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bang bang, that awful sound

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Matsuoka wakes to sickening silence.

He’s never thought of quiet as nauseating before. Uncomfortable, terrifying, empty. But the fact that no one is talking now makes him want to vomit.

He is still in the changing room. The cold, dirty cream-yellow tiles are digging their weird angular patterns into his face. Apparently, when some people experience traumatic events, they block them out and forget about them, and then later wake up screaming because of half-remembered nightmares. Matsuoka thinks that his problem will be getting to sleep in the first place. All that he was conscious for, he remembers perfectly.

They are there. They are there and they know he is awake, and they know what has been done to him. They have to. None of them are talking. None of them are touching him – Hotaru is not shaking him awake and Yukki is not making lewd but ultimately harmless comments about what could happen if he fell asleep in the changing room and Haruki is not mumbling about hygiene and colds.

They’re not really harmless comments anymore, anyway.

He cracks open an eye, and remembers his head is fucking killing him. At least he’s got pants on, at least they can’t see what’s been done to him, even if they know. At least, he hopes. He hopes that they’re not the ones who covered him, even if the alternative is enough to make him want to vomit.

“Yo,” he says. They look exactly as he’d expected them to. Right down to where they’re fucking standing. Hotaru is crouched on the bench.

“Matsuoka-san,” Hotaru says, distressingly calmly. “You’re bleeding and you have concussion.”

Hotaru does not do the-calm-before-the-storm. Hotaru does cheerful teenager, right up until the moment she flips her shit and becomes an avenging angel. This is not either of those.

“Are you in shock?” he asks. “Hotaru, are you alright?”

She doesn’t answer. Haruki does, indirectly.

“Hotaru found you,” he says. Matsuoka’s brain struggles to figure out what’s wrong with that. “She was directed here.”

Right. Girl.

Which means…

He braves a glance at Yukki. Who is watching Hotaru, who is still crouched on the bench like she needs to feel the wall at her back so no one can sneak up behind her. Yukki rarely shows much expression on his face, and Matsuoka’s head is still fuzzy enough that he can’t tell a fucking thing.

That’s. Weird. Bad-weird. Not knowing what Yukki’s thinking is kinda horrible.

He groans and hauls himself upright. His head is threatening to implode. He can feel blood matted in his hair. Crusted under his nails. Drying in his clothes.

This is too much blood.

He looks down.

He can’t see it, not really, not well, but there is blood on his pants. The back of his pants. The back of his pants that must have been hastily shoved over his ass while he was still bleeding, because the person who had dressed him had wanted the blood to soak through and fucking terrify whoever found him.

And then directed Hotaru to him. Who would be found in the wrong changing room for one reason, and that would be if someone put her there.

Matsuoka throws up.

Most of it is bile. Most of it is just foul-tasting liquid, because eating before a tournament is stupid and because they hadn’t had a chance to eat afterwards, hadn’t yet got back to their tiny cheap apartments and ordered way too much shitty cheap takeaway and put on the stupidest, most violent film imaginable and curled up together, like some mockery of a family, to make fun of the acting.

Not a mockery. Not quite a family but so much more than an imitation. Matsuoka throws up again.

Hotaru watches him. The detachment in her eyes is fucking terrifying and Matsuoka hates that word, hates that everything here scares him half to death.

“Matsuoka-san, I called for a medic. There’s one on site.” Her voice is hollow.

Haruki moves towards him. Matsuoka doesn’t flinch away. “I’m going to rinse your hair,” he says, like this is not terrifying him except it is, Matsuoka can see it. “You’ve got bl- ha. Ah. You’ve got dirt in it.”

Haruki’s voice cracks around the word that never leaves his throat. Matsuoka nods slowly. It makes his head hurt but his head hurts anyway already so he does it again.

Hotaru fucking springs at him, like some kind of wild thing, a caged cornered animal and Matsuoka flinches back because he doesn’t think she’ll be able to stop her motion before she hits him but she does, of course she does.

She slaps both her hands on either side of his face and looks him straight in the eyes and snarls “don’t move,” at him, and this is Hotaru, this is Hotaru spitting hellfire and venom with hands on his skin gentle enough not to even sting as they slap. “Don’t move, you idiot, you’re gonna hurt yourself even more-”

“Hotaru,” Yukki says. “I’ll be outside.”

“You will not.”

There’s nothing optional in Hotaru’s voice and Yukki freezes at the door. His face is still completely void as he turns to face the two of them, sat on the floor.

“You will not,” Hotaru snarls, “do this alone.”

Haruki is washing flecks of blood out of his hair and his hands are gentle, and on another occasion Matsuoka might like letting one of these three wash his hair but this is about as far from comfortable as he can be.

