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The night holds many things.

 

It holds the moon, which Kanata has learned controls the tides (though he’s still not quite sure how). The stars, which continue to dazzle him to this day- the first time he’d seen them, he hadn’t believed something so wonderful could exist above the surface. On the land, it holds creatures who sleep while the sun is out, lovers romanticizing the glow of lanterns and constellations, and music from people who feel the most alive in the heart of a party.

 

These are all wonderful, lovely things, he thinks. But the night’s hands hold more than just the wonderful and lovely.



This is not what he is thinking about on this particular night. Mostly, he is thinking about going to bed. It's quite late now- there aren't any windows in his dorm room, but if he could see outside, the moon would hang high in the sky. Really, he should probably be asleep already. And normally, he would be. There's just one thing stopping him.

 

He checks his phone for the umpteenth time, which is fruitless, he knows, because he has the sound on and he'd hear if he got a text or call, but he checks anyway. Still nothing.

 

Madara hasn't texted him yet.

 

He should've texted by now. It's past midnight, he definitely should have. That's not to say he texts every night, and while Kanata knows himself to be more clingy than he'd ever admit, it's not as if he can't sleep without a goodnight text from him either. It's just- he's worried about him. He was supposed to be back two days ago. He said he'd be back two days ago.

 

"Stupid rogue," he mutters under his breath, glaring at his phone screen. "Where are you?"

 

He's very lucky to have roommates who shift in and out constantly, otherwise he'd worry a little more about who sees him acting like this. How embarrassing it would be, if someone found out- if Madara found out- how out of sorts Kanata gets over him. The onslaught of teasing and singsong you loooove me' s that would follow would be too much to bear.

 

Then again, if given the choice, he'd rather endure some of Madara's teasing right now than worry about him like this.

 

Nearly one now. Madara would be annoyed at him- he can almost hear his chiding voice in his ear, getting sleep is important for an idol, Kanata-san, don't tell me you need Mama to tuck you in, but he's not actually here, which means he can't relax enough to sleep. He should be here by now. He was supposed to be back two days ago-

 

The doorknob rattles.

 

Kanata waits. Waits for Amagi to burst through, for Ohisama to crack it open, for someone to click the lock and come inside. But nobody does.

 

The doorknob rattles again, more insistently this time, and Kanata has the bizarre feeling that whoever's at the door is panicked. It makes no sense- if it's his roommates, they should have keys, and if they lost them, they can just text him to let them in. If it's not his roommates, then he should really be the one panicking.

 

One more rattle. It shakes for only a moment, as if whoever's on the other side had given up before they'd finished. It feels wrong, all wrong. He can't shake the feeling that something is very odd about this. So he does the only thing he can think of. 

 

He opens the door, only to see one Madara Mikejima turning to leave.

 

"Ah- Mama ?"

 

It's something of a bad sign when Madara flinches, but doesn't immediately turn. He just- stands there, with his back to Kanata as if he hadn't tried to open it at all.

 

"Mama," he tries again, and this time, his head inclines towards the noise. "Madara?"

 

That gets him to turn. Slowly- still not fast, still not springing like he normally does, but there's finally some acknowledgement there. It makes him feel a bit better until he sees the look on his face.

 

With Madara, there's a difference between a look and a look. A look means something I can't tell you about happened, or, I made a very big mistake today, or, I need to talk about something but I don't know how. Sometimes, it's all three.

 

The look is defined by the way his eyes, usually sharp as a bird's, are unfocused and heavy. It's in the set of his lips, the grim, parted line as if he doesn't have the energy to keep his mouth entirely closed. It's in his shoulders, in how they are weighed down by some great, invisible thing Kanata cannot see the mass of.

 

The look is in every part of Madara tonight. Usually, Kanata barely gets a glance of it before he vanishes, deciding to deal with his burdens alone. But tonight he is here. He is here, right in front of him, not leaving. Anything Kanata might have said about his irritation vanishes- his heart aches for him.

 

"Come here," he says, before the words even cross his mind. "Madara. Come here, please."

 

It's agonizing, counting the seconds it takes for his words to register. His eyebrows furrow slightly, and he opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. He opens it again- still, nothing.

 

"It's okay," Kanata says, thankful that he has what he's told is a soothing voice. "You do not need to say anything. Can I have your hands?"

