A cold, white hand reaches for him out of the water. Shuuki gazes at it, transfixed as he leans over the bridge, and then
There is no oxygen, there is no feeling.
"Onii-san..." says a voice from out of nowhere. It sounds accusatory, blaming him for something he wasn't even there for. The cold hand wraps around his throat and Shuuki surrenders to it, wonders absently if this is what Natsu ani-ue feels all the time.
And then he wakes up, drenched in sweat, bolting upright in bed. His lover-of-the-week stirs, casually asks if everything is alright. "Of course it's not alright, dumbass," is Shuuki's matter-of-fact reply. "I just had a freaking nightmare."
"I know that, that's why I was asking if you were okay."
"Tch." He feels like snapping something else in reply, but decides not to after he realizes that there's no reason to take his sudden irritation out on this poor guy. Shuuki lies back down, turns his back to his boyfriend, a senpai named Saburo. They'd met at a goukon--Saburo was popular with the girls and this irritated Shuuki, somehow, so he'd worked diligently to win Saburo over instead of letting the girls sink their claws into him. Had it been petty? Perhaps. And yet he'd never apologize for being this way. This is the Shuuki that his senpai fell for. That many had fallen before, long before him.
A silence passes between them that feels like eons. When Saburo finally speaks up, his voice sounds like it's being forced out of him.
He speaks to his younger lover's back, "Shuuki, you know... I don't think this will work out, after all. I love you, but... Something's missing. Something's changed since we first met."
Shuuki's response is probably the last thing Saburo is expecting. "Is that so? It can't be helped, then." He rises out of bed, glances at the clock--4 AM. Shuuki wonders if Natsume ani-ue is pacing around before the front door, wondering when his youngest brother will return. He wonders if Masa is worrying too, and pretending that he isn't. Will my brothers always be so important to me, he thinks. Wordlessly, Shuuki pulls his clothes back on, feeling the tension on the rise. As he leaves, he affords a curt "Thanks for everything, Saburo-senpai." before the love hotel door shuts behind him. His heart is devoid of regrets; at least the sex had been good.
Naturally, he leaves the bill to Saburo.
When he returns home, a soft "tadaima" on his lips, Natsu-nii is waiting. There is a good smell in the air, and it seems that he's cooked up a meal. "Welcome home, Shuuki," Natsume says slowly, tiredly. "I didn't know if you'd eaten while out, so I made you dinner... Or is this breakfast?"
Truthfully, he had eaten already, but not even the tsundere brother in their family could say no to a Natsume-cooked meal, and so Shuuki nods once and sits dutifully at the kitchen table. A bright smile lighting his face, Natsu gets a plate of rice and stir-fried pork with vegetables and sets it down in front of his youngest brother. "Itadakimasu," Shuuki says before digging in. Cooking for his brothers is Natsume's pride, making them happy: his duty. Even Masaharu goes out sometimes, for club or to meet with friends, but for Natsume, their house is his cage. He seldom strays on the path between the school and the house. The cage door might open at any time, and yet he feels bound to the cage still, punishing himself for a crime he did not commit. Sometimes Shuuki admires his elder brother for his stubbornness--usually it just irritates him.
By the time he's half finished with the plate, Natsume has fallen asleep already. By his narcoleptic nature, Natsume tends to sleep most of the day away, so staying up all night when Shuuki didn't return home on time was likely pretty hard on him.
Shuuki had known that things would turn out this way--it was probably why he'd gone out with Saburo without telling Natsu or Masa beforehand, to be honest. It's nice, having his brothers worry about him. To not feel forgotten. He grabs a blanket and lays it across Natsume's broad shoulders, hopes that his ani-ue will not catch cold in the night. Caring for Natsume after carelessly hurting him. Shuuki then stumbles up the stairs, to his room that had been meant for two. But that white hand would not come again. As he passes, he realizes that the light is still on in Masaharu's room, and Shuuki pokes his head in. "Still awake, Masa-nii?"
Masaharu sharply turns his upper body to face the door and glares at his younger brother. "Do you have any idea what time it is?" he demands.
"Aww," Shuuki says in a sing-song voice, putting his hands in his pockets, "Were you worried about me?"
"Like hell! I just couldn't get to sleep since I'm used to you blaring that Dream Fighter crap all night!"
"It's Perfume, Masa. Dream Fighter is a song, but why do you know that?" Masaharu crimsons at this and turns his face back towards his desk, grabs a book off the stack that's neatly placed on the desk's upper right corner. He suddenly feigns great interest in the book that he's holding. Shuuki notices that the book is upside down and smirks.
"Good night, Masa-nii," he says as he steps backwards out of the room, knowing he's triumphed once again.
"N-next time you're going to be out that late, let u--let ani-ue know! He was worried about you!"
"And you weren't?"
"As if I'd be worried about my promiscuous younger brother. Iiiiiidiot." Masaharu grumps. Then, he realizes that the book is upside down and jumps a little, righting the book. He slowly turns to see if Shuuki has noticed, and turns red again when he sees Shuuki's smirk. "Ugh, enough! Go to sleep!" Masaharu shouts, rises, and goes to the doorway, pushing Shuuki out and slamming the door shut.
"Good night, Masa-nii," Shuuki says, to no reply. He is certain that Masaharu is fuming on the other side of the door, embarrassed at having been found out. After he changes and gets into bed, Shuuki feels strangely at peace. Perhaps certain people would come and go in his life like migrating birds at a checkpoint, but some things, he knows, will never change.
That night, in the warmth of the Amamiya house, Shuuki had no nightmares at all.
『TITLE』 the caged bird, the siamese cat, and the hedgehog
『CHARACTERS』 amimiya-ke: natsume, masaharu, shuuki (shuuki-centric)
『NOTES』 for tsuruhime SORRY THIS IS SO LATE sldkfjsdf amamiya-ke ot3 undertones... we'll see where this goes.
『SUMMARY』 Perhaps the ones he loves are closer than he thinks.