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Dissociation Disease

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He doesn't know why it began. The vivid, nonsensical, morbid dreams.

He taps his sparkling blue pen on a blank page, idly enjoying how the sunshine hits the bits of glitter that are still clinging to its cheap outer plastic casing.

It's something he can afford to buy inexorably, no matter if someone attempts to break them all or have them mysteriously disappear.

A few more glitter bits drop off and end up in the crease of his notebook. He leaves them where they land instead of brushing them off. It brings him an odd sense of satisfaction to picture someone waving his book around only to accidentally release stray glitter on an unsuspecting victim.

They should know better by now, anyway.

Not to touch.

Most of his favorite things attain their shine from tiny, obnoxious, difficult-to-contain cheap craft materials like glitter. It'd be just like him, for his flashy preference to bear such consequences, many small lingering reminders that something of his was there.

A shining speck of something ultimately insignificant still found weeks later after cleaning up a mess that wasn't even his fault-

His thoughts are running away from him.

An abrupt gust of wind blows in his face, causing his vision to waver and blur. The cold air pricks his eyes, makes them water. He looks down to shield them with his fringe.

The notebook, right, of course.

The dreams.

Someone else might call them nightmares, if he were to give them only a short summary of their contents. But he wasn't going to do that. There was simply too much to describe and not enough of a willing audience to listen to him. Which was a problem for him because he had a lot to say and none of the right words to speak with. Not to his brothers, his parents, or to the people on the bridge he visited less and less frequently as time passed by.

No matter, if he could not improvise grand story telling in the moment, he'd simply start a more modest practice to build up to it.

As soon as the thought escapes his head, the wind blows again, and this time it cuts through his entire body, scolding him, he thinks. The cold seeps into his hands, makes his joints ache. The faint, numbing pain forces him to reconsider.

No.

Saying that he wants to reveal his dreams to anyone would be a lie, one undeserving to be told to any audience. This was something he'd keep solely to himself for now, for his own sanity.

He taps the pen against his open book again.

Burdened by distractions and ruminations, the frown that creases his brow deepens. The sun is almost about to begin its descent and he's up on the roof, unable to even begin the arduous journey of pulling his thoughts together long enough to write.

The air is brisk even without the wind to stir it into motion, a sure sign that fall has begun, and his time alone is almost up. In a sense.

He recalls that the others are still out on their own misadventures, his brothers might not even return until much later. Sometimes, they regroup before reaching their home and get sidetracked, leaving whoever is left at the house behind for the evening. It's not unusual, and still, like clockwork, they'll all be back in time for dinner.

But fall means more time trapped together inside their shared home and less opportunities for blessed privacy. Unseen, unobserved, undetected. Less moments in which to become reacquainted with an old, habitual, compulsion without scrutiny from anyone who would tease and poke and prod, is it even in a good-natured sense anymore-

Stop.

But there's still time, the sun still shines brightly down upon him as if determined to encourage him with its warmth and he tries to focus.

It's so hard.

Every stray thought brings him to another and another and another. He hasn't really attempted to write since just after high school ended, softly, quietly, with a sense of melancholy. The thought of which, coincidentally, helps bring him right back to where he began today's rooftop session.

The dreams.

After high school, a slow, creeping sort of fog set inside his often-joked-about "empty" head. Neither he nor his brothers had any solid plans for what to do once released from the clutches of compulsory education.

Listlessly, he had used his, by then, signature mirror as a means by which to observe his brothers. No one among them would stare too hard at a man who would seemingly only stare at himself after all.

From beyond the plastic edges of his mirror, he watched as old habits grew worse amidst their group while he himself felt dulled from having no goals set besides the lofty, unreachable, unrealistic types. Things that would probably stay safely ensconced in his waking fantasies.

Back then, Choromatsu seemed to have a gauge filling above his head and every day spent doing nothing worthwhile, as determined by his own unknowable standards, filled another tick on the bar.

It drove him in mental circles, then actual circles, constantly pacing their room with his nose to a book, doing anything to get that feeling of being productive without actually achieving. Anything to keep himself put together, a driving force that he was well acquainted with, but couldn't bring himself to speak of with Choromatsu. This terribly unapproachable, newly emerging Choromatsu, undergoing a metamorphosis into an awful, green, constantly hovering butterfly.

As the gauge filled, it deepened his obsessions, made him more irritable, more likely to begin lecturing others unprompted. He was probably scolding himself most of all, however, internally screaming sentiments of self reprimand.

How deeply downturned his mouth was became an indicator of when the next tick of his gauge would be met, when the next round of fruitless one-sided conversation would begin.

A silent unanimous vote was passed, and Choromatsu was habitually ignored and avoided once he began a tirade.

