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open up my eager eyes

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The first time Taisuke thinks about kissing his brother is innocent, really.

They're in high school, Kouichi in his last year and Taisuke in his first. For simple reasons, none of them have had their respective first kisses.

If put under interrogation, a girl in Taisuke's class would say quite simply that Ariake-kun is sweet, but he isn't boyfriend material. You know? And as all vague, high school-related romantic notions are, what 'boyfriend material' exactly is is never quite expounded on.

Meanwhile, a girl in Kouichi's class would respond differently, and perhaps more bluntly, after a round of stuttering. For her, Ariake-kun is weird. And it's left like that.

As both brothers have, in the girls' eyes, different reasons for why they haven't had their first kisses, so too do they have different feelings towards it.

If all the guys in my class have their first kisses before I do, I'm a loser! A square! A shame to my family! is Taisuke's impression.

Why does it matter? is Kouichi's.

Whereas Kouichi's less than neutral towards the idea of kisses (downright apathetic, really), Taisuke wants experience. All the men of class 1-C, save for a handful including Taisuke, have their respective middle school love stories. They brag about it. They talk about how nice girls smell and how pretty their mouths are and for the boldest, even the softness of their skin under their uniforms. Taisuke had always been fine just listening until Kisame Toshiro had been asked for a love story of his own and had been unable to cough one up.

Needless to say, after hearing the laughter and teases, Taisuke decided at that moment that his kissless state would no longer do.

Wanting to kiss, however, is different from actually kissing. First, you need a partner. Second, you need to know how to set the mood. Third, you have to work up the bravery to lean in and press your lips to said partner's, and that usually takes either a lot of trust or a lot of balls.

Taisuke knows that he doesn't have the second bit, and that the first would take a longer time than he thinks is safe.

So he goes to Kouichi.


"Aniki," Taisuke says one Friday afternoon around Kouichi's quiet mumbling (about Calculus or something, or that thing about melting ice and freezing water and clouds getting overweight). "Aniki. Aniki. Aniki."

It's not very often that Shizuna isn't there with them. She's their little sister, their little flower bud, their little porcelain doll. But for once, Taisuke is thankful, because if Shizuna were there he wouldn't have the courage at all to ask what he's about to ask.

Or at least, what he'd be about to ask if Kouichi would only look up from his schoolwork.

"Aniki," he tries again, but when Kouichi only cups his own cheek in his hand and grumbles, turning a page, Taisuke realises that he's never going to pay attention to him. In his irritation he grabs the edge of Kouichi's notebook and slides it out from under his brother's fingers, and this time Kouichi's reaction is immediate.

"Taisuke!" He always uses Taisuke's full name, just like their father did, and when he growls and reaches out with one hand, Taisuke's having serious childhood flashbacks. "Give that back! I have a test!"

"No way," Taisuke says, tossing the notebook over his shoulder and satisfyingly hearing it crash against the wall. Kouichi's shocked face of indignation is the sort of thing that has Taisuke wishing he had a camera, but the flick of Kouichi's hand against the back of his head and his whispered 'idiot!' has Taisuke pouting.

Kouichi moves to stand and retrieve his schoolwork, but Taisuke clamps his hand around his brother's wrist and tugs.

His brother, taller than him only by a few inches now, frowns as he looks at him.

"What?"

He's using a tone, one that means Taisuke is in Big Trouble and should probably let Kouichi go, but his grip only tightens as he looks up with as much determination as he can muster. "I need a favour," Taisuke says as seriously as he can. It's not very serious, he knows, but at least he's trying. He can see the twitch of Kouichi's temple, the slight grimace about to pull on his lips, and he's struck, suddenly, that if all goes according to plan he'll be kissing them.

Kouichi's battle between helping his brother and getting a good grade for his exam isn't a very difficult one. He calms just a bit, though the irritation at Taisuke's unnecessary disobedience is still present, and lowers his wrist as Taisuke starts to loosen his grip. "What kind of favour?" he asks, finally, and Taisuke swallows. He keeps the loosest, faintest grip on his brother's wrist, and tries not to think about how his heart is pounding and how calm Kouichi's own pulse is.

"A... personal favour," Taisuke says, stalling.

Kouichi doesn't bite, though, and his expression goes flat. "If you don't tell me straight, I'm not helping you."

