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[Lunch break]

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- Uh? Anything wrong?

Toudou recoiled and looked up, startled. Ren was staring at him with the shadow of a smile on his face, hands in the pockets of his jacket, while Tadokoro, who had asked the question, had raised a dark brow at his lack of response. Toudou shook his head.

- Sorry, sorry. I was just… ehr… can you possibly remember if I picked up a hoodie, this morning? I remember feeling chilly and taking one out to wear, but I don’t have it on me now.

Tadokoro thought about it, scratching his chin while he tried to recall their early whereabouts.

- …the blue one, with the white stripes?

Toudou beamed and pointed at him.

- That one!

- I think I caught a glimpse of it as well, – said Ren – maybe you left it in Yuusuke’s room? The temperature there is a bit higher, you shouldn’t have needed it inside.

Tadokoro turned towards him, arms crossed?

- Aren’t we supposed to stay out of there for, like, an hour or so, though? Visiting hours and everything…

Ren shrugged and gave them a lopsided smile so casually alike to his brother’s signature smirk that it was almost painful to watch.

- Technically, yes, but they can’t collect everyone’s lunch trays at the same time, and there’s also going to be some visiting and checking-up, since that was his first proper meal in four days: maybe they won’t let you stay for long, but they’ll definitely let you look around for your hoodie, if you ask, or search in your place if they’re feeling strict. Either way, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.

Both Tadokoro and Toudou nodded, and the latter turned on its heels.

- Then I’m going to try and get it back!

Tadokoro raised a hand in agreement and waved it in farewell.

- Okay: we’re going ahead: we’ll save you a seat at the cafeteria!

Ren butted in.

- Oh no, not the cafeteria again: actually, I need to work on some emails, I was thinking about getting a quick sandwich and have them done in the meantime, so I can join you guys as soon as possible. But there’s this place I have discovered a couple of days ago that prepares very good meals, let me tell you about it, it’s nearby.

- Hear, Toudou? I’ll take us a table and text you the position!

They parted ways gingerly; before either of them could turn the corner, though, Toudou’s voice echoed through the corridor.

- Don’t you dare order me junk food! Or a sandwich! I want a salad. A salad.

Ren laughed out loud. Tadokoro boomed back.

- I’ll get you a meat salad.

Toudou’s indignant squawk and outraged ‘I hate you!’ sent Ren into another fit of giggles.

*

The corridor was empty and quiet, and it took Toudou very little to reach Makishima’s room; he was already starting with the apologies to the nurses when he noticed that the door of the room was slightly ajar in a way that showed him no one but Makishima was inside. Smiling for the strike of luck, Toudou got closer, step after step, and it took him a few seconds to put into perspective what he was seeing. Which was a very relaxed Makishima, lounging on the bed with his earphones on and scrolling something, probably his music library, on his phone. Wearing over his shoulders a navy blue hoodie that was far too plain for his wardrobe and definitely didn’t belong to him. Toudou stopped and felt very grateful for his ability to move in complete silence, because although he still didn’t know how to handle that in terms of emotions (he kind of wanted to scream, but also cry – and he was considering both dying from cuteness on the spot and self-combusting with the need to smother Makishima in kisses), it was still a spectacle to witness. It took some time for Makishima to notice there was someone in his field of vision, someone staring at him, on top of that, but when it sank in he had the decency of blushing at Toudou’s raised eyebrow and knowing smirk, and then he groaned and burrowed further into the hoodie in shame, wrapping it around himself with a pout. Toudou chuckles and stepped inside the room, looking around for signs of other people and finding none. He crossed his arms over his chest (as much as his shoulder allowed to, anyway), Makishima looked up and scratched his cheekbone.

- ...you want it back?

Toudou shifted his weight onto his other leg, playing along, amused.

- Well, I did, but I’m not so sure about it, at the moment.

Makishima inclined his head, puzzled, and Toudou was tempted by a short lock of green hair twirling over Makishima’s temple and bouncing at the side of his face.

- You’re alone?

- Tado-chan and Ren went ahead for lunch. I told them I would have picked up my hoodie and joined them in a few minutes. I didn’t think I would have found, ah, resistance.

- It’s a very comfortable item of clothing.

- Yeah, because your wardrobe is so scarce…

Makishima grinned and patted the free mattress onto his side.

- Come here.

Toudou went, but stopped at the level of the reclining chair beside the bed, mindful of the rules and a little bit uncomfortable with breaking them so blatantly and deliberately. Makishima whined, which took him by surprise.

- Jinpachi, come on!

Toudou grimaced and used what Makishima called his Mother Knows Best voice, whose only effect had been, since high-school, to annoy the shit out of everyone who listened to it and push them towards doing the exact opposite of what he recommended.

- What if someone comes in!?

Makishima had always been extremely sensitive to it.

- They just brought away my lunch tray and told me they’re coming for a check-up in fifteen minutes. They’re so punctual it’s almost inhuman, not to mention infuriating.

