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Ill and Suffering Kin

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                Sometimes his brothers could be truly heartless, leaving ill and suffering family members to do just that – be ill and suffer. Karamatsu sighed restlessly and ran his fingers through his hair, humming at the feel of the silky locks being thread through without resistance. Perfectly knot-less, as usual.

 

                He set his mirror down at the sight of Osomatsu and Choromatsu at the door, sliding their shoes on. Ichimatsu and Jyushimatsu were not far behind the two. Jyushimatsu, clad in his baseball uniform, was shouting his signature mantra while Ichimatsu had a gym bag dangling off of his arm. A baseball bat poked out. Karamatsu offered them a quizzical look, one that was not without accusation. Certainly this was a tad cruel?

 

                “My brothers, don’t you know that one of our own kin is upstairs, deathly ill as we speak? Surely, instead of going out, we should all be taking care of him.” He offered them an encouraging smile. Ichimatsu’s glare, which had never truly been able to silence Karamatsu, bore into his chest while Osomatsu laughed.

 

                “You can do that, then! We’ll all go out so that there isn’t another epidemic, right?” The fourth and fifth-born Matsunos slipped out behind the other two, ignored thanks to Karamatsu’s fussing. Choromatsu mumbled something that sounded like an agreement when Osomatsu glanced back at him. The sought validation was at least somewhat fulfilled. Karamatsu’s smile turned into a dissatisfied frown at Osomatsu’s reasoning.

 

                “But my bro-“.

 

                “Bye, Karamatsu! See you later!” Before he could properly argue, Osomatsu and Choromatsu hurriedly shuffled out the door, vacating the house in seconds.

 

                Truthfully, Karamatsu didn’t exactly mind his brothers leaving. It permitted him to be reliable for once, allowing himself to act like the big brother he often was not given the chance to be.

 

                He knew that Todomatsu had been set up on the couch to rest not long ago, and he was likely asleep. Karamatsu was at least reasonable enough to leave him to rest. After all, Totty was just about the worst when it came to having an illness. His fevers were horrible. Karamatsu’s fevers, which had landed him in the hospital more than once, were the only ones worse. And Totty could sweat a river; not to mention that he refused to unwrap himself from a blanket cocoon due to the chills. This didn’t even count the unpleasantness that came with coughing and sneezing and having a runny or stuffy nose. All in all, being sick was a very unpleasant experience for Todomatsu. More than it was for the others.

 

                But Todomatsu was being quiet, and so Karamatsu saw no reason to check up on his brother just yet. Rather, he spent some time slowly filtering through some magazine of his. Every bit of ‘perfect’ fashion that caught his eye, he placed a sticky flag on. For future reference, of course. It was a surprisingly engrossing activity; he zoned out and before he realized it half an hour had passed.

 

                The only reason he was knocked out of his zone was because of the muffled sound of coughing coming from upstairs. It was deep and hoarse enough that it sounded like a smoker’s cough. Lips pursed in concern, Kara slid the sticky flag pad into the page he left off on and shut the magazine, leaving it on the ground. He padded to the kitchen and pulled a water bottle from the fridge, water condensing on the plastic almost immediately. His ears remained trained on the sound of his brother possibly dying, considering the severity of his hacking. That only served for more worry to blossom in Karamatsu’s chest, and part of him considered calling an ambulance.

 

                But that would cost money, most likely. They could just as easily go to a nearby clinic which would cost nothing.

 

                Water bottle firmly in hand, Karamatsu slowly ascended the stairs, sliding into the bedroom he shared with five identical bodies but moving to the only other occupant in the room.

 

                Even in the dark, Karamatsu saw how tightly curled up Todomatsu was. Stretched to full length, any of the brothers could occupy the entire length of the couch; Todomatsu barely occupied half. His shivering form was huddled under a blanket, the only serious movement from him being the rocking of his body as he coughed. Lips quivering empathetically, Kara sat on the edge of the couch and brushed away some of Totty’s hair, clearly intent on feeling how warm he was.