 

Something vaguely akin to distress flashes in his eyes, but after a moment, he manages a nod so heavy it may have drained him.

 

"All right," Kanata says, "I'm going to hold them now. Okay?"

 

Another nod. He looks to be a bit more tethered, now. That's good.

 

He takes both of Madara’s hands in his, guiding him gently through the doorway and kicking it closed with his heel. As soon as he takes them, the distress from before makes sense- under his thumbs, he can feel the way his knuckles are ripped and bleeding. Madara will often try to hide wounds from him- it's infuriating, if he's being honest.

 

Tonight does not seem to be one of those nights. His steps are stilted, and after one particularly standout stumble, Kanata realizes he’s limping- with a quick glance down, Kanata sees a tear of red at his knee. “Oh, you rogue,” Kanata murmurs, abandoning his usual bite. “What were you up to?”

 

Madara doesn’t respond. The only indication he heard Kanata at all is the way his glazed eyes darken further, and another stumble in his next step.

 

“Careful,” Kanata says. “Come on, we’re at my bed now, see? Sit down with me, it’s okay.” He sits slowly, still holding Madara’s hands, but Madara doesn’t move from where he stands. With the way his shoulders tilt back and forth, Kanata fears he might keel over any second. “Mama,” he says, “Please, sit down. You look like a kelp with how you are swaying.”

 

He's new to this- new to being the comforter, the one between them to help instead of being helped. A bitter taste fills his mouth as he remembers the first time he had tried, all those years ago.

 

That is the past. Madara needs him here, now.

 

After three agonizing seconds, Madara begins to pitch forward. Kanata starts shifting to make room- Madara is very tall, and very tired, so if he falls forward he will probably sprawl- but is suddenly trapped in place when the weight of Madara’s head and chest fall onto his thighs.

 

“Mama, no-” He tries to lift him, fits his hands under Madara’s arms and pulls, but it’s useless. He’s completely dead weight. “Mama, I meant the bed, not the floor…”

 

Indeed, while his head has pillowed on Kanata’s lap, his legs are curled on the wooden floor beneath him- his bad knee is extended slightly, but Kanata doubts it was intentional. Subconscious, maybe, but in the state he's in it's more likely he just got lucky.

 

Once Kanata stops resisting, Madara exhales, not exactly smiling but not about to cry, either. Worn thin, perhaps. Like he'd be see-through if you shined a light on him.

 

He's relaxed, at least. In fact, the instantaneous relaxation of his shoulders makes Kanata feel a bit bad for trying to move him. Perhaps this is where he wants to be right now.

 

He smiles to himself- the situation is serious, but rarely does he get to have Madara so close. He begins to card his fingers through his hair, scratching lightly at the now-loose ponytail, and says, “You poor rogue. So tired you collapse on the floor, then. I understand.” At that, Madara makes a sound- he’s not sure if it’s meant to be a word, but still he leans forward. “What was that? I couldn’t hear.”

 

“...Boots,” Madara whispers- his voice comes out as little more than a rasp. “My boots. They’re dirty.”

 

Kanata lets himself feel a bit pleased that whatever he's doing, it must be working at least a little, if Madara is able to speak again. “Don’t worry about that. I can clean my sheets if it means you will be comfortable.”

 

Predictably, Madara shakes his head- ever the self-sacrificial one, even still.

 

“Well,” Kanata sighs, “that is alright then. When you feel up to it, we can take your boots off and you can come up here.” He knows he will have to help him. From the blood still smeared on his thumbs to the way he can feel the tremor of Madara’s fingers where they lay on his thighs, Kanata can only assume his hands are out of commission at the moment.

 

Madara says something that Kanata can’t hear again.

 

“One more time, please. Mama’s voice is very quiet tonight.”

 

“...Sorry.”

 

“It is okay. Your night has probably been very trying-”

 

“No,” Madara says, cutting him off. Kanata feels more than sees the guilt that comes with it. “I’m- I'm sorry about this- coming here, so late…”

 

“Oh, no,” Kanata says, folding himself over so that his cheek rests against the back of Madara’s head. He embraces him loosely, avoiding anything tight because Madara always seems to get quite tense when he’s not the one squeezing. “You are not allowed to feel guilty about this.”

 

“But-”

 

“No buts,” Kanata insists. “We are partners, right?”