Yukki hasn’t looked at him. Yukki hasn’t looked at him because Yukki thinks, even now, that he is Matsuoka’s protector and that this is, this has always been his biggest failure.

Not this. He.

Yukki is looking at Hotaru though, and he looks like he isn’t sure if he wants to strangle her or walk out of that door and strangle someone else.

“This has been our fight longer than it’s been yours,” Yukki says blandly. Attempts at blandly. “I don’t take orders from you.”

Hotaru is off him now and the air against his cheeks is cold where her hands had been. Yukki is pinned to the wall by her forearm against his throat in the matter of an instant and they’re both snarling.

“I found him,” Hotaru hisses. “I found him on the floor bleeding out of the back of his head and covered in blood and god knows what else.” There’s nothing left in Matsuoka’s stomach to throw up but he tries anyway, and Haruki just wipes his mouth with a piece of tissue and carries on washing his hair with a fucking flannel. “And I didn’t think to stop him, because he said he’d had nothing to do with it.” Her voice is cracking. Shaking. Crumbling. “I believed him.”

“Yukki,” Matsuoka rasps. “Yukki, stay. Don’t,” he almost retches again. “Don’t go after him.”

Yukki remains burning for a moment longer, straining against Hotaru’s superior strength and then he slumps, limp, against her arm. She steps back and Yukki wobbles, heavy against the wall.

He drops to his knees. For a moment Matsuoka worries that he’s fainted but then his arms come up to wrap around her waist and he buries his face in her stomach. She lets him. She lets him until she grabs the front of his shirt and hauls him upright, and marches them both over to Matsuoka where she drops to her own knees and plants her face against the floor.

“I’m so sorry,” she yells, as she often does when apologising. “I left you alone, even knowing Midori was around. I left you alone even though you weren’t safe and you-”

“Hotaru,” Matsuoka says. “Hotaru, shut up.”

Her face comes up covered in tears. “I believed him,” she says, like she’s trying to impress the urgency of this into him. Matusoka supposes he understands.

“I forgive you,” he says. The path of least resistance. Something. “I believe you, because he’s the best liar in the world and you’ve met him for maybe three hours in total. Why wouldn’t you have believed him?”

“Because Yukimura-san warned me,” she says, but she’s angry again, or she’s starting to be. “Because Yukimura-san and Haruki-san warned me and I didn’t listen, and then I walked in on you and I thought he’d killed you.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Yukki says quietly. “I’m going to slit his throat.”

No one says anything to that, because there’s nothing to say. Matsuoka reaches out a hand and puts it on Hotaru’s head, and then reaches his other hand out to Yukki. He falls to kneel beside Hotaru and takes it, gripping it between his own like it’s something precious, like it’s worth everything to him because it is, he is, Matsuoka means far more to Yukki that he deserves.

Matsuoka squeezes his eyes shut and lets Haruki wash the last traces of blood from his hair.

Pants. He’ll need pants. Clean ones, because wandering around covered in blood is never taken particularly well. And there’s no way he can drive, not like this, not concussed. They’ll have to do something about that. He needs to see the medic. He’s so tired.

Haruki is talking. Matsuoka tries to listen.

“We have to decide what to do about him later. Now we have to make sure Masamune is alright. Which he isn’t. But he will be.” Haruki’s fingers tighten a fraction in his hair. “You hear me, Masamune? You’re going to be fine.”

Masamune nods. A little. It’s painful. But he can do what Haruki wants, because he knows that it’s what Hotaru wants and what Yukki wants.

They want him to be okay.

He drops his hand to Hotaru’s lap and she takes it, holds it in a mirror image of how Yukki is holding his other hand, like he’s the most precious thing she’s ever touched.

Like he’s breakable.

Like she found him broken.

“Not supposed to sleep,” Matsuoka tries. “With concussion, not supposed to sleep.” Yukki nods.

“Yeah, you have to stay awake. Just until the medic says you can sleep.” He smiles, attempts to look like he normally does. “What do you want to talk about, Mattsun?”

Yukki’s nickname for him is cute. Cutesy. Not really fitting of an adult man but if it’s Yukki, it’s okay, he supposes.

“Dunno,” Matsuoka says. “What film do you guys wanna watch this evening?”

Hotaru lights up, or at least she tries to, and starts talking. Haruki joins in. Yukki does too.

If he’d woken up alone, he doesn’t think he’d ever get up again. But. But he hadn’t. He had woken up and these three had been there, and he knows this isn’t going to make him stronger, like Midori seems so desperate to, but it’s not going to break him either.

This is just going to be another thing, in the long list of things that Matsuoka has endured. And he will endure it, and he will move on.

He manages a smile.