 

                What he was not prepared for, however, was the extent to which his little brother had been sweating. Totty’s hair clung to his face and the back of his neck in a knotted mess, only further mussed by his head’s movements as he coughed. Nervously, Kara set the chilled water bottle down next to his own feet and used his nails to gently scrape the sweaty hair back, forcing it to take on a gelled appearance.  Afterwards, Kara placed the back of his hand on Totty’s forehead, retracting it almost immediately with a wince.

 

                He was boiling. No wonder he had the chills – and why he was sweating so much. There was probably more water outside his body than in. Surely, his baby brother must be dehydrated! Resolve met, Karamatsu lightly tapped at Todomatsu’s cheek until the younger roused, blinking back at his brother groggily, squinting at his form in the dimly lit room. His eyes were narrowed in irritation at Karamatsu’s intrusion but the elder paid the look no mind, forcing an arm under Totty’s shoulders to pull him up into a sitting position.

 

                The world swam in Todomatsu’s vision almost immediately and one of his hands settled on Kara’s thigh for support. The elder readjusted his position so that Totty leaned on him more; this earned a hum of half-hearted appreciation despite the glare that Todomatsu was delivering at his own traitorous hand.

 

                Once he was sufficiently balanced, Kara reached down to grab the water bottle and held it to Totty’s forehead for a few seconds, rotating it as the plastic surface cooled. The sensation was relaxing to say the least. Totty fell even more limp against Karamatsu, eyed fluttering shut momentarily. He made a soft hum of approval deep in his throat.

 

                “Ah! Do not go back to sleep yet, brother, we must keep you hydrated.” Groaning faintly, Todomatsu reopened his eyes at Karamatsu’s voice and gingerly took the offered water bottle. His grip wavered however, and he nearly dropped it before Kara used one of his hands to hold it steady. Carefully twisting the cap off, he brought the water bottle to Totty’s lips and smiled as his brother drank slowly.

 

                Sadly, Karamatsu was not very good at the tip water bottle to the rate of drinking. Small amounts of water dribbled out of Todomatsu’s mouth and he spluttered, spitting out some of the water in exchange for a fresh batch of hacks. Karamatsu, surprisingly silent, frowned and rubbed Totty’s back until the coughing ceased and his breathing returned to normal-ish.

 

                “Do you want some more water?” His words were soft and careful, much quieter than his usual dramatic flair. Totty opened his mouth to respond and frowned when he was soundless. He cleared his throat before he tried again, this time with more success.

 

                “N-No… I’m good.” Totty’s voice was very much hoarse and scratchy. Karamatsu, at first, thought he hadn’t heard Todomatsu say anything.

 

                “But… Thanks.” Until he was able to further process the sound. He later beamed and nodded, capping the remaining water and placing it on the ground after he reaffirmed his position as Todomatsu’s support. Smiling, he squeezed his brother gently, only to be surprised by the extent that Totty had sweat.

 

                “Totty… You’re wearing too many layers.”

 

                “Because I’m cold, big brother.” Ah, there it was. The snappy, sassy retort. It lacked its usual venom, unsurprisingly. Well, Karamatsu was certainly dealing with the youngest of the six – and he was definitely sick.

 

                “Yes, that’s because you have a very nasty fever, my dear, precious brother. You’ll sweat yourself into dehydration if you don’t wear something lighter. A tank top, perhaps?” Totty huffed and weakly shoved himself away from his brother, flopping back down onto the bed with a pout and a shiver. From behind him, Karamatsu sighed.

 

                “A t-shirt, at least? Come, brother. I don’t want to see you get worse.” Of course he would play on Todomatsu’s miserableness with the possibility of becoming even more miserable. With a whiny complaint, Totty relented, not replying until he successfully expelled three lungfuls of air into his fist. Karamatsu offered Todomatsu a pity-filled smile as he helped his brother sit up once more, unbuttoning the sweaty pyjama shirt and tossing it to the other end of the room. Now his brother was left sitting there, shirtless and freezing.

 

                His skin was sticky to the touch and Kara frowned. Totty hated sweating; that must not feel good either. Kara gestured with a finger for Totty to sit still and not move as he left the room.

