Truth be told, he had been scared. Scared of Brother Jirou seeing through their lies, of him getting angry and striking him again. He has gotten stronger, sure, but back in his mind, the thoughts of how useless and worthless he had been in the past resurfaced and almost made his breath stick in his throat.
It was lucky that he is an actor, or he never would have managed to go through that without shaking like a leaf about to fall off its tree.
And now, now he can see the large man approach him from the other end of the party beneath the tree, and it takes all his will power not to show any signs of fear. He knows that Brother Jirou has changed, and drastically so. He also knows that they talked already while he and Tomoe tried to get him drunk. But that doesn't change the fact that he is so deathly afraid right now. Because all those times when Brother Jirou beat and tortured him became as if fresh in his mind, hitting him like a hammer whenever he let his eyes look in Brother Jirou's direction.
As Brother Jirou comes up close, the adult tengu looks him right in the eye. Kurama forces himself not to look away.
“Shinjirou. I'd like to speak with you in private.”
The politeness is odd for him. As long as Kurama can remember, there had been no politeness coming from the older back when he was young. Only harsh words hitting him just as hard as his hands.
But Kurama nods, and they head up in a tree a while away from the party. He can feel the fox's eyes on his back as he flies, but then they get out of Tomoe's sight and Kurama's worries are lessened by one. At least the stupid fox will not be able to see if he breaks down.
When they land, Brother Jirou turns to face him, and he almost takes a step back at the sudden movement. Despite knowing how he has changed, all thanks to Nanami, he expects a slap to the face. It's the way it used to be, and it is deeply rooted into his mind that when Brother Jirou looks at him, he is going to get beaten up badly.
Jirou notices the way Kurama stiffens when he turns, and his heart fills with regret. He did this to Shinjirou, and he doesn't know if they will ever be able to hold a proper conversation without the young tengu having to hide his fears. His eyes turn away from Kurama's face, toward his black wings. They've grown beautiful and big.
“You've learned how to fly.”
Kurama is half expecting an insult to follow that sentence, but there is nothing. It takes a while to gather himself well enough to form a reply that will not immediately show how scared he really is, standing in front of his brother.
“It's been years since I left the mountain. Of course I have.”
He would have liked to say something with more power behind them, to talk as well as he did when he was posing as Land God, but he can't. There is no role to play now. It is just him, and being beneath Brother Jirou's gaze makes him feel small and frightened again.
Then, comes something he never would have expected, no matter how much time he would have had to think about the fact that Jirou has changed.
“Please forgive me.”
Brother Jirou is bowing. Bowing his head to him, and it makes him not know how to react. He stares at the branch they're standing on, opening and closing his mouth like a fish trying to get water through its gills on dry land. He doesn't know what to say. He could never have imagined how it would feel, Brother Jirou asking for forgiveness for all that he has done in the past. He's never even dared to think the thought, because it was just that ridiculous. Just that impossible.
Yet there he is, bowing his head. He doesn't know what to do. If he said that it is alright, that it isn't hurting any more, he would be lying. While the physical scars have healed almost to the point of being non-existent and only noticeable if you really looked and knew they were there, the emotional scars ran deeper. All his life he had grown up with Brother Jirou, and the other tengu, letting him know just how worthless he was, happily and often. He had been beaten, almost to the brink of death, several times by this man. Forgiving him now – it isn't that easy. Especially not when the insults has run so deep that he had started to believe in them himself. He knows in his mind that he isn't worthless anymore, but that doesn't stop his heart from hurting, or for him to think mean thoughts about himself. Deep down, he is always blaming himself, afraid, just like the time when the mountain's fog caught him in its illusions of Brother Suirou wanting to kill him. If he hadn't heard that song at that moment, he really would have let himself be killed. He still believes he deserves it, after causing his beloved Brother to lose his wings forever. But, on the other hand, he knows that the tengu's fourth leader has changed, and not just a little. He will not strike the children anymore, and he isn't talking in constant words with the intent to hurt. The thoughts whirls inside his head, adding to those coming from his heart, and he really doesn't know what to do.
Brother Jirou glances up at him, seeing the conflict within the younger's eyes. Now, he can understand why he has difficulty looking at him. The one who made the boy like this is none other than him. Slowly, he stands up again, for the first time really noticing how he towers over him. He gets why someone who had been so small –who still is so small– would be frightened just by the size of his fist.
He lifts his hand, placing it lightly against the young tengu's cheek. Kurama's eyes snaps up to him, and with a startled and fearfilled movement, he takes a step back, losing his footing when the branch isn't wide enough.
Jirou catches his wrist, but the harder than intended grip only manages to scare him further, making Kurama struggle against him. Jirou pulls him up, so that Kurama's back is facing him. He can feel the much smaller tengu shiver in fear in his arms, but he doesn't let go. He has seen Suirou do this, but he finds it just as awkward to do as he was expecting. He isn't used to holding someone like this.
It takes him a while to notice that he is still holding on to Kurama's wrist, and when he lets go there is already a bruise shaping around it. He understands why the younger is shivering. No matter what he does, it seems like he will still hurt him.
“I'm sorry. I didn't intend to...”
'Didn't intend to' what? Hurt him? It feels stupid, apologizing for something like this now, after all the much worse things he has already done to this child. He loosens his grip around the wrist, making it as gentle as he can. It's not something he is used to, so it feels strange. They stand like this for quite some time; the older with his arms wrapped around the other, the younger staring wide eyed at the branches in front of him, shaking.
He is trying to not be scared. But the fresh bruise pulls out memories of when he was a child, hardly ever getting to see his father while at the same time being tortured by Brother Jirou. But time passes, and he finally manages to get his act together and almost stop shaking entirely. He has to come to terms with his thoughts. He has to learn to accept himself, and one of the first steps is to get over the scars left since childhood.
Kurama puts an uncertain hand on top of one of Brother Jirou's much bigger ones.
“It's- It's okay. I... I forgive you.”
To be honest, he doesn't know if that is true. He's still scared, and he still hasn't swallowed the changes that has almost flipped the older tengu's personality over completely. But Brother Jirou is making an effort to reconcile, and he doesn't want to be bound by this forever. His only choice is to get over it all, and hopefully come out stronger on the other side.
Jirou lets his arms withdraw, instead turning him around to face him as he bows his head again.
“I really am sorry. For all that I have done. I apologize.”
Kurama smiles as Brother Jirou looks up. It's a small, strained smile, but it's there. It makes Jirou relieved, and he gives a small smile of his own.
The smile lightens a heavy weight in Kurama's chest, and he can feel how the air gets a little bit easier to breathe. He hopes. Hopes that in the future, the day will come when they can talk normally to each other, without any fear of hurting.
And the way things look, that doesn't seem so impossible anymore.