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Before Shuichi even arrives at the courtyard, Kaito considers asking him if they can just talk today instead of training, but he eventually decides against it. It’s not as though either of them are a stranger to Kaito’s tendency to act on a whim, but at the moment it’s not even like he has a very good reason not to train today. He’s just tired, is all, and if he stops moving for too long his eyes burn a little bit but that is remarkably easy to ignore and anyway he shouldn’t be troubling Shuichi with nonsense like that. It’s not Shuichi’s job to deal with it. And Kaito is fine.

 

“Ah, have you been waiting? I’m sorry, I came as quickly as I could,” Shuichi apologises immediately upon arriving, and Kaito shakes his head, because actually his sidekick is right on time (he always is) and he’s just worrying over nothing. The yellow light from the few hanging lanterns in the courtyard makes his navy blue hair glow a bit and his eyes are bright with anxiety but also something verging on relief. On another night Kaito would ask about what that’s for but at the moment his throat just feels way too tight to even attempt to tackle anything vaguely emotional so he just grins and shakes his head, putting up a thumbs up.

 

“You’re good! I just got here early.” Because I was stressed and I wanted to see you but Kaito can’t say that because it’s not really true- well, alright, he generally wants to see Shuichi, that’s not the issue here, the lie is that he was stressed, because he’s not. He can handle his problems perfectly fine. Stress-free. And there’s not even anything to be stressed out about right now. “Let’s get right to it!” He exclaims, forcing his usual gusto, and for a moment it looks like Shuichi notices (of course he does, he’s a detective after all) but then he doesn’t say anything, nodding instead.

 

“What are we doing today? Push-ups or sit-ups?” They’ll usually alternate but right now Kaito isn’t even thinking about that. Last night they did push-ups… probably? Maybe sit-ups? Actually, the idea of going onto the ground and doing fitness right now sounds completely unbearable but Kaito’s being a massive pussy for even thinking about it. He can get out all the bad feelings with the right amount of sweat!

 

“We’ve got sit-ups on the schedule. Hop to it, sidekick!” He instructs, and dutifully Shuichi sheds his jacket, smiling slightly and rambling something about how he was looking forward to training because he’s been sluggish all day and training always really helps clear his head and of course it does, that’s the point, that’s what Kaito’s counting on, but he doesn’t say that because why would he and instead slips off his own jacket, then his white button-down, leaving only his t-shirt on his body as he follows Shuichi’s movements.

 

The detective is the one to start doing sit-ups, and Kaito figures he should do the same, but it takes a lot more effort than usual to pull up his chest that first time. The rest will come easier, he reminds himself, and he’s repeating his own advice in his head which is pretty pathetic but he ignores the voice that says that in favour of doing a second, and then a third. By the fourth he’s tired and about ready to quit, but quitting after four is super lame so he does a few more and calls a break for himself. He’s the trainer, here, he can afford to make some allowances. Shuichi shoots him a knowing smile, undoubtedly on his eighth or ninth by now, and Kaito grins back, because he takes these breaks pretty often during their training sessions under the guise of looking up at the stars or thinking.

 

Kaito chances a look at the sky, wondering if the stars would help ease his nerves in this instance, but of course there’s nothing up there to see. Even without the light pollution it’s been really cloudy the past couple days and tonight is no exception. He can’t even see the moon. All the light they’re seeing is artificial. Instead of the comforting blanket full of the glimmering white stars Kaito plans on visiting he just sees murky grey clouds and can’t help but think of thick smoke, spilling out from the trees and making everything smell dusty like fire and clouding his lungs and- that’s a long enough break, Kaito decides, because he’s being stupid again and he really needs to seriously stop doing that because Shuichi isn’t stupid and he’s gonna notice and it’s so incredibly dumb that he kind of wants him to.

 

The astronaut tucks his hands back behind his neck and does another couple sit-ups. Shuichi tends to count under his breath, and so Kaito can hear him muttering out the numbers twenty three… twenty four… twenty five… interrupted only by his exertion, and he must be getting faster because it didn’t take him long to get there. Or, alternatively, Kaito was just spaced out for so long that he didn’t notice really how much time had passed. It doesn’t matter though because Shuichi’s obviously gonna surpass him someday. (Kaito doesn’t mind that part, that’s kinda the point of all this.) But then what?

 

Another dumb train of thought, what is Kaito doing tonight? He grits his teeth, comes barely short of gnashing his molars together, and picks up speed. He doesn’t even know what number he’s on, he’s just moving up and down to distract his mind from all those unwelcome thoughts. Shuichi’s not going anyway, he’s Kaito’s sidekick and entertaining the thought is ridiculous. Sidekicks don’t leave their heroes! Except when they do, of course, but even then they’re still around, it’s just not the same.