 

                Thanking the silent gods that Totty did not have the energy to crawl over and grab his old shirt, Kara returned in short time with a bowl of ice water and two cloths – along with a hair clip of their mother’s that he found hiding in a drawer. One of the cloths, already wrung out, was used to gently wipe at the sweatiest spots on Totty’s torso. Kara was thoughtful enough to start with his brother’s neck, wiping around it gently and around his face before his armpits were relieved of their stickiness. Todomatsu shivered at the contact, whining gently as the coolness only made him colder.

 

                A wave of dizziness overtook Todomatsu then, and he shut his eyes and leaned against the back of the couch. He tried his best to take deep breaths, but they were shallow and shaky. Kara observed his brother in silence for a moment before he ditched the cloth. Using the opportunity of Totty’s blindness, Kara reached into the Karamatsu Drawer (alternatively known as the place where he stored most of his own clothes) and slipped the first shirt he found over Totty’s head, carefully helping him to loop his arms through the sleeves.

 

                Of course, it was a plain white shirt with an almost-glittering picture of Karamatsu’s face. Sick or not, everyone deserved to wear Karamatsu at least once. Even if he would likely get his own ass kicked for it afterwards; he looked good on his baby brother.

 

                After another hacking fit, Kara gently urged Totty to lay back down. As an afterthought, he placed his mother’s hairclip in his mouth and brushed Totty’s hair back once more, pinning the bangs up so that they would remain out of his face. At least his hair would feel less icky in the coming days. Hopefully.

 

                The level to which Totty remained complacent was worrying. But Karamatsu tried hard not to dwell on that fact; he had a duty to his brother, after all. He would take care of him. The best care possible! Regardless of Kara not knowing if he should be giving his brother anything for that cough. It was likely that Totty would use whatever minimal amount of energy he had left to shove any medicine back in Kara’s face, anyway. Unless it was strawberry flavoured, Todomatsu would have nothing to do with medicine.

 

                Eventually, Totty settled back down on the couch, back to his brother. Kara only chuckled and tucked the blanket around his shivering form.

 

                Whenever Karamatsu became sick, he knew that he adored the ‘get well soon’ forehead kisses his mother would bestow upon him when he was younger. A harmless expression of love, really! It was a faint memory that Karamatsu held very dear to his heart.

 

                Smiling innocently to himself, he leaned down and gently pressed his lips to his brother’s temple. The heat emanating from his forehead still was worrying, but it did serve to remind Karamatsu that he needed to place the second chilled cloth.

 

                “Good night, dear brother,” He murmured silently yet dramatically, before the cloth was placed on an otherwise silent Totty’s forehead. Totty hacked into the pillow in response and curled up tighter. Worry coated Karamatsu’s features but he knew his brother needed to rest now. Filled with regret, he departed from the room.

 

                He returned downstairs where he resumed putting sticky tags on leather jackets, pants, gloves, shoes, etc. He was almost in the zone again when Totty’s coughs began anew and Kara did do his best to ignore them. But as time wore on it became increasingly difficult; even his eternal, human-created dense-man patience wore thin.

 

                At the half hour mark, Karamatsu decided that enough was enough and he was going to somehow shove cough syrup down his sick brother’s throat. It was a job for only the manliest of men. Nothing that Karamatsu couldn’t handle (he was going to die).

 

                Inhaling unsurely, Kara proceeded to the bathroom and pulled a half-empty bottle of cough syrup from the cabinet. The foul-tasting concoction was all something that the brothers had dreaded for years, but they were also all in worship of its cough-ending capabilities.

 

                The sight of the viscous dark crimson liquid slowly draining into the medicine cup made Karamatsu shudder. The thought of anyone ingesting such a monstrosity was hell he did not wish upon anyone, least of all one of his own kin. However, the thought of Todomatsu’s coughs continuing for God knows how long was enough to strengthen his resolve.