Toudou squinted his eyes, unconvinced.

- It’s against every kind of hygienic regulations, not to mention common sense, and I refuse to be part in something that might go against your health and safety.

Makishima rolled his eyes with an exasperated sigh and dropped his arms heavily on the mattress, only to hiss in pain when he was reminded of his broken bones in the most hurtful way. Toudou gasped.

- Maki-chan! Should I call-

- Get your ass up here this instant, Jinpachi, or I swear to god I’m kicking you out of this hospital myself. And I’m definitely telling Ren. And Tadokorocchi.

Toudou gasped again, but this time it was in outrage.

- That’s a low blow. That’s a very low blow, even for you.

Makishima extended his good arm towards him, looking pitiful: it made Toudou smile, and in the end he gave in. It took a bit of manoeuvring to adjust both his freshly relocated shoulder and Makishima’s cast and tubes, but at some point they found a comfortable compromise between lying together and respecting both the protocol and the necessities of their battered bodies.

- I can’t believe you’re still only half-sitting on this thing.

- Another word on the matter and I’m leaving for good, Maki-chan. Meeting half-way is everythin-

Mkìakishima pulled on his shirt and kissed him. It caught Toudou by surprise, just a little bit, mostly for the timing, but he recovered quickly. It felt nice, and for a while it was almost like everything was indeed fine and normal, and they were just two idiots who’d been in love with each other for most of their lives and had only recently found one another again. The gentle touch of lips was a sweet reminder of easier times, when they used to make out shyly at every occasion but were also too awkward and embarrassed to dare asking for more or taking the initiative. Hunger had come later, and it felt a bit like the spark of possessiveness Toudou was experiencing now, at the thought that they had just been a heartbeat away from losing all of this, from not being able to hold each other ever again. It showed on his touch, on the way his hands itched to caress as much of Makishima’s body in one stroke, to grip his flesh, to keep him close in the same way Makishima was doing with him, latching onto his hair. The spell broke the moment Toudou heard a sharp intake of breath and a curt, pained, whimper: he remembered, then, that they were still raw and bruised up, that Makishima’s bones had not mended yet, that there were still needles piercing through his skin and tubes sticking out of his chest, that even if Makishima was now able to eat and use the bathroom on his own, that even if he could stand up and move some steps without aid, just a few days prior they had slammed him onto a table, cut him open, patched him up as much as they could and sewn him back together – praying for the best. The fact that he had been able to forget about all of that was testament to just how much of a force of nature Makishima actually was, but the reality was also that Makishima was still in a state of deep fragility, both physically and mentally, and it was Toudou’s job to help him get strong again, to be his crutch and support, his punching ball if needed. To avoid him any further harm, if it was in his powers. To-

- Jinpachi, you’re spacing out.

- I hurt you, you’re in pain!

- Because that shit on my side moved on its own. I was actually pretty relaxed, if you couldn’t tell.

Toudou caressed his cheek and toyed with his hair under the pulled-up hood.

- You shouldn’t over-exert yourself, though. And I shouldn’t have let myself get carried away like this, you need-

- I need you to shut up about this because if I hear you say ‘rest’ one more time I’m pulling out these needles and stabbing you with them right here right now.

It was the violence in his tone, more than the words themselves, to make Toudou falter. Makishima noticed.

- I am… so glad to be here. Alive, I mean. And I’ve been feeling so… alone, these days, that I feel like I am not really able to function without you here. All of you, any of you. You, specifically. Don’t… don’t hold back for my sake. I mean, my body is kind of a misshapen, malfunctioning thing at the moment – it’s deficient, my energy gets drained at unexpected times, I’ve been high on painkillers more hours than I can count. Everything hurts, otherwise, and I am tired of pain – and now I have to consider pissing on my own a victory, while it also feels like my dick could never ever get up again and… it gets so silent in here, at night, Jinpachi, especially if I can’t sleep, I-

Toudou kissed his forehead and nuzzled his temple, holding him close although keeping the touch as light and safe as he could manage.

- You’re not alone, you hear me? We’re with you, always. Even when we sleep. Even when you sleep: you heard us, those first nights, didn’t you. We were right there. We always are. Write to us every time you feel like it, do it all the time if that’s what you need. We can take turns and organize you a full 24/7 coverage, if necessary, we-

Makishima sighed and shook his head, hiding it on Toudou’s shoulder and breathing into his neck.

- I need… I need…

It died on his lips, but Toudou thought he got it anyway and let him shudder the fear away; he had needed this kind of closure, of contact, too.

- You’re allowed to want cuddles, Maki-chan. The bad scare, the pain, Ayame-chan… I mean, you should demand them out loud. I would.

Makishima punched him lightly on the good arm.

- Geez, you’re such an idiot!

Toudou laughed and rocked him back and forth a little, almost in a lull.

- But I give the best cuddles.

- …that’s debatable.

Toudou feigned offense.