As a unit, they learned not to speak up for fear of retaliation in the form of what was seen as nagging, but was more likely a warped call for help.

How frustrating, that they, as brothers, could easily work together to avoid a problem instead of tackling it. Frustrating, but not unexpected. The foul habit had already been established and set for years.

Maybe Choromatsu was afraid, or too anxious, to move ahead without the group, without being a group, but the group wasn't budging.

The more Choromatsu stressed the importance of actively doing something, anything he deemed productive, the more Ichimatsu withdrew. From the rooms he'd walk into, from the table at breakfast or dinner, from the house itself. Just to escape for a little bit longer.

Ichimatsu looked and acted as if something invisible was chasing him at all times, something other than any personified mercurial gauge, granting him the stagger and slouch of someone who was perpetually tired. A slow-speed chase, and in response, a measured and silent shuffle out of sight or a swift and tactical dive out of a window. He could be fast when it suited him, the coward. Not that any one among them could judge him for it.

He was the first to sniff out Choromatsu's rising anxiety, the first to sense when he'd come bearing down on them, and the first to flee.

Apparently, Ichimatsu had long ago reached a conclusion that directly opposed Choromatsu's ideals, something he would not share with the rest of them. A harsh and indisputable truth he thought applied to himself, as his ever increasing self deprecating comments seemed to suggest. Maybe it was too personal to say out loud.

Or too personal to say, ever.

He could relate to the phenomenon of things unspeakable so much so that it hurt. Like viscous liquid sentiments that would pool in his stomach, swallowed down and undelivered, collecting and creeping up to stroke his throat from the inside with coaxing fingers, urging him to heave them all out in one agonizing, mortifying retch.

Hand over mouth to keep anything from escaping, the gesture draws his thoughts over to the fifth born.

Jyushimatsu followed Ichimatsu's lead, spending more time outdoors, less time trapped in a room with someone he couldn't talk to because what he had to say wasn't what people wanted to hear.

More likely to flow with moments and crash through obstacles, Jyushimatsu would break them instead of hurdling over them, subsequently not conquering them "properly." But doing anything the "normal way" was never in his stride. He quickly accepted that things were not alright, but also made no move to change them, much like himself.

Jyushimatsu kept active, mostly, but he could occasionally be seen sitting still in a corner, against a wall, staring at nothing. Or maybe at something far away on a horizon he wasn't willing to walk towards just yet, not alone at least. He would leave no one behind.

No mirrors were required for him to reach this state of looking inwards while at the same time looking out, disconcertingly pensive. His eyes and posture would always give him away though, and his brothers would leave him be out of respect, or maybe fear of the unknown, but he was never purposefully ignored, like others.

When he wasn't indoors, he was gone. Faster than Ichimatsu, and much louder than Choromatsu. Boisterous, long sleeved and baseball bat-equipped, Jyushimatsu had his own way of spending his days of newfound freedom from a system that never worked for him.

He had a game to play before getting bogged down by a new set of rules that he didn't yet know how to bend, or more satisfyingly, break. Impossible things to do while unseen like hit a thousand home-runs and possibly drag Ichimatsu out with him to train.

Maybe everyone just needed time to sort out their restless energy as he did his own.

Todomatsu drifted and returned ceaselessly. Like the tides, he'd go out and then come back in, but not as the waves of a gentle ocean. It was more like he was sailing a one-man ship on a sea of his own creation, made to be turbulent and unforgiving in his mind's eye.

Much like Choromatsu, he set his own standards for himself, and everyone else too. His time was spent meeting other people, being rejected by other people, or rejecting them himself.

Based on the kind of state he was in when he returned home, it looked as if he had continually failed to find new land on which to dock at. He would sometimes look queasy, as if quietly desperate to find something new without wanting to leave what was already his.

A never ending sea and only one place to come back to.

That is, until he got his phone and could set sail from within his home as well as without.

A journey filled with people, yet still lonely, a struggle without end and always at his fingertips, maybe this was something relatable he could talk about with Todomatsu.

How he could walk into a room with all of them inside it and have it feel empty.

But Todomatsu had fallen into his own personal bubble. Maybe he would come back for his brothers, but if he did, it would happen only after he had found new land on his own first.

If Todomatsu was trapped in motion over water, and all the others were digging their own circuitous, destination-less paths on land, then he himself was situated at the edge of a cliff overlooking them all.

He could picture it, the creeping fog born from inside his brain, rolling in slowly, over taking the beach just as it did his thoughts. Making the distant figures of his brothers difficult to discern. He was already so far away, even without the fog. He had been for a while.

He thinks he remembers walking his own path up to his high perch.

There was one thing that was visibly constant, a ways away from his seaside cliff.