Although Taisuke's whining and his exasperated 'but aniki' slips out, Kouichi's expression doesn't change, and he lightly flicks the end of Taisuke's nose with his fingers.

Taisuke flinches, reeling his head back just a bit. "Ow--okay, okay!" He huffs, and then with half-heartedness he tugs on Kouichi's wrist to have his brother sitting beside him at the edge of his bed (Kouichi's bed is on the second level, and Shizuna's bed is on the other side away from her brothers because she's a big girl now and can't possibly share with Taisuke any more). Kouichi lifts a brow, pulling his arm back a little, but Taisuke's grip only tightens again as he swallows hard.

"Aniki," he starts.

Kouichi stares at him, waiting, but that only serves to make Taisuke's cheeks flush and his stomach start to flip in nervousness.

"A... aniki," he says again, losing himself.

Kouichi narrows his eyes.

"Ani--"

"Just say it already, Taisuke!"

Kouichi yelling has Taisuke yelling, too, and he lets out a loud 'fine!' before grabbing his brother by the shoulders and letting his mouth set into a thin line. His teeth dig lightly into his own lower lip, trembling, and his thumbs dig into the hollows just between Kouichi's neck and collarbones.

Taisuke shuts his eyes tight and shouts, "Kiss me!"

His hands are shaking and his head slowly dips, his grip on Kouichi's shoulders tightening even more before finally allowing themselves to loosen. Taisuke swallows hard, ranting in his head, and he doesn't think he's ever felt his neck burn so hotly before.

Kouichi's silence is even more frightening than his anger.

Just as Taisuke tells himself to let go, a soft 'Taisuke' is whispered between them, and he doesn't think he's ever heard his brother sound so gentle since before their parents' accident.

"Taisuke," Kouichi says again, and the feel of fingers wrapped around Taisuke's own wrists has his heart twisting in his chest, more so when Kouichi easily coaxes them off his shoulders. He doesn't know if he's left bruises, but Kouichi's never been the most muscular kid, nevermind the most physically withstanding. His brother doesn't talk again for a while, but when he does, his voice comes out just as feathery as it had been the first time he said Taisuke's name. "Look at me."

So of course, Taisuke looks. He slowly opens his eyes, finding Kouichi's own, and the way his brother looks at him has a rock sinking in his stomach and his cheeks burning with colour.

"Why do you want to kiss me?" Kouichi asks, and Taisuke isn't surprised. What he's more surprised about is the fact that his supposed logic seems to be eluding him.

Get a hold of yourself! Taisuke tells himself. Come on, you know why! You don't want to be the only kid in class who's never kissed another person before!

He lies, though. "Because I can't ask Shii."

Kouichi's eyes widen at that, and when he lets go of Taisuke's wrists, Taisuke thinks the feeling that starts to grow in his bones is guilt.

"Shii? Why would you think of kissing Shii?" He sounds disturbed, frustrated, and immediately Taisuke knows that Kouichi won't give him his first kiss. If he thinks this badly about Taisuke kissing a girl who isn't even their real sister, then what more will he think of Taisuke kissing a boy who's also his brother by blood?

Stupid. Stupid Taisuke.

He shakes his head from side to side. "No, I--I just, it. She's a girl, and we're not related, so I thought if I could have my first kiss, it'd be okay with Shii--"

"She doesn't know we aren't related, Taisuke."

"W-Well, yeah, but...!"

"She's our little sister."

"I know that, but a kiss--"

"We promised we'd protect her from this kind of stuff!"

"Aniki--"

Taisuke's floundering and even Kouichi can tell, and though Taisuke can see it--the lecture growing on Kouichi's lips--there's an unidentifiable emotion in his eyes, too. Kouichi opens his mouth and closes it numerous times before finally shutting his eyes and letting out a soft sigh. He doesn't look at Taisuke, which is a bad sign, but he speaks, which is probably good one.

"Why..." Kouichi looks like he's struggling, and Taisuke wonders briefly what it is he must be worrying about. Kouichi fumbles for words for a bit before finally finding them, somehow, and he scratches at the end of his nose. "... why is a kiss so important to you, Taisuke?"

And there it is. Kouichi knows it isn't just an out of the blue question, and embarrassment sinks into his soul at the thought of telling Kouichi, of all people, of his insecurities.