 

A hesitant nod. It hurts, that second of hesitation, but Kanata knows that it is from Madara’s self-doubt and not intended as an insult.

 

He pulls a piece of Madara’s hair away from his neck, letting his nails ghost lightly across his skin. “ Partners, ” he begins, taking in Madara’s shuddering breath, “means that we are there for each other as equals. I want to be here for you.”

 

"But-" Madara says again, then stops himself. "Kanata-san," he tries again, "I…"

 

He presses a kiss to Madara's hair, right at the part. "Shush. You sound so tired. I'm sure you are, right?"

 

Madara exhales softly, something that could almost be considered a laugh. "Guess so."

 

"Would you like to talk about what happened?"

 

Another slow shake of the head- Kanata knew, of course, that he would refuse. He always does. But nonetheless, he offers.

 

He looks down and sees that his thumb has left a smudge of red on Madara's neck. It startles him- he hadn’t realized the blood was still wet. "Oh," he breathes. "Oh, Mama- you're hurt."

 

It's not as if it hadn't occurred to him. He knew Madara was injured, he just- it hadn't hit him until this moment that he should, or could, do something about it.

 

When Madara doesn't say anything, Kanata sighs, pulling himself up from Madara's back and pretending the way his head automatically burrows closer doesn't make him want to go right back where he was. "I need you to sit up now, please," he murmurs.

 

"Mn." He sounds reluctant. "Don't worry about it, I'm-"

 

"Madara." Kanata lets his voice raise a touch.  "If you say that you're fine, I'll get mad."

 

His protests stop immediately.

 

A bit harsh of him, but necessary. He's learned by now that it takes quite a lot to get something through Madara's incessantly thick skull. One thing that has been working so far- as distressing as it's usage may be- has been pulling the mad card.

 

It works as intended- after his brief period of shock, Madara heaves himself up just enough to release Kanata from his place on the bed. "Thank you," Kanata says, warming his voice once more. He presses another kiss to his head. "Let me help with your boots, then I will get some things to clean you up."

 

"You don't have to," Madara says quietly, but doesn't resist when Kanata kneels in front of him and starts undoing his laces.

 

His boots are grimy, especially at the toe and heel. As he unties, dirt crumbles from where it was lodged and falls to the ground in clumps. Madara bites his lip at the mess.

 

"I don't mind," Kanata says, knowing Madara well enough to see the incoming apology. "I'll clean it up later."

 

"I'll do it-"

 

" Madara. " It's a little exhausting sometimes, dealing with him. He can feel himself getting exasperated- at Madara's face, though, he finds himself softening. "You want to help, but right now I think what would help most is if you get some rest. I am not incapable of these sorts of things."

 

Madara's eyes widen. "Ah, no- I didn't mean-"

 

"I know," Kanata says. The first boot's laces are undone, and he slips it off as gently as he can. "You want to be able to do things yourself. I understand."

 

"I don't want to trouble you with anything," Madara mumbles. "That's not very mama at all, y'know?"

 

"Mm. And yet you came."

 

The other boot comes off, and Kanata places them neatly to the side. Madara's eyes trail after them, then fall to Kanata's hands, blackened from the dirt on the laces and the floor, which he's currently sweeping into a small pile.

 

Before Madara can say anything, Kanata turns and smiles at him. "Looks like I'll need to wash my hands! All clean to take care of you."

 

He lets out a small laugh, and Kanata feels his own smile grow. "Picked a good place for a pit stop," he says. "Five stars."

 

"I am not a cheap motel," Kanata chides, swatting Madara lightly on his good knee as he stands up to go to his room's sink. "Calling me a pit stop. How rude, you rogue."

 

"A five-star hotel, then?" Madara calls after him. His voice is still weak, clearly strained with the effort to sound normal, but the fact that he’s talking and joking at all is a good thing. If only he weren’t trying to deflect from the problem.

 

The water that runs down his hands comes off a rusted, corroded brown, filled with dirt and blood- it is perhaps cruel, but he hopes that not all of it is Madara’s. The idea of his partner leaving like this while someone else leaves uscathed makes something deeply unpleasant flare in his chest.

 

Wishing violence upon others is a terrible thing, he knows. But it would be a lie to say he doesn’t hope whoever did this got what they deserved.

 

Ah. The water has begun to run clear.