 

(Of course, people who aren’t supposed to leave sometimes do, in fact it’s more common that the ones who leave are the ones who aren’t supposed to because boy do humans love to be contrarians, like how Kaito’s parents are gone even though they’re his parents and they weren’t supposed to be- there’s no way to keep a person from going and that applies to everyone, including Shuichi and all his friends, and he shouldn’t be acting under the impression that they’re not gonna go because they might, they might, and there’s just no hiding from it.)

 

Stop thinking like that, you’re being absolutely, utterly, and positively ridiculous. Kaito bites the inside of his cheek, hoping the pain will remind him of himself, but no, it just hurts. It’s pain, what is he expecting? But he kind of wants it to work because that pain is more manageable than the burn in his eyes.

 

Kaito slams his back into the dusty dirt and feels his chest heaving. He was going too fast and too hard with little preparation, what an idiot. A few dry coughs leave his mouth but it’s not like he’s sick he just can’t really choke down a breath because he was going way too fast. Beside him Shuichi’s faint counting has ceased and Kaito doesn’t really notice because he’s screwing his eyes shut and trying to police his expression into something that he can show his sidekick without coming off as a pathetic excuse for a man and maybe he really should call off today’s training because he thought he could handle it and he can’t so he’s gonna have to go to his room until he stops being so absolutely foolish.

 

“Momota?” Shuichi’s voice slides through his thoughts, smooth like a fork through a warm block of butter. Kaito forces his eyes open and his lips into a smile as he turns onto his side, sees that Shuichi’s sitting up and not doing the exercise anymore. When did he stop? Because if he stopped before one hundred, they’re going to have to talk about it. Kaito’s the hero here, after all, he needs to help his sidekick to grow and he can’t do that if he lets Shuichi fall short before reaching his goals. “Uhm- you alright?”

 

“Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t I be?” And Kaito actually hates himself for lying about it so automatically because he didn’t even give himself the opportunity to consider being honest, he just lied about it because that tickle of anxiety in his chest when he thought about being vulnerable was really and truly unacceptable and it had to be dealt with immediately because he just absolutely could not bear it. His anxiety spoke for him, that’s so obnoxious, Kaito doesn’t even have anxiety, he feels like he’s appropriating something that is purely his sidekick’s.

 

“Ah, I don’t know, you just seemed…” Shuichi pauses, fumbles for the right word, and Kaito feels a bit bad because the way he worded it made it sound like Shuichi was wrong to be worried when in truth he couldn’t have been more right but words aren’t like pencil, you can’t erase them- really they’re more like cigarette smoke, which you can’t suck back into your lungs, no matter how hard you try, it’s gonna affect someone else somehow even if you breathe in as hard as you possibly can. “You seemed troubled, I guess?” The detective tries, frowning though like that’s not the right word.

 

And it isn’t, the right word is stressed, because Kaito’s stressed, that’s all, just with schoolwork and friendship and all, completely understandable that he’d be stressed, even if he is Kaito Momota, Luminary of the Stars, who’s not supposed to be affected by unimportant things like school and too many problems piled precariously on his shoulders like a stack of canned beans at the grocery store- and maybe that’s not so completely understandable that he’d be stressed out by it being that he’s the luminary but how is he supposed to just say that? “Don’t worry, everything’s great.” Kaito lies, again, and he doesn’t like lying, he hates it, especially to Shuichi, who just trusts him over and over and over again- except Kaito kind of wishes he wouldn’t, because some selfish stupid part of him wants the detective to know how he’s feeling which is so dumb and weak because Shuichi’s got his own problems, but whatever, that part of him is easy to ignore. (Except when it isn’t.)

 

“Uhm,” Shuichi seems nervous, like he doesn’t want to contradict, and honestly boo on Kaito for making him feel that way, but then he keeps talking. “A-Are you sure? Because…” a heavy pause that is way more like a brick than a silence to be honest, and then he says, “You can always talk to me, if you need to.”

 

That’s just so incredibly overwhelming and Shuichi doesn’t even understand why but of course Kaito can’t say yes because he just can’t ask his sidekick to do that kind of thing for him, it would be so utterly irresponsible and his role here is to be the one who helps, not who is helped, so of course he’s going to have to say no. Even if he kind of wants to just talk about it, feels like that’s so much more easier than continuing to lie, it’s not like he really even has a say in it in the first place. “Thanks, Saihara,” Kaito grins, and it feels so fucking shaky and fake and plastic. “I really appreciate it, but I’m all good! Uh, but, on that note, I think maybe we should cut off training a bit early tonight. I’m pretty tired.”

