Kenjirou’s blanket feels like lead weighing him down when he wakes up. He knows it’s not the blanket. It’s the air, it’s the pile of things he left for later, it’s his thoughts. It’s him.
He wonders what time it is. The other side of the bed is empty, so it’s definitely sometime after seven-thirty when Tsutomu gets up for his morning run. Other than that? No clue. The blinds are closed, the house is quiet. It might be nine in the morning or three in the afternoon, but it’s not like it matters, is it? Kenjirou isn’t getting anything done today either, anyway.
It’s raining outside. Kenjirou never quite understood why so many people complain about rainy days when he finds them so comforting. It kind of feels like the world is saying ‘it’s okay to be sad, I’m sad too’. He wishes he could see it falling through the window, but that would mean getting up from bed to open the blinds. It’s just five steps, and maybe he could even reach out to feel it on his skin. But today it feels like a thousand, so instead, he closes his eyes and focuses on the sound of the raindrops hitting the glass.
Rolling to his side to steal the warmth he left behind, he buries his nose on Tsutomu’s pillow. It still smells of him. His heart flutters when he breathes in the scent of lavender, and he can almost feel Tsutomu’s strong arms around him, safe from the rest of the world.
“Hey,” a soft voice calls. For a moment Kenjirou thinks he’s imagining it too, but he opens an eye and sees Tsutomu’s silhouette by the door. “Would you like some breakfast?”
“No,” Kenjirou says. If Tsutomu is here it means it’s still early, maybe he can get something done today… Who is he kidding? Just the thought of getting out of bed makes his stomach churn with dread. He pulls his blanket up all the way to his ears and hides his face on Tsutomu’s pillow.
The soft pat pat pat on the hardwood floor and the dip of the mattress are a telltale sign of what’s coming next. “How are you feeling?” Tsutomu asks, his voice so soft it’s almost like a whisper. Kenjirou almost wishes he were being his usual loud self instead.
“I don’t know,” he shrugs. It’s not far from the truth—’sad’ is just a way of calling this numbness overwhelming him. “It’s just one of those days.”
“Anything I can do for you?”
“No,” Kenjirou says. Sometimes he wishes Tsutomu would stop asking. Most times he prays he never does. “Thanks, anyway,” he adds as an afterthought.
“Mkay.” Tsutomu carefully pushes Kenjirou’s hair away from his forehead and leans down to leave a kiss there. “I’ll be back in an hour, text me if you need anything, yeah?”
With a nod as his only answer, he waits until Tsutomu is gone to press his fingers against his forehead as if that would make the feeling of his warm lips on his skin last for longer.
Kenjirou doesn’t know how much time has passed when he wakes up to Tsutomu speaking somewhere outside their room. He can’t quite make sense of what he’s saying. Is he shushing someone?
Anxiety threatens to creep up. The last thing he wants is to be forced to interact with someone when he can’t even stand himself. But it’s odd—Tsutomu never invites someone over without making sure it’s okay with him. He knows how much he prefers to be warned in advance, especially on days like this.
When he hears footsteps slowly approaching, Kenjirou closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep.
“Behave now, or he’ll kick us both out,” he hears Tsutomu whispering. Who the hell is he talking to? And why is he bringing them to their bedroom, of all places? “Kenji?” Tsutomu calls. Kenjirou stays quiet. “Are you awake?”
“No,” Kenjirou says.
“Can I join you?” Tsutomu doesn’t wait for an answer before doing it anyway, knowing Kenjirou would’ve never replied in the first place if he didn’t want him there. He might be dense, but not when it comes to him. Over the years together, he’s learned to read him like a book.
“Your hair is wet,” Kenjirou protests when Tsutomu slides under the covers to press their foreheads together. “You’re gonna get sick and then you’re gonna get me sick.”
“I’ll take a bath later,” Tsutomu shrugs, wrapping his arms around him. “Just wanted to see to you first.”
Kenjirou would be touched if he weren’t so concerned about something else. “Who were you talking to?”
“Remember how much you love me?”
He might love him very much, but he knows better than to fall for his poor attempt at deflection. “What did you do?” he asks.
Before Tsutomu can say anything, a tiny meow comes from somewhere under the bed. Tsutomu flinches.
“What did you do?” Kenjirou repeats, pulling back to look at him with a frown.
“You can’t be mad at me!” Tsutomu says, “You would’ve done the same!”
Sighing in defeat, Tsutomu unwraps his arms from around him and turns to lean down the side of the bed. When he turns back to him, he’s holding the tiniest cat Kenjirou’s ever seen. Speechless, he looks up at Tsutomu with raised eyebrows.
“It’s raining outside!” he says. “I looked for her mom everywhere but I asked around and they said she’d been there on her own for days!” The cat meows again as if trying to back Tsutomu’s statement. “I didn’t have the heart to leave her there…”
“I guess we can keep her for a few days,” Kenjirou concedes, “But we should find her a home.”
“Or maybe… maybe we could keep her?” Tsutomu asks, a shy, tentative smile on his face. “I thought—maybe she’d be good company for when I have an away game.”
“Tsutomu… we can’t.” Kenjirou’s heart squeezes inside his chest seeing Tsutomu’s smile fall. “I don’t know if I can take care of her, I can barely take care of myself,” he says. “What if I don’t have the energy?”
“That’s what you got me for!” Tsutomu insists. “I have plenty of energy for both of us.”
The cat trying to squeeze between them makes Kenjirou look down. He hates saying no to Tsutomu when he’s been nothing but supportive, but he would hate it even more if he said yes only to find later that he can’t do this. “Can I think about it?”