 

“All better now,” he says, smiling quickly to cover the ugly thoughts he’s suddenly sure Madara sees. “You were smart to come here. I have just the thing for such an occasion.”

 

Madara wrinkles his nose as Kanata brings over a wet towel and his very useful box. “A first-aid kit?” he asks. “Why d’you have that?”

 

“Injuries happen,” Kanata explains. “And I have many friends like you.”

 

“Now, what’s that s’posed to mean,” Madara grins.

 

“You know exactly what it means. Now, come on. You’ve been on the floor too long, sit up.”

 

“Demanding,” Madara sighs, but complies. 

 

His words are jokes, but Kanata’s gotten better at reading people over the years, especially him- it’s clear that he’s only going along so easily because he just doesn’t have the energy to resist anymore. His eyes are so heavy. Every move he makes, from the way he drags himself off the floor to how he drops like a sack onto the mattress, tells Kanata that he is well and truly exhausted. It’s a wonder he’s moving at all at this point.

 

Kanata purses his lips, feeling suddenly as if he might cry. That would be extremely unhelpful at the moment- it hurts, seeing Madara like this, but the last thing he should do right now is break down. It’s always Madara helping him when he’s hurt, or angry, or upset- loving, gentle Madara, a pillar of support that never seems to falter. But even the greatest of pillars have cracks- Madara needs him to be the strong one, for once.

 

With a deep breath, Kanata blinks away any heat in his eyes and kneels before him once more. “I’ll start with this,” he says, tapping Madara’s knee where there is no blood. “Do you know how deep it is?”

 

“It’s just superficial,” Madara says, then, tentatively, “I might need to get a brace for a week or two, though.”

 

Kanata lifts his head sharply. “It’s sprained?”

 

He shrugs, tense and uncomfortable, and Kanata bites his tongue. It probably took a lot for Madara to admit that. He needs to be more careful with how he reacts to things.

 

“We can get it properly looked at tomorrow,” Kanata amends. “For now, I will at least make sure it isn’t dirty.”

 

Pulling back the threads of the tears in the jeans, he can see that under the layer of dirt, Madara was telling the truth- the cut doesn’t look to be too bad. Aside from the cut, there is a wide bruise on the plate of the knee, and the whole thing appears to be tender and a bit swollen. He makes a mental note to keep an eye on this fool for at least a week, lest he try and practice like this.

 

He cups around Madara’s knee carefully and dabs the towel over the cut. First pass is to clean out the dirt, then any dried and fresh blood, then a layer of antibiotic to finish it up. It’s a song and dance he’s performed many times- when one’s best friends are people like Chiaki, who treat injury as a shameful hindrance to success, and Kaoru, who complain loudly to anyone who listens but pull away once someone tries to actually help, it becomes something of a second nature to treat these kinds of things. As he said- injuries happen. It would be nice if they didn’t happen so frequently with his friends, but at least it means he’s prepared.

 

In theory, anyway. It becomes hard to focus once Madara’s leg starts bouncing. Usually, when these sorts of things happen, the person he is helping begins to relax as he goes through his methods. With Madara, it appears to be the opposite- his hands are clenched tightly into the comforter below him.

 

“You’re nervous,” Kanata observes. “There is nothing to be nervous about, not here.”

 

His leg stills. “Sorry. Guess I’ve still got some adrenaline in there.”

 

There’s no way he has any adrenaline left, but Kanata lets him be. “All clean,” he murmurs, smearing the antibiotic over the cut with two fingers. “Good job.”

 

Madara blinks, a light flush rising in his cheeks. “I didn’t do anything,” he says.

 

“Ah, but you did.” A band-aid for good measure, and his knee is done. He kisses it lightly- usually he is not so frequent with his kisses, but tonight requires generosity. “You sat very nicely for me. I know that wasn’t easy for you.”

 

Another shrug- he looks embarrassed at Kanata’s praise, but underneath the sheepish red is a layer of discomfort. Childish praise aside, he truly is proud of what Madara’s managed here. His hurdles are difficult for Kanata to understand, but they are hurdles nonetheless and he made the effort to clear them tonight.

 

“May I see your hands?”

 

The same hesitance from before. The difference between the knee and his hands is unclear, but if Kanata has to guess, he’d say it’s more in the implication of the wounds than the wounds themselves.

 

“It will be quick,” he promises, squashing any signs of impatience deep within himself. “Just your hands, then you can rest. Is that okay?”

