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A (Not) Small World

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Izuna whimpers as the steel bar slips and presses down on his broken leg and Madara curses.

He pulls harder, grabbing the metal of the mousetrap and lifting with his knees, but he can barely get it up. The spring in the trap needs more force than a Borrower can exert without excellent leverage.

And Madara has no leverage.

“I guess I should have stayed behind right,” Izuna laughs weakly, trying to sound brave even though the twelve-year-old hasn’t so much as sprained an ankle before. The facade is thoroughly ruined since the younger boy is stuffed up from holding back tears, but Madara doesn’t say anything. Just grunts and eases the bar up more. If he can just get the trap open enough for better leverage than pulling with his fingers then maybe…

The front door opens a few rooms away, and they both freeze.

One of the humans is home.

“Nii-san,” Izuna whispers, “nii-san, you need to leave.”

“Shut up, Izuna!” Madara snaps quietly, jerking at the trap futilely, ignoring the painful ache setting into his shoulders as he looks around the huge room frantically. The pantry is darkened and shaded and the mousetrap is hidden on the floor outside any clear line of sight, but all of the human siblings who live in the house are boys.

Madara knows very well how much teenage boys and children eat: it’s why he and Izuna had risked going out during daylight when their food stores went bad instead of waiting for nighttime. But that means that it’s almost guaranteed that the pantry will be one of their first stops.

Sure enough, the pantry door opens with a shrill creak from lack of oil and he and Izuna both wince before freezing as thundering steps move forward. Izuna bites down on his sleeve, desperately trying to crawl forward and jerk his broken leg loose from the trap, but all he ends up doing is letting loose a muffled shout as he twists the limb that’s still pinned in the too tight bar.

A hand almost as long as Madara is tall reaches out to move the box blocking them from sight, and Madara grits his teeth, shoulders tensing as his heart tries to race out of its chest from nerves.

This is going to be bad.

Oh,” the human boy says softly, surprise flickering through red eyes as he stares at them, hand loosely holding the cardboard box. He’s backlit from sunlight streaming through the kitchen behind him, and the brightness shines through his white hair and shades his face into something imposing and hard to read.

Izuna’s breath hitches and Madara bares his teeth at the threat, straining to move the bar at all even if it’s too late to avoid being noticed. He really wishes he could afford to let go of the metal long enough to grab his sword. Even if it can’t do much damage against something as large as a human, even they don’t like to be stabbed by pins.

The boy sets the box aside and Madara’s heart skips a beat as both hands come right for them.

“BACK OFF!” he screams, head jerking around to watch the first hand settle on the far side of the mousetrap, passing way too close to Izuna for comfort. “LEAVE MY BROTHER ALONE!”

The human boy - Tabirema? Tibirama? Tobirima? - stills, his second hand a few scant arms lengths away from where Madara’s holding the bar up. Madara darts wary glances between the hand and the boy’s face, but he can’t see the human clearly with his face shaded. He leans backwards as far as he can when the hand starts approaching him again and slips.

Izuna screams as Madara fumbles the bar, metal snapping back down hard, and Madara rushes forward with a yell only for the human to get there first. He scrambles for his sword, prepared to stab the fingers if they press down harder or try to take the mousetrap somewhere and—

And the metal spring creaks as the boy slowly pries the trap open.

Madara starts, a lump in his throat as hope surges. The boy’s face when he looks up is still mostly neutral with eyes narrowed in focus, and Madara scrambles out of the way and off the trap as the human braces his thumb against the wood of the trap to lift with his fingertips.

He kneels down next to Izuna, watching the metal bar with sharp eyes. He grabs his younger brother, ignoring how Izuna’s fingers dig bruises into his arms in return, and waits impatiently as the white-haired human struggles to get the trap open without moving it too much.

The moment it’s lifted far enough, Madara shoots backwards, dragging his brother free and into a fierce hug.

Izuna pants curses again his neck between whimpers, full of adrenaline and pain and lingering fear, and Madara winces to see the thin trail of blood drops leading back to the trap.

The human boy - Toberama? - lifts the trap away and sits down cross-legged a little further back before leaning forward onto his elbows. Crouched over like this, his face is closer to Madara and Izuna’s level even though it’s still uncomfortably large and Madara… he doesn’t really know what to do.

Borrowers are never supposed to be seen by humans. There are lots of bad stories, lots of reasons why, and even if Madara doesn’t necessarily believe them all, the sheer volume of stories says a lot. Even if they are mostly crap, there are still enough around that some of them have to be true.

And yet… he’d helped them.

Madara takes a full breath in, ignoring how it shakes and meets the curious red eyes looking them over.

“Thank you,” he says tightly, edging backwards a bit with Izuna.

Red eyes soften, glancing at Izuna before refocusing on Madara. “We thought it was mice,” he says nonsensically, something that’s almost regret tinging his tone. “But it was you taking the little things. Wasn’t it?”

It’s phrased like a question, but Madara knows that it’s not, not truly. The boy is clever and sharp and it’s obvious in his face that he’s already put together all the pieces, so Madara just nods sharply.

White hair shifts forward as the kid nods before slowly getting up and backing away towards the pantry door, taking the trap with him. “I’ll go ahead and remove the other traps,” he says to Madara quietly. His gaze shifts back to Izuna one more time. “You can get in and out of the pantry without trouble, I assume?”

Madara swallows, considers answering even as Izuna digs fingers into his shoulder, but just slowly nods once more.

“I’ll find some things you can use for medical supplies if you’ll wait.”

And with that the strange human boy slips out of the pantry and carefully closes the door behind him, annoying screech somehow even more loud and unnerving in the absence of adrenaline.

“Is he…” Izuna hesitates, biting his lip as Madara helps his younger brother up onto his back. “Is he really helping us?”

“I’d say yes,” Madara says, walking towards one of the entrances to the hidden passageway that lets them travel all over the house.

“But… why?” Izuna asks, utterly bewildered and shaky as his brother carries him.

“I don’t know,” Madara replies.

And he doesn’t but… but he’s going to find out. He’ll get Izuna to a safe place and then he’ll come back to watch and to get those supplies if the boy really does bring them.

Maybe he’ll figure out some answers that way.