Someone kicks his door open, and before Yamamoto even realizes he’s awake, he’s rolling off his bed, sweeping his right hand under his pillow for his box animal and his left hand over the counter for his gun. Almost instantly, the traps threaded into the doorknob and laid carefully across the entrance-way blaze into existence, steel blue fire streaking toward the open door.
Just as Yamamoto’s feet land on the bedroom floor, bloodlust spiking through the air, his intruder yells, “Wait!”
An indignant hissing quickly follows, and slowly, familiar Storm flames reach out to him, the gentle pulse of heat a stark contrast against Yamamoto's own chilling Rain. Yamamoto blinks in surprise, mind finally sputtering awake. His battle-ready stance doesn’t falter, but some of the tension bleeds from his shoulders.
“Gokudera?” Yamamoto says into the crackle of flames.
“Are you trying to kill me?” Gokudera snarls, and another wave of Storm flames ripping through the wires wrapped around him.
Another flick of his wrist, and the wires fall slack against the wall. Slowly, Yamamoto pulls back his Rain flames, but Gokudera's Storm flames still hang suspended in the air, flickering like ghost lanterns. On his shoulder, Uri perches in her housecat form. The flames in her ears throw long shadows over Gokudera's face.
Gokudera's face, which is splattered with blood. There's also a purple bruise swelling high on his cheek, and is that--is that a knife wound?
“I really hope that blood isn't yours,” Yamamoto finally says. He quickly sets his weapons on the nightstand.
Gokudera sniffs, but ends up wincing in pain instead. Yamamoto files the action away for future reference.
“Most of it isn't,” he grumbles. But even in the darkness, Yamamoto doesn't miss the way Gokudera's arm is curled protectively over his abdomen, the slight lilt of his posture that suggests a leg wound. How the hell had he managed to climb up all the stairs?
In three quick strides, Yamamoto crosses the room. He flicks on the lights, ignoring the way Gokudera squeezes his eyes shut against the sudden brightness.
Hesitantly, Yamamoto approaches Gokudera, lightly settling a hand on his shoulder. When Gokudera silently leans into the touch, a token of trust and permission, Yamamoto gently but firmly steers Gokudera toward the bathroom.
And just like clockwork, Gokudera scoffs. “Can't stand those fuckers,” he mutters, and allows Yamamoto to gently set him down on the bathtub edge.
In the light, Yamamoto sees each wound on Gokudera's face in excruciating detail. Already, Yamamoto is reaching for the first-aid kid he always keeps fully stocked. As he reaches into the bathroom vanity, his gaze sweeps the rest of Gokudera's body, checking for more injuries on autopilot. Most pressingly, stab wounds in the left thigh, hastily bandaged, already soaked with blood. Slight burns peek out from underneath his ripped collar, but Flames burn differently than regular fire, and Yamamoto can already see the tell-tale signs of Gokudera’s own Sun Flames working their magic: the angry red blotches of otherwise smooth skin, the faint smell of smoke with the occasional flash of bright-yellow, flakes of burnt skin sticking to his collar. The blood really wasn’t all Gokudera’s, it seems.
Gokudera shifts, and the pain that flickers across his face draws Yamamoto’s attention to his torso, again. Clicking his tongue, Yamamoto leans down to gently move Gokudera's arm to the side.
“If you're really about to bleed out on my bathroom floor,” Yamamoto says when Gokudera scowls in a feeble attempt to resist, “I need to know so I can call Ryohei, or even Kyoko at the very least.”
Gokudera scowls even deeper, if possible, and the bruise on his cheek stretches painfully. “No doctors,” he mutters, “And definitely not the Sun duo. I would rather die.”
Yamamoto only hums. Waving the medicine kit, he motions for Gokudera to take his shirt off. “I need to see how badly you’ve been slashed. Really, how are you even alive right now?”
“Sheer luck and brute force of willpower.”
“Shut up and strip.”
Wordlessly, Gokudera complies. There’s an annoyed meow as Uri is pushed off Gokudera’s shoulder, but she nimbly leaps to the bathtub rim, and then down again. With another half-hearted glare, she curls up by Gokudera’s feet.
Thankfully, the gash across Gokudera’s abdomen isn’t particularly deep or long, but it needs to be cleaned as soon as possible. Already, Gokudera’s Sun Flames are slowly stitching the flesh back together, a near-unconscious, self-preserving action on his part. It’s a testament to Gokudera’s strength that he’s trained his body to protect itself automatically, but it also marks his recklessness. Sun Flames, after all, weren’t a magical remedy for every type of wound. Some just needed to be healed the proper way.
Yamamoto taps Gokudera’s stomach. “If your Flames close the wound before I can get the gunk out, you’re going to end up with a nasty infection.”