 

Another beat, then he nods, slow and uncertain, but a confirmation at least. He unclenches his hands- Kanata takes the left one first, brushing a thumb over the right but leaving it be. It goes right back to balling into the fabric.

 

As Kanata dabs at his knuckles, picking up the crumbling flakes of dry blood with the small dots of new bleeding, he risks a glance at Madara’s face. He’s expressionless- or perhaps that’s not quite the word. Stone-faced, maybe. Frozen.

 

“Mama must have had a lot of work tonight,” Kanata says gently. “I hope you don’t have something so trying for quite some time after this.” Madara’s fingers twitch in his hands- his purposefully serene smile grows more tender as he feels them curl around his own and squeeze.

 

He squeezes back, and Madara lets out a shuddering breath. Ah, he thinks, we are reaching a breaking point.  

 

“I’m sorry,” Madara whispers, eyes pinched shut. Another squeeze.

 

A squeeze in return. “For what? You’ve done nothing wrong.”

 

“I shouldn’t have come here.”

 

“Silly,” Kanata says. “Other hand, please.” One more squeeze. One more kiss.

 

His right hand is significantly more bruised- he is right-handed, after all. It makes sense he’d favor it when things take a turn for the worst. He should feel angry- he should feel that same heat from earlier, watching the blood pool in the sink. Instead, he just feels an ache where the fire had burned.

 

“Poor Mama,” he tuts, not commenting on the tremor that lines Madara’s fingers once more. “Tomorrow, it will hurt less.”

 

“It doesn’t hurt.” His voice is a ghost of itself.

 

Kanata shakes his head. “I admit that I enjoy your jokes, but sometimes, I wish you wouldn’t say such silly things,” he says. 

 

Madara smiles, though it looks much like a crack in glass. “So you like my jokes,” he breathes. “That means I can tell twice as many.”

 

“Do not push it.”

 

He laughs- it wavers, hanging in the air with a fragility so foreign to Kanata. Madara's laughs are usually used to strengthen his wall, not expose the breakage.

 

The blood and grime is clear from his hand now. Kanata keeps his hold on it anyway. "I have heard," he says, planting yet another kiss on the middle knuckle, "that kisses can heal. What do you think? Is it helping?"

 

"Very much," Madara replies with a grin. He's trying so hard to keep it together.

 

"Do you know what else helps with healing?"

 

"What’s that?"

 

"Sleep," Kanata announces, pushing his shoulders back and standing up as Madara goes down. “Sleep is the body’s time to restore.”

 

Madara’s eyes widen, and he shakes his head a touch too quickly. “Oh, no,” he says, pushing himself up even as Kanata levels him with a glare. “No- I can’t just make you host me tonight, that’s-”

 

“You are not making me do anything,” Kanata scolds. “I want you to stay here. Isn’t that enough?”

 

“It’s- I mean, that’s not really-”

 

“Shush.” Using both hands, he pulls back the covers on the bed up to where Madara sits. Then, he plants himself firmly in front of Madara and leans forward to be eye to eye with him, placing his hands on his hips. “You came here because you needed me. Am I wrong?”

 

Silence. Maybe he had been too harsh, picking the direct route. A different route, then- one he knows for sure will work.

 

“I’d feel better,” he continues, as slowly and gently as he can without backing down, “if you stayed with me tonight. Is that okay?”

 

Perhaps he would be called manipulative for using Madara’s need to put others before himself to his benefit. Perhaps it’s true. Right now, though, he only cares about making the hesitation on Madara’s face disappear, and this seems to be the only thing working.

 

His eyes dart from side to side as the silence extends, but he’s clearly wearing down. “...You’d feel better?” he asks, managing a split second of eye contact before his gaze breaks.

 

Kanata nods. “I would,” he says. “You worry me, you rogue. Leaving now would be bad for my heart.”

 

“...Well then.” The sigh he lets out is long, long and defeated, which means Kanata has won. “I’d be a pretty awful partner if I gave you some sort of heart attack, huh?”

 

“Mm, terrible,” Kanata agrees. “I’d never forgive you for it. Do you want pajamas?”

 

He shakes his head. “Soft jeans,” he explains, which Kanata takes to mean he doesn’t have the energy to get up and change.

 

“Okay. Come on, then. Lay back.”

