"How's your girlfriend?" Shuusuke called when he walked through the door.
"I broke up with her."
At least he had the tact to pause at that.
"Don't you even--" start, Yuuta was going to say, but Shuusuke interrupted him.
"I'm sorry," he said. Which was such a lie, but damn if Shuusuke wasn't a good liar, because his voice was soft and completely earnest. Yuuta had seen the looks Shuusuke had given Risa whenever they were in the apartment together, the ones that seemed to say 'Really, Yuuta?'; he'd heard every single precisely-calibrated passive-aggressive remark that left his brother's mouth; and even he would have beleived that Shuusuke was genuinely sorry that Yuuta and his girlfriend had broken up.
He scoffed. "Yeah, I'm sure."
"She was very nice. It seemed like she made you happy."
You know, bro, that's probably the nicest thing you've said about her in the whole time we've been dating? She'd be thrilled; she always thought you liked her deep down.
Whatever. It was actually nice to hear.
"Thanks," Yuuta said.
"Would you like some tea?"
"Nah, that's okay, I'm pretty tired." He shrugged off his coat and scarf, hanging them on the hook in the entryway, and went to join his brother at the kotatsu.
"I could make herbal tea."
"Not unless you bought something other than ginger since the last time I checked." He should really stop letting Shuusuke do all the grocery shopping, no matter how good a cook he was. No matter how often he asked, Shuusuke never brought home the sweet things he asked for, and instead their cupboard ended up full of nothing but spicy curry mix and pickled daikon and wasabi mayonnaise. He'd hoped that dating Risa would fix the problem, but she just ended up joining them for dinner at the apartment all the time. She'd confided to him that it was a huge relief not having to worry about making food, and he'd felt like a jerk suggesting otherwise.
"I feel bad for your brother, though," she'd said, proving once again that she was far too good for Yuuta, or any other mortal man. "He must be lonely."
"He's not lonely," Yuuta had scoffed. "He has me."
The memory made Yuuta's chest knot with guilt. He stretched his legs out under the kotatsu, to get his mind off it, and realized as the last of the warmth from his walk home ebbed away that the room was freezing.
"Is this thing even on?"
Shuusuke chuckled. That's right. His brother was a freak.
"You're going to get hypothermia," he scowled, leaning over to flip the switch to the kotatsu. The table began to hum. "Have you been sitting in the cold all day? You're not even wearing a jacket."
"It's too warm with the heat on," said Shuusuke serenely. "And I've been drinking tea."
"This is why you can't live on your own," Yuuta said. "Seriously. You'll freeze to death in your apartment, and no one will even know until the neighbors come to bring you soup or something and they find your body in the kitchen."
"Would that make you sad, Yuuta?"
"No," he said, because his brother fished for compliments way too often. "I'd be too busy consoling all your fans and admirers, obviously."
"Yuuta! While my body is still warm?"
"Not warm if you die of frostbite, bro."
"Then it is good that I'm not living alone."
Yuuta rolled his eyes, but let himself smile. He realized he was completely dodging the real issue. If he'd gone to his parents' house, or to any of his friends', they'd make him talk about Risa, ask how he was doing, press him on the details of how it all went down and why he had broken up with her. Shuusuke was a master deflector himself, so he was happy to let Yuuta blather on about the most mundane shit imaginable; he understood. At the moment, Yuuta was honestly grateful for that. He didn't want to think about the look on Risa's face when he'd finally managed to stutter out his intentions at the restaurant, or about how awkward the rest of the meal had been after she'd insisted they both order dessert anyway. He really didn't want to think about how traitorously releived he'd felt when he remembered that he wasn't coming back to an empty apartment.
"So what did you do all day?" he asked, to break the silence.
"Oh, nothing much." Shuusuke's voice was cheerful. "I went to that new museum on Omotesando; I wanted to see their bronze exhibit before it closes."
"How was that?"
"Smaller than I expected, but it was nice. Oh, and I got a call in the afternoon. Hiranishi wants me to do a shoot on Friday."
"Oh yeah? That's great." It had been a while since Shuusuke had last gotten one of those modeling gigs his photographer friend sometimes lined up for him. Yuuta welcomed them, not because he wanted to see his brother's face ambush him when he was flipping through random magazine ads for turtlenecks and chocolate bars, or even because they particularly needed the money with their parents footing half the bill for Yuuta's apartment, but because it set his mind a little more at ease knowing that Shuusuke had some regular contact with the outside world and not just him.
"I'll send you a copy of the ad when it comes out."
"Please don't," Yuuta said.
"You can hang it above your futon."
"Yeah, and watch you stare at me while I sleep. That sounds so relaxing."
Shuusuke fluttered his eyelashes. Yuuta leaned over to bat at his head, and caught a glimpse of the other side of the table.
"Your legs aren't even under the table," he said.
"I told you, it gets too warm. Besides, our legs might touch. You hate that."
"Don't be an idiot. Go on."
Shuusuke sighed theatrically, then uncurled his legs. They did brush against Yuuta's own under the kotatsu, but he didn't bother to pull away. They weren't nearly as cold as they should have been.