There's resigned acceptance there too, though. Because if he can't trust his brother, then who can he trust?

So Taisuke tries. He clears his throat and ducks his head away, and he's not entirely sure why he thought this was a good idea at all.

"A lot of the guys in my class," he starts, twisting his fingers in the hem of his shirt, "already had their first kisses. And sometimes--sometimes they ask people out of nowhere about it! And if you don't have a kiss story, you get laughed at and embarrassed and I..."

Taisuke doesn't continue, already far too ashamed to plow on. His eyes squeeze shut and he's not sure why he has the overwhelming urge to cry.

Kouichi's hesitation is obvious even in his silence.

"Taisuke..." he mumbles. Taisuke's not sure at all if he likes Kouichi's soft voice or not. "... if we... if we did kiss, what story would you tell them? That you gave a homo kiss to your older brother?"

That has an arrow slicing into Taisuke's chest. His eyes widen while they stare at his lap, his fingers freezing before they begin to shake. Taisuke bites into his lip again and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, aniki," he says quietly. "It... it must've been a--a stupid idea, huh?"

"Not exactly."

"Yeah, I thought s--not exactly?"

"Not exactly," Kouichi repeats, and the small, albeit tentative, smile that curls onto his lips has hope flickering in Taisuke's chest.

There's a moment between them where nothing goes on, but then Kouichi's hands cup Taisuke's face and he feels his cheeks heat beneath his palms immediately in response. Is it--is he getting a kiss? Is Kouichi going to kiss him? As Kouichi brings his head up, tilting it, Taisuke gets a good look at his brother's face and warmth starts to pool inside of him.

His heart is beating so fast.

He's going to have a heart attack.

He stares at Kouichi's face: his eyes first, then his cheeks and his nose, and finally his lips. Taisuke swallows thickly when he looks at them.

"Close your eyes," Kouichi murmurs softly, "Taisuke."

Taisuke does.


"And that," Taisuke rounds up with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders, "is how I had my first kiss."

"Aaaaah--no way!"

"Liar!"

"That was terrible!"

All around him he receives abuse, but not the sort directed at him. Taisuke grins and crosses his arms over his chest, leaning back and resting his legs over his desk. One of the boys, a particularly popular guy named Jun, leans in and stares in shock at him.

"You're saying... your lips were literally sucked on so hard it stung."

"Yeah," Taisuke agrees. "Exactly."

"And you were hit--how many times?"

"Twice. Did I say twice? Twice."

As Taisuke's grin grows wider, the boys let out little laughs and hollers and shake their heads from side to side.

"What made you think kissing such a girl was a good idea?!"

"Barbarian!"

"Terrible!"

"That's a shitty first kiss, Ariake."

"I feel so bad for you, man!"

Taisuke shrugs his shoulders again, lifting both his hands up with his palms towards the ceiling. "I know," he says dramatically, making sure to pause for emphasis, "it was pretty bad. But you don't pick your first kisses, huh?"

"Spoken like a true man," Jun says, clapping a hand over Taisuke's shoulder. "That's true. I like you, Ariake."

Taisuke laughs, rubbing the back of his neck. "Thanks."


"So," Kouichi asks as they walk home from the high school, on their way to pick up Shizuna before they make it to the orphanage, "how did it go?"

"They bought it," Taisuke states proudly. "They totally bought it. They seriously think I was kissed by a girl from hell--they do!"

Kouichi smirks. "Didn't I tell you being pinched in the lips and hurt was going to be worth it?"

"Aaaah, now I don't know about that!" Taisuke scoffs, turning to look up at his brother with a frown. "You could've just told me how to describe it instead of actually hurting me, aniki."

"You wouldn't have described it right," Kouichi retorts.

"Wouldn't have--" Taisuke inhales sharply, pointing an accusing finger. "--is your faith in me really that small!?"

"Absolutely," Kouichi answers flatly.

Taisuke opens his mouth, fails to think of a good comeback, and instead lets out a groan as he shoves his hands into his pockets and looks away, but not without missing the half-smile on Kouichi's lips out of the corner of his eye.

They make their way to Shizuna's middle school without much of a fuss, picking the girl up and walking with her back to St. George's Academy, and for the rest of the day, everything is fine.