- Excuse me?!

Makishima grinned.

- Tadokorocchi.

Toudou gasped, Makishima licked his lips.

- He’s so big and wide and soft, it’s like hugging the tamest bear on earth. There is no way you can feel anxious or unsafe or unsettled when he hugs you.

Toudou puffed his cheeks and looked elsewhere, conceding victory.

- I can see your point.

Makishima raised a brow.

- And…?

- …and I’m sorry I’m a head shorter and several pounds lighter than him. Should I call him and send him up here?

Makishima smiled sweetly and shook his head, kissing the corner of Toudou’s mouth and then his cheek, then lying on his chest again, as much as he could.

- Nope. I want you to cuddle me, Jinpachi. Maybe Tadokorocchi has the best physique to be the ultimate hugger, but I want you too, as well. I need you.

Toudou swallowed. Hard, to steady his voice.

- …so I do give the best cuddles.

Makishima rolled his eyes dramatically and sighed, falsely aggravated.

- You’re a very practical, portable cuddler. Travel-size, always ready to use, warm even with low temperatures, long-lasting while granting high performances…

- My, you make it sound like I’m a very good deal!

- You are a great deal, Jinpachi. I mean it.

Toudou took his hand brought it to his mouth to kiss his knuckles.

- Do your best to get out of here as soon as possible, Yuusuke.

Makishima shivered at the first name.

- That’s my priority at the moment, believe me. - he smiled and touched Toudou’s nose with his own – I want to do this on a proper bed too.

Their lips met again, and this time it felt like a promise.

Then there was the sound of chatter on the other side of the corridor and they pulled apart as if their skin burned. Toudou got back on his feet, Makishima groaned.

- I’ve never wanted to be visisted less in my whole life.

Toudou fixed his clothes, wincing as he moved his bad arm around too quickly and pointing at Makishima in sheer disbelief.

- Yuusuke Makishima! Don’t you dare neglect yourself and your health! Do everything they say, finish everything they put on your plate, do your exercises religiously or I swear I’m killing you myself!

- That would be very practical. – Makishima deadpanned – Killing me so I can’t starve myself.

- Maki-chan!

Makishima pulled up a bit against the cushions.

- I know. I’ll behave. I just wish we could have stayed together like that a little longer. I really missed you.

Toudou bent down and kissed him one last time, enjoying every detail of it, then he straightened up and fished a small package from his pockets, that he handed to Makishima.

- What is th-… oh my god you didn’t.

Toudou snickered.

- They were right at eye-level on a vending machine downstairs, so…

Makishima’s eyes sparkled.

- So you bought me candies!

- I thought you could use some sugar to celebrate the reunion with your stomach.

- Who are you, what have you done to my Jinpachi?

Toudou looked thoughtful and resigned.

- The things you do for love…

Makishima tapped his feet on the mattress, looing triumphant.

- Thank you! See, Jinpachi, this is why you’re top-tier!

- Anyone would be top-tier for you if they spoiled you rotten. Stop right there! Not before lunch and not more than two a day!

Makishima stopped in the motion of popping a strawberry candy in his mouth.

- Make it three??? Please???

Toudou realized he needed to do something to strengthen himself against those blue puppy-eyes.

- Night included.

- Fine, mom.

They stared at each other lovingly for a few seconds, then they heard people approaching. Toudou touched his own neck.

- I’ll go, then. The nurses will scold us both if they find me here, and Tado-chan must be waiting for me.

Makishima made to shrug Toudou’s hoodie off his shoulders, but Toudou stopped him with a gesture.

- Keep it. It’s been a while since I last saw you wearing my clothes.

Makishima threw the candies at him but Toudou dodged them and the package hit the wall. Makishima fumed.

- Give them back, I still want them.

Toudou laughed and acquiesced.

- Here, only because I don’t want the staff to confiscate them.

Makishima snatched the sweets from his hands and clutched them to his chest possessively before hiding them among his pillows. The whole scene looked so cute that Toudou considered eating him.

- …I remember you wearing my clothes too, by the way. Quite fondly. – Makishima commented, off-handedly. Toudou squinted at him.

- I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that stuff.

- It’s designer stuff, now!

- Which you’ll pay me back with in exchange for my very plain but very charming and extremely comfortable hoodie.

- It will be the loudest sweater I ever created, it will clash horribly with your complexion and you’ll wear it at least once.

- Deal.

They were interrupted by a severe knock on the half-open door.

- What are you doing here, sir? Visiting hours are over!

Toudou bowed, on reflex, even if he hadn’t been back to Japan in a while. Makishima spoke first, though.

- I’m sorry, miss, it’s my fault: I called him back because I was feeling cold and needed an extra layer. He was on his way. Thank you, Jinpachi.

Toudou smiled that kind of smile that made people fall in love with him at first sight. Or, in Makishima’s case, all over again.

- You’re welcome. I’ll see you in a couple of hours, then.