 

                He held it at arms’ length, grimace plain on his features and he strode back towards the bedroom, filled with purpose. He was going to give his baby brother the awful concoction, and likely be hated for it. The magical brew of repulsion would work its wonders on Todomatsu. And then, no more coughs. It was a wonderful plan. He could do this.

 

                Once more, he slid into their bedroom with the lights off. A simple lapse of idiocy turned into a stroke of good luck; Karamatsu placed the medicine cup on the ground and out of sight as he nudged his brother once more. Totty roused with a grumble, obviously exhausted, and pulled the covers over his head with a groan.

 

                Karamatsu sighed, and found his previous resolve crumble slightly. Maybe if he’d just let his brother rest… Another round of coughs and a pitiful whimper from the curled up Todomatsu quashed that thought. It would be unfortunate – downright cruel of Karamatsu, possibly. Maybe Totty would spend the rest of the afternoon – maybe the rest of their collective lives – hating him for it.

 

                But it had to be done. It would make everything better.

 

                Probably.

 

                Kara scooted closer and carefully peeled the blanket away from Todomatsu. He was elbowed in the ribs as a reward for his good deed, as Totty turned back to glower at his brother. Kara merely offered a thousand-watt smile in the darkness and pulled his brother up again. Once again, he became Totty’s support as the younger lost any upper body strength to his coughs.

 

                “You need more… water, brother! Can you open up for me?” The darkness was able to hide Karamatsu’s betraying expression. He was the worst liar of the Matsunos, save for Choromatsu, maybe. Without argument, Todomatsu’s eyes slipped shut and he opened his mouth slightly – obediently. There was no sign of his usual spunk.

 

                Totty’s exhausted expression broke Karamatsu’s heart. Sure, he seemed tired earlier, but now he seemed to have been defeated by his cold. If his earlier complacence was anything to be nervous about, this level of submission was downright terrifying.

 

                And here Karamatsu was, betraying his precious little brother’s trust.

 

                Thank god Todomatsu’s nose was stuffed, as the rank from the cough syrup could be smelt even when it wasn’t held under Karamatsu’s nose. Certainly, Totty would have revoked access to his mouth if he could smell the impending horror.

 

                In one swift motion, Karamatsu dumped the medicine into Totty’s mouth. In the second between the liquid leaving the cup and the ill sibling tasting it, Kara had successfully forced his brother’s mouth shut. Though not before Totty sputtered and forced some to dribble down his chin. Immediately, Totty’s expression turned sour and he used his remaining strength to squirm against Karamatsu. His arm closest to Kara had a clenched fist as he weakly tried to elbow his brother in the stomach, or punch him in his Matsu Makers. Possibly – probably – both.

 

                “Just swallow it, Totty. I’ll give you the water to wash it down.”

 

                Eventually, Todomatsu did swallow – thought not without a death glare to Karamatsu. Evidently more awake now, he took a swig of water and gurgled it. Rather than swallowing it, however, he spat it out. Onto Kara. At his brother’s screech of surprise, a smug lip curl overtook his features and he rested comfortably on his brother once more. As though nothing had happened.

 

                “Disgusting looks good on you.” Had it not been for the hoarseness and the crack in his voice, Karamatsu would have thought Todomatsu recovered. But nonetheless, his brother was just being a vengeful person. That was to be assumed.

 

                Glancing down at his shirt, however, Karamatsu knew that it would never be the same again. It was pure white, and Karamatsu was sure that there would be a pink splotch of some sort in the spot where Totty’s projectile had marked. Well, sacrifices must be made! The death of a precious Karamatsu shirt was nothing compared to the relief that Kara was sure Totty would be feeling soon.

 

                He watched in silence as Totty chugged the rest of the water bottle and then crushed it, halfheartedly chucking the empty plastic to the far end of the room.

 

                And just like that, his burst of energy was spent and Todomatsu flopped back against his brother, coughing a couple times before exhaling softly. A shudder ran through him – likely an aftershock the medicine – and he glanced up at Kara.