Osomatsu.

He was the only brother who seemed genuinely content with doing nothing, being no one, and fully at home with the thought that this perpetual state was something to revel in. Solid, in a reassuring way, even if he was a veritable siren's call to a life of not thinking about anything except finding ways to have fun.

Or in this case, to fit the landscape within his musings, a lighthouse. A beacon, calling everyone home.

Ah, mistake!

Correction.

Calling everyone to Him.

Osomatsu would bring Choromatsu down from his temperamental rages, or at least distract him, mislead him, draw him into a meaningless, light-hearted argument over something inane. Making it safe to be in a room with him again.

Osomatsu would offhandedly announce to them all, suspiciously when Ichimatsu was in the room and slouching more than usual, when something particularly good was going to be for dinner, threatening to eat it all if anyone were to not show up. Baiting him like a cat with food to stay with them.

Osomatsu would make the executive decision for them to hang out as a group, to possibly torment their acquaintances-slash-friends when Jyushimatsu would spend a minute too long not causing his usual ruckus. Getting everyone together to be as active as Jyushimatsu for a short while.

And Osomatsu would always pester their youngest brother to call him something or other, an embarrassing endearment, to rile Todomatsu up and get rid of any glassy eyed stare directed at his phone. Barging in if he had been spotted sitting too still, mouth becoming a thin, flat line. Both demanding and giving attention in turn.

Osomatsu was good at coming up with ideas, derailing people if the idea conceived was relatively easy to enact. Good at getting them back on a track he approved of. But only when he actually noticed them.

He couldn't bring himself to do it back then. To talk out loud about something too real, which was ironically the feeling of life slipping into something surreal. To walk to that place where Osomatsu was. He could barely get his thoughts together as words on paper.

From atop his cliff, or more realistically the roof, he sat and did his own imaginary wanderings. Thinking of songs, strumming his guitar to make music, or noise, whichever. Doing whatever he could manage to try and expel any amount of fog swirling about in his head.

He kept a notebook back then too. Days that turned into weeks that turned into months.

Months worth of lyrics he worked on, patched together from fractured thoughts he'd come up with spontaneously, particularly poetic things he remembered reading, lines he'd heard in movies.

He included the observations he made on his brothers, but kept them vague, wrote no names. He hadn't ever needed to. He knew which muses those particular images were pulled from.

Maybe someday he'd finish a song, one for each of them. Except for himself.

He never wrote about himself. Only things outside of himself.

Reworking, crossing out, scribbling, writing, smearing, words, ideas, formless and meaningless. Pages worth of disjointed material that, at first glance, would only seem like empty rambling. But he had ideas, and he was slowly working on the glorious, in his opinion, act of Creation.

All that boundless potential, a different way to say "currently worthless" work, was gone one day. Conception destroyed before completion.

He wasn't the only brother that ever went out onto the roof.

Jyushimatsu had spotted something wrapped up in plastic and wedged under the roof tiles after launching a baseball up there and climbing to retrieve it.

Todomatsu was intrigued, contemplating the thought of someone perhaps doing illicit drugs on the rooftop at night. Why else would anyone go to such lengths to weather proof and hide something up there?

Choromatsu attempted to play the straight-man who would respect boundaries but Osomatsu convinced him it was worth a laugh to see what could possibly be written in such a gaudy notebook. It hadn't actually taken much convincing.

They'd use it as dirt if there was something incriminating written down inside, and if it was nothing, they'd simply put it back.

They forgot to put it back.

The allure of snacks had been strong and the content within was too much of an eyesore to decipher, as it had been written in shitty, sparkling gel-ink.

Ichimatsu had been training the neighborhood cats to destroy his possessions with extreme prejudice.

When they returned to their room, all that was left was a mess on the floor, the couch, the windowsill. A murder scene with shining drops of blue blood, which in reality was just glitter and sequins, complete with torn white scraps covered in spit and scratch marks.

Conveniently, the second born returned home from an activity he can no longer recall just as the other five brothers were about to leave. The memory is hazy, as most of his memories are now. He does remember them all looking a tiny bit eager to exit, rushing past him a bit faster than usual. It's something he only notes afterwards. Each one wearing a different, familiar poker face.

Before he could even ask where everyone was headed off to, Osomatsu solemnly laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Karamatsu," he began, voice pitched lower than normal. The other four brothers were already out the door in the time it took for him to say the name.

Right, that's his name.

Karamatsu.

It echoes in his head whenever someone calls him by name.

"It was an accident," Osomatsu continues on to say and nods to himself, as if playing pretend at giving grave news. But then he brightens up and squeezes Karamatsu's shoulder reassuringly.

