Daigo was making himself tea when he heard the telltale sounds of Ryuji’s boots outside the door. He set the kettle down and padded to the front entrance to greet him but frowned at what he saw. Ryuji was grimacing, his hair plastered to his forehead from the rain.
“Ryuji, you’re home early,” Daigo said, his voice soft.
Ryuji looked up but didn’t respond, just stiffly pulled his coat off. Daigo watched as he flexed the fingers on his prosthetic. The rain made him ache, but he didn’t like to show it.
“Finished early,” Ryuji said gruffly, his fingertips ghosting where the metal arm met flesh.
“Here, I’ll help,” Daigo said, coming closer. Ryuji smelled like his cologne, the streets, his shampoo.
“It’s fine,” Ryuji said, trying to pull away, unwilling to make eye contact.
Daigo mustered everything he could from his mother’s scoldings into his voice. “Ryuji. Let me help.”
Ryuji glanced at him and scowled before he seemed to deflate. “Fine.”
“Go lay down, okay?”
Ryuji nodded stiffly while Daigo went back into the kitchen. He pulled the ice pack they’d bought for this from the freezer and wrapped it in a kitchen towel, setting it on the counter as he made Ryuji ginger tea. While the phantom pain haunting him was the most pressing thing, Daigo knew his stomach often roiled with nausea as well. He stirred in a few extra teaspoons of honey Ryuji would deny enjoying before pulling a bottle of painkillers from the cupboard near the fridge.
He grabbed a tray and placed his own tea, Ryuji’s cup, the ice pack, and bottle of painkillers on it before walking into their bedroom.
Ryuji was laying on his back, staring at the ceiling. His wet hair was soaking the pillow beneath him. Daigo frowned when he saw he still had his arm on.
“Why don’t you take it off?” Daigo asked, setting the tray on the nearby bedside table.
“Don’t wanna,” Ryuji said, his voice cracking.
Daigo sat next to him and touched his arm. “You know it’ll feel better with it off.”
Ryuji frowned but yanked the metal prosthetic off, tossing it onto the floor. Daigo picked it up and gingerly placed it next to the tray he’d brought in.
“Here, sit up. I brought tea.”
“Ya don’t need to baby me,” Ryuji said. He was angry, Daigo could tell. He could also tell it wasn’t directed at him.
“I want to,” Daigo said. He held out the cup of tea and Ryuji took it with a grimace.
As he drank, Daigo began massaging the residual limb. It looked red and sore, probably from how long Ryuji wore the prosthetic without taking it off. He rubbed softly, careful not to apply too much pressure.
Ryuji grimaced. “It’s so fuckin’ weird.”
“What is?” Daigo asked, taking his empty teacup and setting it aside. He stood up and went to get water for his pain killers when Ryuji spoke again.
“I… I can look away and it feels like I can move my fingers, bend my wrist,” Ryuji said. His voice cracked, “but… I look, and there’s. Nothin’. It’s gone.”
“I fuckin’ tried to prove my worth as a man and lost part of myself instead,” Ryuji said, his brows drawn together, frowning. “I was so sure I’d win, and look what it got me.”
Daigo sat back down, offering his tea for Ryuji to drink his pills with. Ryuji tossed the pills into his mouth and swallowed without drinking anything.
Daigo frowned as he held the ice pack where he knew Ryuji felt the most pain. He never knew what to say when Ryuji got like this. The sadness in his usually always-strong voice made his heart twist in knots.
Ryuji laid back down and Daigo wiped away the strands of blond hair sticking to his forehead.
“Dunno what I was thinkin’,” Ryuji said, a faint smile on his lips as Daigo pet his hair. “Thought I could win against Kiryu. Kiryu of all people.”
Daigo smiled tightly.
“It’s even worse how I can’t blame it on him,” Ryuji said, staring up at Daigo. He held his gaze while he adjusted the icepack on his arm.
“It’s hard when Kiryu never seems to do anything wrong,” Daigo said.
Ryuji grunted, nodding slowly. “It’s all on me. I screwed up, got cocky. Let myself get blown up. Maybe…”
Ryuji stopped speaking. Daigo looked down. He was staring at the ceiling. Daigo’s stomach dropped when he saw the tears pooling in his eyes.
“Maybe I shoulda died up there, Daigo.”
“No,” Daigo said firmly, shaking his head. “Talk all you want about the mistakes you made, but you shouldn’t have died up there.”
“I wouldn’t have these fuckin’ phantom pains if I did,” Ryuji said, his voice hoarse as a tear slowly tracked its way down his cheek and onto the pillow.
“And I wouldn’t have you,” Daigo said, cradling Ryuji’s face with one hand, softly rubbing his thumb against Ryuji’s cheek.
Ryuji leaned into the touch and sighed before his body started heaving, tears flowing freely now. Daigo murmured sweet nothings as Ryuji cried, touching his hair as he let loose. Ryuji took a long, shuddering breath before his body stilled.
“Sorry I get like this,” Ryuji said, unable to meet Daigo’s gaze. “I’ll be better once the rain’s gone, I shouldn’t fuckin’... Letcha see me like this.”
Daigo leaned over and kissed his hairline, softly planting kisses along his forehead. “You don’t need to hide anything from me.”
“I’m supposed to be strong,” Ryuji said, his voice scared and small.
Daigo began massaging his arm again, knowing it helped Ryuji deal with the pain. “You are strong. Stronger than anyone I know.”
“But not Kiryu,” Ryuji said. It wasn’t a question, but Daigo shook his head anyway.
“You can’t keep comparing yourself to him,” Daigo said, frowning. He laid next to Ryuji and pulled him into an embrace, burying his face in Ryuji’s neck.
“Ryuji. I love you.”
Ryuji’s body stiffened before he started shaking with sobs again. Daigo held him, rubbing his back as Ryuji wrapped his arms around him, his hand digging into the fabric on his shirt.
By the time Ryuji pulled away, there was snot and tears covering the shoulder of his shirt, but he didn’t care.
“Feeling better?” Daigo asked, smiling softly. He ran his fingers through Ryuji’s hair, enjoying the way it felt when it wasn’t full of gel.
“Uh, yeah,” Ryuji said, unable to make eye contact before he made himself look up. “Could ya… Could ya get me a heatin’ pad?”
“Of course,” Daigo said, kissing the scar on his lip before untangling their limbs and standing up.
“And some water?” Ryuji’s voice was small when he asked.
“Anything for you,” Daigo said, kissing his forehead again before leaving the room. Even the strongest dragons needed to be cared for, and Daigo would never let Ryuji suffer alone again.