 

                “Can I sleep now?” Offering the warmest, most genuine smile he could muster, Kara acquiesced and allowed his brother to sink back under the covers. Once again, he tucked him in and pressed a kiss to his forehead; Totty made a faint sound of complaint, turning his head into his pillow more. A passive attempt to get his brother to keep his affection to himself. Karamatsu only laughed lightly and gently ran his fingers through Totty’s hair.

 

                “I’ll bring you something to eat in a few hours. Soup, maybe.” There was a mumble of affirmation before Todomatsu repeated his previous request, more sarcastically this time. Karamatsu bade him adieu regretfully, vacating the dark room, though not before snagging a fresh shirt from his own drawer. This shirt, surprisingly, was more painful than the last and Karamatsu wore it with pride.

 

                Over the span of a half hour or so, Karamatsu pressed his ear to the bedroom door occasionally. After the first twenty minutes, not a cough was heard. It was only then that he allowed himself to head back downstairs and become engrossed in his magazine once more.

 

                At some point in time, perhaps twenty minutes later, Karamatsu changed from magazine filtering to watching the television, dozing lightly. It was rare for the house to be so quiet, but not unappreciated. He jolted upright with a yelp at the sound of footsteps thundering upstairs, a slam on the hardwood floors as the last steps down were obviously jumped.

 

                Suddenly Todomatsu was at the door to the living room, pale and trembling, hand clamped over his mouth and nose. He took a step forward and swayed, pausing as Karamatsu got to his feet and rushed over to his brother, holding him by the shoulders.

 

                “Todomatsu! Are you okay?” Surely, at some other point in time, Totty would have responded sarcastically. Raised an eyebrow and made fun of how completely dense his brother was. Of course he wasn’t okay. He was fit to collapse at any moment, from the look of things. But instead he merely shook his head with an audible whimper. Tears were welling up in his eyes and in seconds he was crying, shaking his head again with a strangled sob.

 

                “I – It just – Suddenly –” He could scarcely form a coherent sentence, and each stutter was punctuated with a sharp intake of breath. His voice broke each time he tried speaking anew, cries mixing in with his already hoarse voice.

 

                That was when Karamatsu noticed the blood seeping between his fingertips, and panic set in for the both of them.

 

                Totty was forcefully placed on the ground and Karamatsu retrieved a box of tissues, sitting down in front of his little brother as he carefully removed his hand. Soft tuts and hushes of comfort were uttered as a tissue was placed under Totty’s nose. Carefully, gently, he forced Totty to lean forward. His ring finger held the tissue under his brother’s nose as his thumb and middle pinched the bridge of it with another part of the tissue.

 

                Totty’s cries became muffled and nasal as he whimpered pathetically. Smiling weakly in what he hoped was a comforting expression, Karamatsu used another tissue to dab at his brother’s eyes and flushed cheeks. Setting that tissue to the side, Kara performed a small butt-shuffle to wiggle closer. His now-free hand came up to rub consoling circles into his brother’s back.

 

                “It’s okay, these kinds of things happen. It could have been because your nose is very dry.” Unable to sniffle, Totty settled for a shaky exhale as he nodded. It sounded as good as an excuse as any. Really, the cause didn’t matter to him. He was tired and a hundred shades of unwell. He hadn’t been able to sleep, he was force-fed cough syrup (which admittedly helped but it still sucked). He was still cold. Now he had a nose bleed. His tears were from little more than frustration and exhaustion. He was tired, dammit, and he did not deserve to feel like this.

 

                He was blubbering like a child because he was sleep deprived and miserable. Angry and frustrated and why him. He was acting like a baby. Totty forced his eyes to close, ignoring the tears, praying to god that this all wouldn’t come to bite him later. But Karamatsu had the biggest heart of them all. He was unlikely to tease the family baby.

 

                “I feel like shit,” He croaked. From his proximity to Karamatsu, he felt more than he heard his brother’s hum of acknowledgement. It was like a vibration that rocked his body. He shuffled a bit closer to Kara, chilled hands going under his shirt to press at the warm skin. Felt nice. Karamatsu shuddered under his touch, but did not comment on that, directly. Perhaps he understood that Totty was still cold, having abandoned his blanket to the couch upstairs.