 

This time, he obliges, gingerly pushing himself back towards the pillows and stretching out. He still looks quite nervous- tight and compact, as if he thinks being small will make him less present. It doesn’t suit him.

 

"Comfortable?" Kanata asks, pulling the comforter over his legs and up to his chest. "Ohisama-san has told me the light from my aquarium is quite soothing. Do you like it?"

 

"S'nice," Madara says, avoiding Kanata's eyes to track one of the fish. The blue light gives his skin an almost marbling quality, one that even in this state makes Kanata's breath catch in his chest. Few times has he been enraptured by the thought of kissing him- he finds himself overrun with the impulse now.

 

Not the time, he chides himself, but he cannot stop himself from another glance at the silver triangle of skin on Madara's cheek. Later, maybe. When Madara feels good again.

 

It takes a moment for him to register that Madara's gaze has fallen to him. It startles him- how badly had he exposed himself?

 

"Are you gonna…" Madara says, trailing off. Kanata cocks his head, waiting, until he sees the way Madara's eyes flick between him and the empty space beside him.

 

"Oh!" He feels his face flush. Truthfully, he had been so caught up with how Madara had looked in the moment, he'd forgotten he was just sitting on the edge of the bed.

 

Madara's eyebrows pull together. "You aren't sleeping on the couch, are you? I don't want to take your bed if-"

 

"Stop being so silly," Kanata sighs, pushing himself to sit back against the pillows. "I wouldn't leave you by yourself."

 

He opens his mouth to object- probably something like, you don't need to worry about that, or, that's not what I meant, but goes silent when Kanata pulls his head back into his lap.

 

"There we go," he murmurs. "That's much better."

 

"Kanata-san…?"

 

"I said I would take care of you, right?" He unties Madara's ponytail, then combs the braided sides out gently. "Just rest. It will all be okay. I'm here for you."

 

There must have been something about that statement that pushed him to it, or perhaps it's Kanata's hands in his hair, or maybe he's just had enough. Whatever it may be, Madara takes a breath, then another, then hiccups and chokes on the third and Kanata can tell the breaking point has been reached.

 

"Oh, Mama," he soothes, pushing down his panic as Madara turns away, biting his lip so hard it turns white. "Please don't do that- please don't, you'll hurt yourself…"

 

He shakes his head, movement erratic and uncomfortable. Trying not to make noise, Kanata realizes, trying to stop himself from crying the moment he's begun.

 

"Madara, please," Kanata whispers. He reaches over, pushing a thumb into Madara's bottom lip, tugging as gently as he can to try and free it.

 

The panic rises as he realizes just how out of his depth he is. So many times, he's told people not to cry, to keep smiling, to stay happy, because it hurts him terribly to see those he loves sad. Now, though, he wishes he had let them cry, if only so he'd know what to do now. All he has to go on is what Madara's done for him in the past. What would Madara do?

 

"...It's okay," he repeats, letting go of Madara's lip to instead brush at the tear tracks on his cheeks. "It's okay. You can let it out, it's alright." Madara's hands are clutched to his chest, so he uses his other hand to envelop them. In the times he's broken down in front of Madara, he always takes his hands first. Maybe it means he'd like the same thing.

 

The fabric of his pants where Madara's eyes are pressed is hot and wet, but he's barely making a sound. This, truly, might break Kanata's heart- to cry silently is, in most cases, a learned skill.

 

He cannot cry. Not when Madara needs him.

 

"That's good," he says, when one of Madara's sobs finally escapes his mouth. It rips from him, freeing his lip with a sickly pop, but it means he's reaching a peak. "Good, good. No more hurting yourself, that's good."

 

"Doesn't hurt," Madara manages to gasp out, swallowing down another heaving breath. "It doesn't- hurt-"

 

Kanata leans down and kisses him, right at the corner of his eye. "Please stop trying to hide," he says against his skin. "It's okay to say it hurts."

 

Another erratic shake of the head. One of his hands grasps at Kanata's covering it, then grips it so tightly he winces. "Can't," he whispers, "I can't, I-"

 

"Then don't say anything," Kanata says. "Just try and breathe for me. Can you do that?" Madara would always tell him to breathe. In, and out, over and over. "Here, can you match me? In, out. Like that, yes."