With a long-suffering sigh, Gokudera's eyes flutter in an effort to concentrate. He’s running on fumes, Yamamoto knows. At this point, it's an effort for him to even stay awake. But Gokudera is nothing if not stubbornly persistent, and he slowly draws the Sun Flames back into his body. On his fingers, the Sun ring glows faintly, a response to Gokudera triggering the Sun pathways in his body.
Yamamoto swallows a soft laugh as Gokudera’s forehead creases in concentration, and resists the urge to place a soft kiss right between his eyebrows. Gokudera must have recognized the fond expression on Yamamoto’s face, because he scrunches his nose in disgust--which makes him look even cuter, Yamamoto thinks.
“Whatever you’re thinking,” Gokudera mutters, shifting, “Don’t.”
With great effort, he reaches out to a roll of bandages sitting on the sink counter. Placing it on the ground, next to his feet, Gokudera begins the slow process of unraveling the bloody bandages on his leg.
The movement startles Uri out of her catnap, but she only sniffs the bandages before pressing back against Gokudera’s ankles, stretching her jaws in a large yawn. Yamamoto watches this with a fond smile. Ten years ago, when the teenage versions of themselves had travelled ten years into the future, he remembers the struggle both guardian and box animal had underwent to bond. Even now, Uri is still a prickly little thing, slow to trust and slower to love.
The first time Gokudera had stumbled into Yamamoto’s room, dripping blood from a nasty gunshot wound, Uri had spat harsh fire at anything in sight: the walls, the bed, the table, even Yamamoto. Not even the Koujirou’s calming trills or the layers of Rain Flames Yamamoto tried to slide over her had any effect. After that ordeal, he'd had to replace most of the furniture in his room.
Box animals take after their masters, and at the time, Yamamoto had wondered what Uri's violent distrust said about his relationship with Gokudera, about what Gokudera thought of him. In the beginning, they were united under Tsuna’s all-encompassing warmth, but outside of mafia business, the two of them didn't have much in common. Yamamoto would trust Gokudera with his life, but that didn't make them... friends. And in the chaos of all of them settling into their positions as Vongola Guardians, of Tsuna struggling with a slew new responsibilities and a wave of new adversaries, there really hadn't been any time for petty, personal squabbles. But Gokudera had always regarded Yamamoto with a sneer, even as the other man grudgingly admired his skill and acknowledged his unwavering loyalty.
Yamamoto knows about Gokudera's distaste for doctors, after what Shamal had put them through, but he still hasn't figured out why Gokudera chose him as a replacement. Or why he sought anyone's help at all. God knows the man has a nasty habit of bottling everything is up inside, too prideful to ask for anything that could be seen as an inconvenience.
But now, Uri stretches from her place by Gokudera's feet, and rolls forward to brush against Yamamoto's leg. A gesture of trust, he thinks, even though Gokudera has told him that's just how cats mark their territory.
(At the time, he’d just laughed it off. But the next time Gokudera ends up in his room, it is not because he’s about to kneel over from blood loss but because the Vongola have been hosting a party all evening and Yamamoto cuts a dashing figure in his custom tux and maybe both of them were a little careless with the wine --
They didn't talk about for weeks, blatantly ignoring each other in the office and in the field. It's not until Tsuna gives both of them the stink eye and basically orders them to figure it out before I sic Reborn on you that they can actually look each other in the eye again.
It gets better, after that.)
Yamamoto silently drops to his knees. Rain Flames burst from his ring and flow from his fingertips before ghosting over the lacerations on Gokudera's leg. The tranquility of Rain is indispensable for subduing enemies, but Yamamoto had also discovered that it is a handy way to temporarily numb pain and thus ideal for field dressings.
Predictably, Gokudera twitches as the Flames settle on his skin. “Always feels weird,” he grumbles, watching the way the blue-white fire sinks into him.
“It's either that or you biting a stick,” Yamamoto jokes, and gets to work.
They fall into the familiar rhythm of wiping away blood, threading stitches, and bandaging wounds easily. Other than an occasional grunt of pain from Gokudera or a quiet comment from Yamamoto, they don't speak. Like this, it's familiar, a gulf of casual intimacy and solid trust they have swam through again and again. Even Uri, for all her protectiveness, relaxes under the steady aura of Yamamoto's presence. Throughout the entire process, Gokudera steadily succumbs to fatigue. As Yamamoto is gingerly cleaning the slash on Gokudera's stomach, he briefly mods off, head tapping against Yamamoto's shoulder.
The moment his head touches Yamamoto’s shoulder, he jolts awake, an unflattering noise erupting from his throat. For all his steel nerves and quick-silver reflexes, Yamamoto, lulled into relaxation, startles. With a yelp of surprise, his hand, normally quite steady, twitches, and the bandage is tugged a little too harshly.
“Sorry, sorry!” Yamamoto says, laughing as Gokudera hisses. At his feet, Uri’s ear perk up, but she doesn’t move from her curled-up position.