The two of them sat in silence, warming up gradually.
"You don't seem too upset," Shuusuke said at last, conversationally.
More like I wouldn't want to let myself be upset in front of you, thought Yuuta, but not as bitterly as the thought sometimes was. His brother was actually being pretty well-behaved tonight. Instead, he said, "Well, I was the one who broke up with her."
"But you did like her."
"Wouldn't have dated her if I didn't like her." Yuuta let out a huff of breath. Under the table, Shuusuke patted his leg sympathetically with his foot.
"I liked her a lot," Yuuta said at last. "Fuck. Why does it suck so hard to break up with someone when you're the one doing the breaking up? Don't say 'I wouldn't know.'"
Obediently, Shuusuke said, "I'm sure I know exactly what you're talking about, Yuuta." Yuuta kicked him under the table.
"Shut up. This means you should date more." Then Yuuta considered what he was saying. "Actually, no, you should never date anyone. Dating sucks."
"I've been trying to tell you that for years."
"Okay, I've changed my mind, you should go make tea." But when he tried shooing his brother away, Shuusuke just laughed, and scooted in closer to the table. Then the smile faded.
"Would you like to talk about it?" he said softly.
"I really wouldn't."
Yuuta waited for Shuusuke to start talking anyway, because that was another thing his brother was great at, was pushing a nice supportive moment too far until he ruined it. But he didn't push. He didn't even smile in that sneaky, superior way that would give Yuuta an excuse to get mad at him.
"She wasn't even mad, is the really stupid thing," he said. "She acted like she knew this was coming even before I did." It had made him feel like an even worse boyfriend than he'd been feeling before. He looked down at the table, at his shiny reflection in the fake wood (Shuusuke must have been cleaning again), and thought, this is the face of someone who somehow manages to land the nicest, most mature girl imaginable and then decides he doesn't want her.
Shuusuke didn't say anything, but Yuuta felt the brush of his foot again under the kotatsu. It made his legs feel warm and every other part of him feel cold.
Yuuta clenched his fists. "This is stupid," he said, making up his mind, and pulled his legs out from under the table. Shuusuke looked at him inquisitively as he stood up, but he shook his head. "No, it's okay, you stay there." He shook himself off, then crossed over to the other side of the table, and before he could second-guess anything he made himself sit down right next to Shuusuke. "Scoot over."
Shuusuke all too readily complied. If he was surprised, he carefully masked his features so that it didn't show. It was a close squeeze under the table with the two of them, but Yuuta managed to get his legs back under, angled so that they weren't quite touching his brother's; it was a futile gesture anyway, because like this their whole sides were in contact anyway.
"Comfortable?" Shuusuke said, brow raised.
"You know, I think this worked better when we were both five." But Yuuta didn't move. Shuusuke radiated heat, and the physical contact felt nice.
After a second, Shuusuke relaxed against him. He really was kind of tiny; not that Yuuta was all that big himself, but he was pretty sure that Shuusuke was the same height he'd been in middle school. Yuuta's girlfriend had been taller than him. It was strangely cute, which was a word he never would have thought to apply to his brother.
They sat there together, Shuusuke's head leaned against his shoulder, Yuuta's fingers making tiny idle circles on the kotatsu blanket, no noise in the room but the hum of the heater. After a while, Shuusuke turned his head slightly, so it was pressed against Yuuta's neck. Yuuta slid his arm around his brother's back unthinkingly, tugging him in a little, and then Shuusuke returned the gesture with his own arm so that they were sort of hugging sideways. It felt more comfortable than it had any right to be. If Yuuta had any pride left as a man, he should pull away. Shuusuke's breath was warm against his neck. Yuuta's pulse redoubled inside his chest. He didn't pull away.
At some point, Shuusuke's hand on his back started moving, and Yuuta let him. It was easy to relax under the repetitive strokes of his fingers; he could close his eyes, and breathe in that mild but distinctive smell that his brother left on towels and blankets and the loads of laundry he did for both of them when Yuuta was at work, and stop thinking about anything but how mysteriously soft Shuusuke's hair was. Yuuta brought his own palms up to rest on Shuusuke's back, and felt it when his brother exhaled.
This would probably look weird to anyone who could see the two of them right now, but Yuuta realized he didn't really care. Maybe he would have a few years ago, before Shuusuke had warped his sense of boundaries, but whatever resistance to his brother's weirdness he'd once had had steadily eroded away in the months since that first night Shuusuke showed up at his apartment at 3 AM and Yuuta had thoughtlessly let him in (or if he was to be completely honest, since well before that, because who was he kidding to say that things had ever been been normal between the two of them).
Maybe that wasn't even a bad thing, he let himself think for the first time, squeezing his arms around his brother. If nothing else, he could take comfort in the fact that at least Shuusuke would never make him talk about it.
His train of thought stuttered as Shuusuke's lips pressed cool and dry against his collarbone.
