Karamatsu is a light sleeper.
Mostly, it’s because he takes a long time to prepare himself in the bathroom, (his daily routine takes at least 2 to 3 hours – “Perfection takes time, after all.”) so he wakes up before dawn to prevent bothering his brothers and hogging the bathroom. Plus, he’d really rather not get involved with their fights when he’s so carefully done himself up. What a waste that would be!
Being a light sleeper doesn’t hinder his beauty sleep, though. He’s grown so accustomed to his brothers’ snores, sleeping habits and other Matsuno traits that he’s able to sleep right through them.
Most of them, at least.
Karamatsu is surprised to be woken up by quiet sobs in the middle of night. Perhaps, because it’s such strange, out of place sound in the Matsuno residence that his ears and mind can’t help pick it up. Karamatsu has always been sort of the mother hen of his siblings, after all.
He lets his eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, before rising up slowly. He doesn’t want to disturb his precious brothers after all. (Also, Ichimatsu might just punch him for making him lose some sleep, which will in turn cause everyone else to wake up.)
His first instinct is to check his left side, where Totty is. Totty always did have weak stomach and was squeamish enough to start crying seeing his own puke, but if Totty was the one in the bathroom, he would have woken Karamatsu up first. But Totty is still sleeping soundly, still maintaining his cat-like smile even in his sleep.
He scans the rest of the futon but his eyes don’t have to travel far. Karamatsu is shocked at the realisation that the spot next to Todomatsu is vacant. Osomatsu was the last person Karamatsu expected to be up at this time, let alone cry.
As quietly as he can, Karamatsu gets up from his place in the futon, and slowly makes his way towards the closet. He doesn’t know what to expect, but he’s thinking an extra futon and a towel might be handy.
Just in case.
His steps towards the bathroom are quick, and thankfully silent.
He hears Osomatsu much better now, his sobs muffled, but louder than before. It pains his heart, and he’s only just heard him. Karamatsu knocks quietly on the door. “Aniki? It’s Karamatsu.” He says in a low tone, worry lacing his voice. It’s dead silent for a moment, and Karamatsu can hear his heartbeat in his ears. He’s anxious whether Osomatsu will even open the door or not, whether Osomatsu will allow him to see the eldest’s tears.
Minutes past and Karamatsu is about to turn back. Perhaps Osomatsu would like to be by himself? But no, that wouldn’t be right… It never feels good to be left alone when you’re feeling down. Like you’re being ignored. Like you’re not loved.
Karamatsu doesn’t want Osomatsu to know the feeling.
With a new sense of duty, Karamatsu twists the doorknob (surprisingly, it’s unlocked) and steps inside.
Karamatsu’s heart shatters at the sight.
The first thing that Karamatsu thinks is that Osomatsu looks terrible. There’s a rancid, sour, putrid smell wafting in the air, and Karamatsu realises that it’s puke. The toilet bowl is full of it. Osomatsu rests his head on his crossed arms at the edge of the toilet bowl, probably worn out from throwing up. His eyes are bloodshot and puffy, swollen and empty. There are tear streaks lining his face, shining against the bathroom light and snot streaming clear from his red nose. His body is shaking badly from the wracking sobs he’s trying to muffle.
Osomatsu turns his head. Karamatsu must be making a pained expression because Osomatsu starts crying harder when they make eye contact.
Karamatsu drops his things and in the blink of an eye Karamatsu is by Osomatsu’s side, enveloping him in a hug. Osomatsu returns the gesture, gripping Karamatsu’s shirt as the dam inside him breaks once again.
Osomatsu is wailing now, and Karamatsu makes a quiet prayer that the bathroom is far enough from the shared bedroom. His crying is both ferocious and noisy, runny snot and tears seeping through Karamatsu’s top. Karamatsu is about to tear up himself watching his brother broken like this, but wills himself to shed no tears for his brother’s sake. He gently whispers what he hopes to be soothing words of comfort; words of support and reassurance and love and kindness and everything Karamatsu holds for all of his brothers regardless of the treatment he gets. His warm hand rubs Osomatsu’s back gently, changing from soft pats to rubbing in circles to going up and down every now and then. Soon, Osomatsu’s cries quiet down, from noisy sobs to quiet hiccups.
Karamatsu doesn’t let go of Osomatsu until Osomatsu suddenly pulls away, revealing his messy face. Karamatsu stares for a moment, then gets up slowly. He picks up the towel he brought before soaking it in some warm water, and fills up a glass of water. When he returns, he hands Osomatsu the glass so that he can rinse the taste of puke out of his mouth. Like a mother to a child, he sits down and does his best to wipe the tears and sweat off Osomatsu’s face.
“Can you stand up?” Karamatsu asks afterwards. Osomatsu gives a small nod. Karamatsu helps him up but halfway through Osomatsu whimpers, and suddenly he’s lurching towards the toilet bowl and emptying whatever was left in his stomach. The way Osomatsu moves makes Karamatsu realise how much pain he’s in; when he struggles to steady himself, the hot tears beginning to run down his face, how hard he retches in between the pauses. Osomatsu must be pretty light-headed for him to look so dizzy.
Karamatsu uses one hand to rub his brother’s back, the other keeping him steady. He hums a song from their childhood, a tune that is nostalgic and familiar. It was their mother’s favourite song, one she used to sing her 6 children to sleep or when they couldn’t stop crying; like when Todomatsu lost his favourite toy, when Jyuushimatsu’s team didn’t win the game, when Ichimatsu’s favourite cat died, when Choromatsu scraped his knee, when Karamatsu didn’t get the part in the play…
…when Osomatsu used to get those nightmares. How long ago was that?