“Yeah, of course you can,” Tsutomu smiles softly at him. “Would you look after her while I take a bath?”
“Sure,” he sighs. He’s never taken care of a cat before, but if she survived for days on the streets, then she surely can survive half an hour with him, right?
The moment Tsutomu is gone, the cat makes herself comfortable against the crook of Kenjirou’s neck. It doesn’t matter how much he tries to fight it, her purring against his pulse lulls him to sleep.
A soft poke on his cheek wakes him up. He blinks, confused, and blinks again when he feels another poke, this time to his nose. A third poke reminds him of their special guest. “What do you want?” he asks in a whisper, trying not to wake Tsutomu. He must’ve climbed into bed after his bath and probably fell asleep immediately.
There’s another meow, and for a brief moment, Kenjirou considers asking Tsutomu to feed her. He doesn’t. Ever since joining the national team, Tsutomu has been training more than ever, while also taking care of pretty much everything in the house. He never once complained, always with his smile and his out-of-tune humming as he does their chores. Tsutomu always says how lucky he is to have him, but Kenjirou is pretty sure it’s the other way around.
As carefully as he can, Kenjirou uncurls Tsutomu’s arm from his waist and gets to his feet. After sliding on Tsutomu’s favorite hoodie, he pulls up the blinds, opens the window, and relishes in the smell of rain. Turning to their bed, he smiles at the sight of Tsutomu’s sleeping face. He looks exhausted, but happy. It’s a good look on him.
Getting out of bed and walking to the kitchen doesn’t feel like such an impossible feat when there’s a tiny cat jumping around his feet. Finding a few cans of cat food on their table doesn’t surprise him in the slightest—of course Tsutomu thought of everything before bringing her home. Kenjirou pours some in the smallest bowl he can find, then fills another one with milk, and sits on the kitchen floor to watch her eat.
He’s still there long after she’s done, letting her climb to his lap to make her play with the string of his hoodie.
“Kenji?” Tsutomu’s voice comes from the doorway. His hair is sticking out at odd angles and he’d put his shirt on backward. Only Tsutomu would look adorable like this. "Sorry I fell asleep and you had to take care of her, you two seemed so comfortable I had to join…”
“It’s okay, I know you’re tired.” Kenjirou has never been good with words, but he hopes Tsutomu knows how grateful he is for everything he does. “Want something to eat?”
“Can we make pancakes?”
“It’s noon.” Kenjirou glances at the clock on the wall. “Do you want pancakes for lunch?”
“Yes!” Tsutomu beams. How he gets so excited about something so simple is beyond him, but it’s one of the things Kenjirou loves the most about him. “I’ll help!”
“You’re gonna set the house on fire,” Kenjirou says as if Tsutomu hadn’t been the one feeding them for most of last month. “Go back to bed, I’ll be there soon.”
“Are you sure?” Tsutomu asks. As if trying to help convince him, the cat jumps from Kenjirou’s lap to Tsutomu’s feet. Kenjirou would lament his loss but the sight of Tsutomu picking her up to kiss her nose more than makes up for it.
Kenjirou nods, a barely-there smile on his lips. The way Tsutomu’s entire face lights up makes his heart threaten to burst with adoration. How long has it been since the last time Kenjirou pampered him?
By the time he makes it back to their bedroom, Tsutomu is already asleep, holding the cat against his chest. He could get used to this, Kenjirou thinks. They both could. Before he can get too lost in his own thoughts, the smell of pancakes and syrup wakes Tsutomu up.
They eat talking about Tsutomu’s new team and Kenjirou’s classes, while the cat jumps between them trying to steal a bite of their food. It’s the most they’ve talked in the entire week, probably. Kenjirou’s far from chatty on his good days. On bad ones, he barely says a word. Sometimes he wonders how the chattiest person he’s ever met doesn’t get bored by his side. The loving smile on his face when Kenjirou leans against his side once they’re done eating tells him he never will.
“Hey, Kenjirou?” Tsutomu calls after a moment of silence.
Humming as a sign he’s listening, Kenjirou makes himself comfortable on Tsutomu’s chest. There are few things he loves more than falling asleep to his heartbeat. It seems the cat has the same idea, curled up on the small space Kenjirou left free for her. Her fur is soft when he carefully brushes his fingers against her head. He could get used to this, too.
“I’m sorry I brought her home without asking,” Tsutomu says, pulling him back from his thoughts. He can hear the worry in his voice. “I can find a new place for her tomorrow.”
Kenjirou ponders for a moment. He knows it won’t be easy. Taking care of such a tiny life when he already has more than enough with his own is a huge responsibility he’s not entirely sure he’s ready for. But today was the first time in a long time he didn’t have to think twice before getting out of bed, just because she seemed hungry.
He tries to imagine his good days, with a cat running and jumping and following his every step as he does his chores around the house, studying with her on his lap, absent-mindedly scratching her head as he watches a movie on the couch.
He tries to imagine his bad days, when all he can do is bury himself under a pile of blankets and hide from the world. Maybe a cat to keep him company and purr him to sleep wouldn’t be such a bad idea, keeping him warm when he buries his nose against her soft fur. Maybe taking care of her could even give him so sort of purpose when he feels there is none.
And on his worst days, when the responsibility is too much, he knows Tsutomu will be there. He always is.
Giving her away might be the easy way out, but if there’s something Kenjirou has learned over the years is that he doesn’t want an easy way out. He doesn’t need it.
When the cat brushes her nose against Kenjirou’s, he knows he’s made his decision. “Don’t you dare,” he says, pulling her closer. “We’re keeping her.”