Yuuta froze. In the endless stretch of seconds that followed, Shuusuke was so still against his shoulder that it almost seemed like he'd imagined the touch. Yuuta didn't dare to breathe. Then he felt that pressure again, unmistakably a kiss this time, lingering on his skin. His insides twisted up.
He made himself push Shuusuke back. His brother peeled away without any resistance. When there were several inches separating them and his heart had more or less stopped thumping furiously in his chest, Yuuta dared to look at his face; Shuusuke was staring right at him, his expression half-lidded and totally unreadable.
Yuuta returned the gaze, trying to shake the sense that the ground was shivering beneath his feet. The sound of his own breathing seemed suddenly awkwardly loud in the still room. He wanted to say What the hell, Bro?, laugh it off, but his mouth was dry, his tongue useless like it didn't even belong to him; it felt like he was pinned under his brother's stare, like he was thirteen again and Shuusuke could tip over his whole world with the barest nudge. He couldn't make himself look away.
Chill out, he tried to tell himself, it's just Bro. Never mind that Shuusuke had never been just anything to anyone. Never mind that after all these years, Yuuta still couldn't predict what he was going to do next.
Shuusuke's expression didn't change at all when he leaned forward, laying his palm on Yuuta's thigh. A shiver ran through Yuuta's body. He didn't have the first clue what his own face must look like right now, but evidently it wasn't discouraging, because Shuusuke didn't remove his hand, but slid it up instead, toward the inseam of Yuuta's slacks. The touch felt sharp and hot, drawing a line of heat through to his center. Yuuta couldn't make himself look down at it but the image was etched in his mind anyway, from all the times he'd seen those same fingers offer him a glass of water or a toothbrush or a pencil, from the way they looked in those stupid ads, from the intimately familiar memory of them poised on a shutter or curled around a tennis racket.
His voice came back to him in a sudden jump. "Bro." He swallowed. Shuusuke's fingers, light and ticklish, brushed his crotch. "What do you. . ."
Shuusuke made a little soothing noise, which was so unbelievably inappropriate right now, but any protest Yuuta might have made died in his throat when Shuusuke put the full weight of his hand on his dick, palming it through the fabric. Yuuta shuddered. Shuusuke squeezed him light but purposefully, the touch making him start to grow hard, filling his body with a helpless warmth.
(Had he ever done this before? Was Yuuta his first? He was so secretive that Yuuta had no idea, though he was pretty sure he would have picked up if Shuusuke ever actually gotten with anyone, and messed-up as it was the thought made him even harder.)
When Shuusuke started to stroke him gently, building up the beginnings of a rhythm, Yuuta couldn't handle it anymore; he hid his face in his brother's shoulder, tightening his fists in the fabric of his too-soft sweater, and willed himself to stop thinking of anything at all. Shuusuke deftly unfastened his pants and slipped his hand beneath the cloth. His fingertips were soft and dry against Yuuta's skin. As he drew Yuuta out of his boxers, his touch everything and nothing like that of the girls Yuuta had dated (and Shuusuke had hated every one of them, and it had stung too much each time, and what the fuck was even going on here), it was all Yuuta could do to bite his lip and try to keep breathing.
Shuusuke held him. He worked his erection with slow, steady patience, and didn't say a word the whole time, just shushed him quietly with these sounds like he was comforting Yuuta after a bad dream, like they were both little and Shuusuke was the big brother who would always look after him. It was humiliating but Yuuta couldn't stop his arousal for all that; he had no idea if he even wanted to.
He came finally with a jerk of his hips and a harsh gasp against the skin of Shuusuke's neck, and only then did he feel Shuusuke's fingers press sharp and intense against his back, like he was sharing the sensation. It pushed Yuuta over the edge, and his vision blurred out.
When it was all over, he slumped against Shuusuke, feeling dizzy and embarrassingly drained. His mind was mercifully fuzzy. Shuusuke let him rest there as he came down, for what felt like a long time.
At last, so slow and gradual Yuuta was barely aware he was doing it, Shuusuke loosened his one hand from Yuuta's back, and withdrew the other from between his legs. He wiped his palm carefully on his own pants, scooted back so that there was once again distance between them, and righted Yuuta to make him sit up straight. He pressed a soft, chaste kiss to Yuuta's temple. Then, before Yuuta could react, he gently pulled away.
Yuuta heard Shuusuke rise to his feet, and didn't move to stop him; he listened silently to the pad of his brother's footsteps as he stood up and shuffled quietly to the other end of their tiny apartment. He heard the creak of the hallway door; and then the more distant shush of the bathroom door sliding open, then closed.
Yuuta stared at the kotatsu, distantly aware of the hum of the heater. His head was still fuzzy. His still-exposed dick was starting to get cold. He felt exhausted.
Instead of even attempting to think about how to fix any of these problems, the last sleepy part of his brain that still worked decided it would be better to use his remaining energy to lift the kotatsu blanket, scoot his lower half inside, and then collapse on the floor.
As the walls started to hiss with the sound of the shower running, Yuuta closed his eyes, and thought of rain and how spring couldn't come soon enough. He let his fingers curl against the untucked hem of his shirt. Before he knew it, he was asleep.