He hums until Osomatsu’s whimpers die down, and Karamatsu can feel Osomatsu relaxing in his hands. Karamatsu takes the opportunity to rinse the washcloth and refill the glass. “Here, you should wash out the taste.” He says, handing Osomatsu the glass of water. Karamatsu almost misses the small, grateful smile Osomatsu shows his way.
When Osomatsu is done, he flushes everything away and watches as Osomatsu shuffles towards the wall. Osomatsu leans against it with a tired sigh. Karamatsu picks up the futon and the washcloth and sits down quietly next to his brother. He lays it across his lap and turns to face Osomatsu. “Osomatsu?” he calls. Said person opens one eye, and Karamatsu pats the futon in a wordless offer for him to lie down. Osomatsu starts to move himself to turn sideways. Karamatsu treats him like a glass doll, because at the moment he’s almost fragile and ready to shatter at any moment. When Osomatsu has found a comfortable position on the futon, with his head settled nicely in Karamatsu’s lap, Karamatsu hears Osomatsu release a relieved sigh. His eyebrows are no longer creased and he breathes in deeply. Karamatsu heart finally eases as he watches his brother relax, taking the chance to wipe his face clean. When he’s done he moves his hands through Osomatsu’s hair, not minding the sticky sweat dampening his head. It takes a few moments, but finally Osomatsu opens his eyes.
“Hey.” He greets, voice croaky.
“Hey.” Karamatsu greets back.
“What time is it?”
Karamatsu hums in thought. “Three, probably. I’m not too sure, brother.” He replies.
Silence settles upon them, but it’s more comforting than awkward. Karamatsu can hear his brothers’ snores in the distance. Osomatsu sighs deeply before he speaks.
“What are you doing up, Karamatsu?” he asks, almost in a scolding tone.
“I don’t know, brother. What are you doing up?” he retaliates.
Osomatsu stays quiet for a few seconds. He thinks about it, teetering on the balance of whether he should tell Karamatsu or not. Whether he wants to tell him or not.
But Karamatsu deserves at least this much for doing so much for him, so he gives in.
“I had a nightmare, Karamatsu.” Osomatsu informs him, simply.
Although it’d been years since Osomatsu last had a nightmare, Osomatsu didn’t even have to elaborate more on that for Karamatsu to understand. Karamatsu hoped this wasn't a bad omen.
Through the years after that incident, Osomatsu’s trauma would begin to materialise in the form of illusions and hallucinations and nightmares…
It was silly, he knew, but Karamatsu didn’t even dare say his name. All of them had picked up the fear from Osomatsu; that saying his name would be like a prayer or something, some sort of curse that would make him suddenly appear like the devil he is.
The devil clad in a brown, plaid suit. Armed with a hidden knife and a hidden sneer.
Karamatsu realises it’s an irrational fear (probably), but better safe than sorry.
“He was threatening to kill you guys if I didn’t do what he said, and he pointed a knife at me and… I didn’t know what to do so I ran and ran, and it hurt so bad and I could hear all of you screaming and it was all so red and vivid and real and by the time I woke up I was sobbing and crying and I- and I-“ Osomatsu was beginning to ramble and panic now, and if he continued Karamatsu worried he was going to hyperventilate. “Breathe, Osomatsu. Follow my breathing, okay?” Karamatsu coaxed.
With every deep breath Karamatsu inhaled, he’d squeeze Osomatsu’s tense hands tightly so that Osomatsu would at least have something to follow that he could feel. As he exhaled, he’d relax his grip on Osomatsu’s hands, and repeat. Soon, Osomatsu’s breathing calms down and both of them relax. Osomatsu looks up to Karamatsu with a weary eyes.
“Oniichan’s such a baby, huh?” Osomatsu asks, but it’s more like he’s trying to make a statement than a question. He chuckles mirthlessly.
“No, you’re not, Aniki. You’re a charismatic legend, the best big brother ever.” Karamatsu reassures, and although Karamatsu truly believes in his words, Osomatsu snorts.
“You’re only saying that because I’m your only older brother.
Just admit it, Karamatsu. I practically made you get up in the middle of the night. I let you see me cry, I let you look after me; aren’t I supposed to be strong? Aren’t big bros supposed to be the ones taking care of their little brothers?” he asks, berating himself.
Karamatsu hums in thought, closing his eyes. “I think that… you can’t be strong by yourself all the time. Everyone needs a little help sometimes, Aniki. So that the next time when you fall and break, there’s always someone there to help pick up the pieces.”
A wordless promise hangs in the air.
I’ll always be there for you, you know?
“Besides-“ Karamatsu continues.
“I’ll take care of all of you, little brothers or not,” Karamatsu promises, opening his eyes and they’re just.. twinkling like the stars he always sings to, and a fond smile shines on his face with the warmth of sunbeams. The creases under his eyes, the blush on his cheeks, even the way his hair is so messed up for waking up at such an odd hour of the night… in that moment, Osomatsu thinks Karamatsu looks the coolest he’s ever been and he’s not even trying.
But he’s not going to tell him that, so Osomatsu keeps the comment to himself.
“Heh. You’re gonna make my ribs break, stupid.” Osomatsu chuckles, his own smile shining on his face. When did Karamatsu’s grin get so infectious?
They soon settle into a peaceful silence again, and Karamatsu thinks about how much he treasures the little moments he can share with Osomatsu, their little bond.
“You’re welcome, brother.”
The two eldest doze off that night on the bathroom floor, with Osomatsu’s head in Karamatsu’s lap, while Karamatsu pats his head and hums lullabies.
The night is cold and it’s more than a little uncomfortable, but the warmth in their hearts lull them to sleep.