 

Shuichi looks so disappointed and Kaito feels for some reason that it’s not about the training but what else would it be about, Kaito’s fine, and anyway, they’ll deal with it in the morning, and make up for it tomorrow by having an extra long training session when Kaito’s not feeling like a piece of driftwood. It’ll be much easier to just be fucking normal tomorrow evening, he decides, and feels a bit of him die when Shuichi shuffles to his feet and grabs his jacket, beginning to button it back up again.

 

So that’s it, then, Shuichi’s just gonna go (because he told him to) and training’s gonna be over (because he said it should) and Kaito’s gonna be alone again (because he keeps pushing everyone away) and he doesn’t even feel any better at all (it’s not Shuichi’s responsibility to make him feel better, he’s just being an idiot).

 

The astronaut, out of a lack of things to do, gets to his feet as well, considers pulling on his other shirt and jacket but holds off, deciding to watch Shuichi go before he starts getting ready to go back to his room. As overwhelming as this all is he thinks being in the heavy warmth that his room provides will only be so totally oppressive and if Kaito wanted that he’d go to a sauna, or something, honestly, some place else where he can’t breathe, or actually he’d just go sit by himself, which is actually about to happen anyway, so what’s the difference? Maybe he should go sit in the sauna, so he has something real to complain about.

 

The detective hesitates. “Are you sure you’re alright? I know I already said that, I hope I’m not being annoying, I just… want to make sure you know I’m here if you need me to be. Or want me to be.” He shrugs. “You’ve always been there for me and I want to return the favour in any way that I can. And, also, you’re my best friend, so I’d want to be regardless, and all that…” Shuichi chuckles nervously. “I just, care about you, y’know?”

 

Kaito nearly shatters into fragments because he’s such a fucking baby. “That means a lot, bro!” He forces himself to say and it sounds and feels like poison dripping from his lips, a whole load of lies and bullshit and why is he isolating himself when Shuichi is right here and he could help him he’s being so utterly and completely stupid this is why he’s always alone but he keeps going anyway because he’s dug himself into his hole and getting out feels impossible so he might as well keep digging. “But I’m really good.” No he’s not. He smiles a smile that feels like a curved line on paper. “Thanks.”

 

“Okay.” Shuichi inhales, and nods. “I trust you.” Kaito wants to cry. “Good night, then, Momota.” The detective turns around and starts walking away, and Kaito’s vision blurs, and he turns into a vague blue outline, illuminated only by yellow artificial light and for a minute the astronaut just can’t take it, it feels like there’s just so much pressure on his throat and he just he can’t breathe at all he feels like he’s being suffocated by his own fucked up twisted perception of strength and self worth and he never really had any of that to begin with so why is he working so hard to maintain it anyway why doesn’t he just fucking say something why isn’t he saying anything why can’t he just FUCKING SAY SOMETHING?

 

His legs move for him, strides longer than he means them, and then he bumps into something and there’s a quiet oof (it’s not from him) and his voice breaks in a sob and he’s so fucking pathetic but his arms wrap around Shuichi from the back anyway, perhaps pinning his upper arms to his body and he’s sorry about it but he can’t fucking breathe and he just-

 

“Momota? Momota, are you- hey, are you cryi- Momota?” Shuichi sounds so alarmed, a bit scared and very very very worried and Kaito just feels so bad but he’s shaking so hard and he can’t bring himself to say something, unbidden tears form in his eyes and just fall down because he has absolutely no control over himself and this isn’t the solution, this isn’t Shuichi’s job, it’s not what he’s here for, but he just can’t stop. “Hey…” one of Shuichi’s hands reaches up and closes over the back of his and it’s so warm, Kaito feels the detective intertwine their fingers from behind, squeezing tight and he hiccups, trying to figure out if he could even speak if he wanted to. “I’m here,” Shuichi whispers.

 

So Kaito breaks again, because he is, and he shouldn’t be and maybe he won’t be later but he is now and he can’t force himself to let his sidekick go, couldn’t if he even wanted to, doubts Shuichi would let him if he tried. It’s such an awkward position and they’re just standing there and Shuichi must be so uncomfortable but the detective doesn’t even fucking say anything so Kaito doesn’t either, like he could if there were words for him to say, instead he just cries, because apparently that’s all he’s capable of, and when was the last time he even cried? Too long ago for him to understand how to deal with it proper.

 

It’s kind of hard to breathe right, Kaito registers, and he only thinks it because Shuichi’s other hand has managed to reach around and touch the side of his face, rubbing gently into his hair and it just feels so nice and Kaito doesn’t know how to deal with it because he never lets himself be open enough for it to happen. “Uhm, Momota, I think you’re kind of- hyperventilating-” Shuichi sounds so uncertain and Kaito wishes he could reassure him but in this position it would be kind of weird to so he just makes a small hum of acknowledgement and attempts to remember how breathing works. “Can- uhm- can you match your breathing to mine? Just-” Shuichi takes a long, exaggerated breath in, and Kaito feels it against his chest, because that’s how close they’re standing, and he doesn’t really get why but he breathes with Shuichi anyway, feels something in how it’s kind of quiet when he’s just trying to focus on breathing in- and then the detective exhales, so he does too, awkwardly stumbling over the synchronisation of their breaths, but he tries anyway, he does, because he can’t fuck this up, it’s literally just breathing.

