I…"

 

"You scared the shit out of me!" Choromatsu sobbed, his shoulders starting to shake as he became slightly more hysterical. "And I've never hear mom cry like she did! That's why we need...c-can't you just cooperate this once?!"

 

The eldest brother remained silent, only able to watch as Choromatsu cried quietly to himself. Dammit, this was his fault. Why did he have to be so selfish? Was it really such a big deal if he had to give up a few things in exchange for staying alive? Staying with his family? Hell if it wasn't frustrating, but it was necessary . For them, he could do this for them.

 

"I...I heard you, you know. When you told me not to leave you guys." Osomatsu admitted quietly. "I didn't know what was going on. I couldn't wake up, but I was still aware, I guess? I don't know how to explain it. But I'm...I'm sorry. For scaring you, for scaring everyone. Look, I can't promise that I won't have my screw ups now and then. But I do promise to try and do what I need to stay healthy…"

 

Choromatsu reaches wiped at his eyes with his sleeves, hiccupping a little. He was already exhausted and this was hardly helping. But they were making progress! Still though, there was one major hurdle they had to get through. "B-Before you go making promises you can't keep...there's one pretty big detail about all this that you need to get on board with."

 

Osomatsu seemed wary, already grimacing, but he motioned for Choromatsu to continue. "You have to go to the doctor pretty regularly for check ups, so they can make sure you don't need treatment for infection. But, well...okay, Osomatsu-niisan, you're gonna hate this, I'm sorry."

 

"Just spit it out already." Osomatsu groaned, rubbing tenderly at his throat. "I already hate the majority of this, what's one more thing?"

 

It was somehow hard to say. Choromatsu fidgeted, one of his legs starting to bounce in place. "You're gonna have to start...ugh. You have to give yourself...y-you know...injections…? Three times a week." Choromatsu finally squeaked out, fully prepared for the eldest to have a total meltdown. If it were him, he'd feel awful, so he could hardly blame Osomatsu.

 

That wasn't the reaction he received, though. Instead, Osomatsu just let out a long breath and muttered something that Choromatsu couldn't here. For his family, he just needed to remember this was for his family! "Well...I-I don't know the first thing about giving shots. How am I supposed to…?"

 

"They'll teach you while you're here." A different voice answered. Osomatsu turned to look to his right, watching Karamatsu rub at his stiff neck miserably. "They said they'd teach how to give them to yourself while you're here. They want to start on them as soon as possible, to help strengthen your immune system." Karamatsu explained, yawning mid-way through his words.

 

"L-Look, I...I get the other stuff, but injections? I can't...there's no way I'm gonna be able to do that!" Osomatsu shuddered; he could feel his skin crawling at the very thought. Getting shots or blood drawn was bad enough, but having to do that three times a week?! To himself ? There was no way!

 

"We're gonna learn too, Nii-san." Osomatsu felt his hand being squeezed a little, and turned his attention to Todomatsu. He was still slouched over, resting on the bed, but his eyes were open now. Poor guy looked exhausted. "We already agreed that we would learn too. In case you couldn't do it or just needed help."

 

"I didn't agree. But if you really need help, I guess." Osomatsu snorted, looking down towards the bottom of the bed. Ichimatsu was facing away from him, but he could see Jyushimatsu poking at the older's cheek teasingly. With as terrified of needles as Ichimatsu tended to be, Osomatsu wasn't sure he would want to force poor Ichimatsu into that kind of situation though.

 

"Dammit, do I even have a choice? This is the worst…" Osomatsu let his eyes close. Why did this have to happen to him ?! He quickly stopped that train of thought before it could get any further; if it had to be anyone, he was glad it was him. Because the alternative would've been one of his little brothers, and there was no way he would want anyone of them going through something like this.

 

"Don't be sad, Osomatsu-niisan! It may seem bad at first, but it'll get better! And we'll be with you every step of the way, so you don't slip up!" Jyushimatsu sat up on the bed, not a sign of exhaustion on his face. Amazing. "We want you to be super healthy, Nii-san! We don't wanna see you get sick like this again…"

 

"I know, I just...don't worry buddy." Osomatsu gave Jyushimatsu his best, reassuring smile. The best he could pull off like this, anyway. "Onii-chan's gonna do his best, you know? I don't exactly enjoy feeling like this myself. Plus, I don't want to worry you guys like that anymore. Especially not mom and dad. We already know dad's heart is kinda weak, and if something happened, because I stressed him out too much…"

 

"Don't think like that!" Todomatsu scolded the eldest, finally sitting up with a pained groan. "Nothing's going to happen. And even if it did--which it won't!--Dad wouldn't blame you. This is out of your control. Him and mom just want you to be okay, just like us."

 

"Be grateful that we're offering to help." Ichimatsu butted in just after, rolling over so that he was facing Osomatsu now. "Mom's gonna be hovering over you for months after this. At least we'll be able to get her off your back for a little bit. Maybe."

 

Osomatsu cringed at the very idea. An overbearing Matsuyo was scary! As nice as it was being taken care of, even he appreciated some time to himself now and then. But...he could understand. She was a mother who had apparently nearly lost a son. Him, Osomatsu reminded himself with a heavy sense of guilt. It was weird to think that he could've actually...not, best not to think about it.

 

"Anyway, Aniki...it's going to be a difficult journey ahead. But we will travel these rocky roads together!" Karamatsu offered Osomatsu a tired smirk, flipping a piece of hair up and out of his face. The expression quickly changed though, his smirk falling into something more genuine and nervous. "Most importantly, though, we're just glad you're alright. That you're going to be alright, I mean."

 

The other all hummed and voiced their agreement. Osomatsu, for the umpteenth time had to try and force back his tears at that. It was kind of sappy and a little to feel-y for him, but their words were full of truth and love. And as if that wasn't enough, Osomatsu suddenly felt arms around him. Choromatsu stood over him now, hugging him tight and sniffling incoherently. That seemed to trigger something in all the brothers, because in no time at all, the poor eldest was buried under a dogpile of his little brothers, all sobbing and clinging to him for dear life.

 

Osomatsu couldn't help his own tears as he did his best to return the embraces. This sucked, this entire situation sucked. Everything he was gonna have to change in his daily routine, giving himself injections, and constantly visiting doctors...it was going to be the absolute worst. But he had his little brother with him, his precious little brothers that he sometimes doubted gave a shit about him at all.

 

They proved him wrong this time, so damn wrong. He never imagined that they would try to take care of him the way they did, even before things took a turn for the worst. And staying at his bedside the entire time as he slept, even trying to stay awake just in case...Osomatsu was pretty sure he never felt so damn loved before.

 

Even though he has a long way to go, his brothers were still at his side. With them, Osomatsu wondered if everything would really be okay after all.