 

It's working, at least somewhat. His breathing is still shuddery and uneven, but the shallow gulps of air are becoming deep, purposeful inhales. His grip somehow manages to get tighter.

 

"So good, Mama. That's much better." He hopes his encouragement does for Madara what Madara's does for him. "Much, much better."

 

"Stupid," Madara gasps, "this is- stupid- I'm so stupid- "

 

"No." Kanata cuts him off sharply. "You are not stupid. Keep breathing."

 

He takes another breath in, but it stumbles on more words. "I'm so sorry," he whispers. "I'm so sorry. I messed up-" Another inhale, another exhale.

 

"Messed up with what? Your job?"

 

"No- yes- no," Madara stutters. "It wasn't- anything different, anything new, I just- I couldn't- I can't-"

 

"In and out, Mama. Come on."

 

He gathers himself with another breath. "I couldn't take it tonight," he finishes, finally turning to look up at Kanata, just a little. He looks so, so hollow. "I couldn't take it," he says again, "I had to- I don't even know, I had to…"

 

He doesn't say anything after that.

 

Kanata combs the bangs back and away from Madara's forehead- it's damp with a cold sweat. He wants so desperately to ask. Had to what? It sits on the tip of his tongue. Had to what?

 

He very nearly asks it- he opens his mouth, closes it, then opens it again- but before he can manage to get out the words, Madara twists and presses his face into his stomach, wrapping his arms around Kanata's waist.

 

"Ah-" He's taken completely off-guard. Has Madara been restraining himself this whole time?

 

Through the fabric of his sweater, he feels the deep inhale Madara takes, and the hot air of his exhale that seems to rip straight through.

 

"I was so worried about you," Madara whispers, voice muffled but feeling perfectly clear in his ears. "Whenever I'm away, I'm so worried about you…"

 

Kanata pushes a clump of hair behind Madara's ear, letting his nails drag just slightly. "You are the one doing the dangerous things," he says, hoping Madara understands what he means.

 

"I just…" His grip tightens, but not uncomfortably. Secure, but not crushing. Kanata thinks he likes it. "I had to see you, Kanata-san."

 

"Well," Kanata murmurs, "you did, didn't you?"

 

"I shouldn't have-"

 

Kanata kisses the crown of his head. "I want you to come to me every time," he breathes into Madara's hair. "Do you understand? Every time."

 

It's a tall order. One Madara will probably resist, multiple times, long before he can follow it. But Kanata is stubborn, and patient.

 

"...Say it again."

 

"...Ah?"

 

"Say it again," Madara repeats, fingers digging into the fabric they lay against. "Say it again. Please."

 

Oh, he shouldn't have chosen such sentimental words. He can feel his face reddening.

 

"Madara," he begins, "I want you to come to me," another small kiss, "every time. Especially if you feel like this. Can you do that for me?" For you. For us.

 

A beat passes, and Madara releases his grip on Kanata's waist. He pushes himself up to face him- his face is tear-stained and sallow, eyes red and swollen, but the set of his brow is resolute.

 

"Okay," he says. "I'll try."

 

Really, he must stop doing these sorts of things. It's bad for Kanata's heart.

 

He takes Madara's face in his hands and kisses him.

 

Slow, chaste- not deep and passionate like some before, but not quick like their very first. He just wants to feel him. He wants Madara right here, in his hands, on his lips, everywhere, always.

 

Madara is still at first- still, but doesn't pull away. Then Kanata feels his hands in his hair, around his neck, and he can't help the smile that forms against Madara's mouth.

 

"Rogue," he whispers, finally letting go to instead press their foreheads together.

 

"I'm starting to think," Madara drawls, managing to sound a bit more like himself again, "that that's not really an insult anymore."

 

"No. You must be sleep deprived, thinking something so silly."

 

"Oh, yeah?" And Madara smiles, a genuine, real smile, the first one he's had all night. It fills Kanata's chest with an indescribable feeling that he can only think of as weightless. "What d'you say we do about that?"

 

"Mm," Kanata hums, pushing him down gently against the mattress. "I think you would make a great pillow."

 

" Hey! "

 

He's smiling, smiling, smiling- Kanata drinks it in, prints it on his brain, etches it right behind his eyes for easy access. Madara is smiling, and maybe he's still hurting, but he will be okay. Kanata is sure of it. And when he needs him again, he will be there.

 

That's what a partner does, after all.