 

Shuichi keeps on with that slow, calm pace, and Kaito feels himself relaxing against his back, but he’s still hiccuping and tears are still coming and god he feels so stupid because he just can’t stop, can he, even when Shuichi’s trying so hard to make him calm down, but he just- there’s just so much of it and he can’t escape out from under the weight of it all, even if he tries really incredibly hard, and he feels so weak for not being able to do it when he tries so hard to help everyone else all the time but that’s exactly why he’s in this situation, isn’t it, the fact that he can’t let anyone else ever help him ever? God, he’s so completely pathetic, he can’t-

 

“Hey, hey,” Shuichi murmurs, and Kaito hopes he wasn’t talking out loud, but he thinks maybe Shuichi just said that because he wants to say something else. “Uhm, if it’s alright with you, can I- uhm- turn around, so that I can- hug you back?” And actually Kaito’s not sure if he wants to trouble him that far but being held sounds awfully nice right now so he just slackens his grip and mumbles something incoherent. The detective seems to understand him, though, because he turns around rather gracefully and slips his arms around Kaito’s middle, under his own arms, holding him tight, and Kaito’s legs kind of give out a little which is honestly ridiculous but Shuichi catches him and they sort of just… lower to the ground.

 

It’s all messy, and probably really awkward for the detective, but Shuichi just shifts around until Kaito’s able to tuck his head into his shoulder without any discomfort, and it’s so warm Kaito just doesn’t know how to process it.

 

His tears do run out, after a while, as tears tend to do, and Kaito doesn’t know how to feel about it because now that he’s not crying anymore Shuichi might want an explanation and it’s owed but that just sounds unbearable right now.

 

“Are you cold?” Asks Shuichi quietly. “You’re still shaking.”

 

“No.” Kaito manages to mumble, because he’s not, really, Shuichi is wonderfully perfectly warm, and he feels a bit selfish for indulging in the warmth for so long because this just isn’t Shuichi’s job, but the detective cuts off his thoughts before he can keep self-deprecating.

 

“Okay. If you are, tell me, and I’ll- uhm- figure something out. Ah, and, if you’re tired, or if you want to go back to your room, I can take you, alright, so… don’t worry about it.” Shuichi’s fingers card through his hair and Kaito closes his eyes tighter, wondering why it feels so so so bad to feel so comforted by something so simple.

 

“Don’t you, uh,” Kaito sniffles, hates how hoarse his voice sounds. “W-Want an explanation? Or- or something? I-” kind of hugged you without warning even though I deliberately shrugged off your attempts to communicate three times in a row and then really regretted it because I hate lying to you, how does anybody ever manage to lie to you? “I figure I- owe you one.”

 

“...no, you don’t. Everyone has that.” Shuichi murmurs gently, and his voice is so soft. “I’d like to know what’s wrong, of course, but that can wait until you want to tell me. It’s not a conversation for when you feel obligated to tell me.” He adds quietly, “You don’t have to keep everything bottled up all the time, y’know. At least not in front of me. I’m- always here, if you need me.”

 

Please, Kaito thinks, don’t say that, because he doesn’t deserve it, he just doesn’t, he’s not good enough to be someone who is worthy of Shuichi’s devotion, but he just can’t make himself pull away. Instead he lets out a noise that might be a sob (without tears, though, because he’s got none of them left) and curses the lump in his throat for rising again and clutches at the back of Shuichi’s shirt, feels one of Shuichi’s hands drop to his shoulder to rub gently and perhaps still his shaking. It’s just so unfair that someone like the detective cares about him so much, he’s never deserved this.

 

“We don’t have to talk right now.” Shuichi whispers. “Whenever you’re ready, Momota.”

 

He might never be ready. Is Shuichi really willing to wait that long? Kaito wishes he could be slightly less of a disappointment, even for one second.

 

“I’m here.” Shuichi repeats, as though to silence the voices again, and Kaito pauses for a moment, thinking he should speak. But then there are kisses being pressed to the top of his head and the gesture is so warm and domestic that he just stops thinking about it, stops worrying about it and how he doesn’t deserve this because he doesn’t but he has it and Shuichi’s here and he can’t bring himself to take it away from himself just yet. When he feels more human again, he’ll- talk about it, give Shuichi the explanation he deserves, but for now… Kaito just stops thinking, and his shoulders relax, and his eyes remain shut, and he hopes when he wakes up that Shuichi will still be there, watching over him.