Gokudera’s face is flushed red, and he jabs at Yamamoto’s face. “Shut up.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Yamamoto coos, just to see Gokudera snarl. “We’re almost done.”
Finally, Yamamoto ties down the last bit of bandages and dabs away the last bit of blood on Gokudera’s cheek. “That’s it,” Yamamoto says, tossing the bloodied gauze into the trash can. “Promise me you’ll go to the infirmary tomorrow?”
“Whatever,” Gokudera mutters, but Yamamoto knows he will.
Gingerly, Gokudera stands, Yamamoto supporting him with a hand on his arm. “Come to bed?” he asks, quietly, but unhesitant. Sometimes, Gokudera stays the night. More often than not, he slips away, to his own room, or to the training rooms, or to his laboratory-office.
Today, Gokudera is so tired he probably couldn’t even walk down the hallway without passing out, so Yamamoto simply leads him out of the bathroom, turning off the light and shutting the door as he goes. Uri slips between his legs and takes a running leap to the bed, already understanding the situation.
The moment Gokudera’s head hits the pillow, he’s passed out. With a sigh, Yamamoto pulls the covers over the other man’s sleeping figure. Uri, with all the grace of a queen, curls up in the dip of Yamamoto’s pillow. A quick reset of the traps over his door, and the Yamamoto is joining them, burrowing under the blankets, careful not to jostle Uri too much.
Slowly, Yamamoto falls asleep to Uri’s steady purring as her paws knead a thoughtless, content pattern in his hair.
The next morning, Yamamoto wakes to a mouthful of hair and a warm body pressed against his chest. All at once, his body tenses, consciousness still wading through the foggy haze of sleep, but there's a steady, familiar purring right next to his ear and a light weight pressed against the top of his head.
When he finally pries open his eyes, he’s greeted by the sight of sunlight filtering through the curtains, casting pale white strips onto the bed. Somehow, Yamamoto has ended up with his arm draped over Gokudera’s body, nestled under the crook of his arm. Somewhat surprisingly, Gokudera has slept all through the next, and even when Yamamoto slides his arms off of him, he doesn’t twitch.
Yamamoto doesn’t know what mission he went on, although he suspects he’ll find out at the briefing later today. On his head, Uri sleepily whines in protest as Yamamoto slowly rolls over so that he is no longer pressed against Gokudera’s back.
There’s a quiet sort of peace settled over them, bolstered by the tranquility of Yamamoto’s latent Rain attribute. For a moment, Yamamoto thinks that he shouldn’t have
The air shifts as Gokudera wakes up. Uri’s ear flick, and she steps on Yamamoto’s forehead before she leaps over Gokudera’s body to nuzzle him in the face.
“Fur,” Gokudera slurs, apparently still half asleep.
“Good morning,” Yamamoto says, far too much cheer in his voice for this early in the morning. Gokudera makes this very clear as he pulls the blankets over his head, pushing Uri out of the danger zone.
Knowing that he won’t be able to drag Gokudera out of bed anytime soon, Yamamoto resigns himself to crawling out of bed to prepare for the long day ahead.
When Yamamoto comes out of the bathroom, Gokudera is sitting up, leaning back against the headboard. In his lap, Uri is curled up, and Gokudera is absentmindedly scratching under her chin.
Before Yamamoto can say anything, Gokudera blurts out, “Thanks.”
His hand stills as it reaches for the closet door. Yamamoto tilts his head, and smiles at Gokudera. “You’re welcome, I suppose. For what?”
Gokudera scowls. “You know. For last night.”
For everything, he doesn’t say.
Ah. “Of course,” Yamamoto says. There’s something fragile hanging between them at this very moment, a something near-bursting with potential. But, it’s new territory, and while Yamamoto has never been one to be afraid of the unknown, there’s something about the way Gokudera looks at him, or rather, stares at the wall behind his head, that makes Yamamoto want to tread carefully. For all that Gokudera is a raging storm, he is also notoriously bad at human interaction.
Yamamoto looks at Gokudera, who’s hair is still missed from sleep, sporting sleep marks on his unbruised cheeks. For all intents and purposes, Gokudera is as minimally guarded as he ever is. There's a relaxed slope to his shoulders that Yamamoto rarely sees in the other man, and under his hands, Uri mimics it with the lazy arch of her back. As Gokudera strokes the length of her body, from head to tail-tip, Yamamoto wonders at the way his eyelashes catch the morning light, the way the green of his eyes flash in equal parts defiance, equal parts hesitancy.
“You know,” Yamamoto says, eyes creasing in happiness. “Thankfulness is a good look on you.”
Yamamoto ducks to dodge a pillow thrown in his face, and Gokudera wheezes so hard he almost pulls his stitches. And just like that, another day begins.