 

                “I can imagine.” Was all that Karamatsu replied with, seeming far more tense and nervous than before. Because of the nosebleed, most likely.

 

                After a few minutes of silence and back-rubbing, Totty’s tears slowed. It was only once he found his voice, more solid this time, that he spoke up once more.

 

                “How long?” Kara did not respond for a few minutes, giving Totty a blank stare.

 

                “Well, it could be a few days before you’re b-“

 

                “My nose.” His tone was sharper this time, and Kara made a soft ‘oh’ in recognition. Dense brother, of course he wouldn’t understand.

 

                “Another ten minutes, then we can check. I know it is a very boring activity, dear brother. Should I sing you a lullaby?” Todomatsu ignored his brother’s offer to ‘ugh’ softly in reply. Without receiving an outright denial, Kara began humming softly, the tempo of the circles being rubbed against Totty’s back matching the slow tune of the song.

 

                Out of sheer boredom, Todomatsu nearly fell asleep. His hands were still half-pressed to Kara’s warm tummy flesh. It was only after Kara pushed him up and his nose was unpinched did he blink blearily, only half-conscious. A fresh tissue was used to wipe at the blood crusted up Totty’s upper lip as Karamatsu cheerfully announced that his baby brother’s nosebleed had been successfully vanquished. There was a noise of complacent cheer as Totty shuffled so that he was next to Kara.

 

                Eyeing his brother curiously, Karamatsu lifted his arm and Todomatsu immediately filled the vacated space, nuzzling into his brother’s shirt.

 

                “Erm, Tott-“

 

                “Shut up. Good heater brothers don’t talk.” After a minute of hesitation, Karamatsu carefully lowered his arm. When it didn’t seem like Totty was going to suplex him into the floor, Kara carefully pulled his brother closer.

 

                On a regular day, if he wasn’t tired and sick and his pride was in check, this would not happen. But as it stood; Totty had no blanket, he was exhausted, and his brother was warm and right there. He would deal with the consequences after a well-deserved – hopefully rest-filled – nap.

 

                Except Karamatsu was an absolute moron and has intentions far too pure to be able to milk opportunities.

 

                “I-I do not think you wish you wish to rest on the ground, brother. Come, let’s get you back on the couch. I’ll carry you, even!” Totty complained even as Kara scuttled around kneel in front of him and hauled his brother up, ignoring how Todomatsu nuzzled into his neck with a murmur of ‘warm’.

 

                Blanket blanket blanket blanket-

 

                The trip upstairs was very fast, considering that Karamatsu was certain that his little brother would fall asleep on him in any time span wasted. He’d already seen the bags under his eyes and he knew that Totty had been struggling to fall asleep all day. It was obvious that the exhaustion was getting to him; he sounded ready to drop dead on the spot already.

 

                In record time, the door was toed open – seeing as Karamatsu’s hands were full – and Totty was deposited on the couch and tucked in. There was a murmur of complaint as he was manhandled but at this point the fight had been given up. Let whatever happen, happen. Not only that but the more time he spent close to Karamatsu the more he came to appreciate the warmth of his brother’s body.

 

                So when that heat left, prepared to leave his brother alone and rest, Totty appropriately complained.

 

                “Sleep with me.” Well, rather, he demanded in his throaty, scratchy voice for Karamatsu to fix the problem he was unaware of. Kara hesitated at the doorway, and only when Totty repeated his request did Kara finally relent. He snuck in behind Todomatsu, remaining outside of the blanket, and slung an arm over his brother’s shoulder.

 

                “That good, brother?” Totty hummed in approval and turned his head into his pillow, the haze of sleep already clouding his brain. Comfortable and warm. No coughing. No nosebleed. He could finally sleep.

 

                And he did, surrounded by warmth donated from his brother and the blanket he was cocooned in.

 

                He deliberately ignored the sniffles behind him as he dozed off. Everyone knew Karamatsu was a huge crybaby, anyway. Of course he would cry about being wanted.

 

                Maybe Todomatsu would tease him about it later.