Osomatsu lets go, then shoves his shoes on, and in a rush he escapes the house as he calls back, "I'm really sorry, I'll make it up to you some other time okay? Ifitmakesyoufeelbetterwedidn'tevenreaditso! Later!"

The front door slides shut and the sound is almost loud enough to cause him pain, bizarrely enough.

Bewildered, he remembers making his way to their room instead of following his fleeing brothers. He remembers finding the carcass of his work-in-progress, the thing that he'd been occupied with ever since graduation planted an increasing sense of constant heavy dread in his heart.

He remembers feeling nothing and having his surroundings get a little fuzzy, colors becoming muted, edges softening.

Fog.

He cleans up the mess, it isn't enough to be his entire notebook, but it looks like whatever ripped it to shreds took the main body of the book out with it through the window.

There's nothing to salvage.

They hadn't even gotten to read it.

He hadn't made anything worth reading yet anyway. It wasn't that big of a loss. And Osomatsu said it was an accident.

This was nothing.

This meant nothing.

What he wrote down about them was probably wrong anyway.

Everything else was just lines of inspiration he'd taken from somewhere else anyway.

He hadn't done anything yet.

(but he had wanted to finish something, wanted it so much, so badly, he had been so close, all the pieces had been there, they were there and now)

He could start again. Maybe he could try to quickly write down anything he could remember.

Unlikely, seeing as he could barely remember what he looked like on some days, the likes of which were increasing at a disturbing rate. Horribly absurd, considering his sextuplet status.

There's glitter on the couch and he's too tired to remove every last trace of it so he doesn't. He doesn't mention the notebook when his brothers return. He turns down their offering of a few items of junk food from the nearby convenience store, stating everything is fine.

His stomach is empty but he feels oddly nauseous.

"There's nothing to forgive, my brothers," and they predictably tune out the moment he uses English, quick to take an out. They don't even comment on the very obvious traces of glitter on the couch, something they usually berate him for on a daily basis since he's fond of the annoyance. Maybe this proves they care a little bit about making a genuine mistake. He tucks that thought aside for later but for now-

It's perfect, he doesn't want to talk about it, he doesn't want to remember this happening at all, he doesn't want to question whether it was an accident or not, he doesn't want to get angry in case it was, he doesn't care anymore.

He'd get the full story later, the next day, in increments, but he's already skipped the mourning phase, any reaction at all except numbness, and he stops paying attention to the other's individual problems for a while.

When he sits himself down with his mirror, he looks only at himself in truth this time. However, he's gotten too used to looking past his own reflection. The result is that he still can't ever recall what he really looks like, and gets told by Todomatsu, who displays just a hint of worry, that he's apparently making an odd, irritating expression.

A frown, eyebrows permanently arched downward.

He keeps doing it just to see what it looks like on his face, to memorize the image and maybe to be an annoyance just like with the glitter, until he gets a headache. Until he stops getting headaches and can keep up the expression daily.

He doesn't write again.

And a few weeks pass by and he notices a pattern.

Vivid, nonsensical, morbid.

Dreams.

A loud, echoing shout startles him out of his recollections of the past, giving him a jolt that goes straight to his heart, making it jump. His body tenses, but he reminds himself not to spring up into a standing position, as the reflex has caused him to take a tumble off the roof more than a few times in the past. His arm squashes his notebook uncomfortably against his chest without his permission however, and the pen that was in his hand is now rolling and bouncing its way down the roof. He follows its path to the rain gutter before him, and then his eye is drawn past it.

Jyushimatsu and the others have returned home. They're chatting amicably amongst themselves. Everyone is present and Jyushimatsu is enthusiastically waving his long sleeved arms as Ichimatsu is giving their brother a slight nod accompanied with an easy, barely there smile.

Something inside his chest tightens sharply and he quickly looks away.

His body suddenly graces to inform him that the day has grown cold, and it feels as if its warmth has fled all at once with the arrival of his brothers. Which is nonsense, he thinks, as he gazes at the setting sun. He did it again, traveled down the rabbit hole of his own memories and ventured too deep.

He did it to himself, wrapped himself up so tightly he finds it hard to move or see or breathe without experiencing any one of a myriad of discomforts.

Had he simply stared dead ahead of him this whole time with an unseeing gaze? When had the sun dipped down this far into the horizon? At least it's a sight he never tires of seeing, and today's sunset is brilliantly colored.

But it does cast looming, oppressive looking shadows with the figures of his approaching brothers. And the orange hue of the sky and clouds warps their colors in an unsettling way.

Still, he tries to commit the image to memory, willing it to be burned onto his eyes.

With a dawning sense of minor disappointment, he relaxes his posture and closes the still empty notebook. This one isn't blue in color or covered in gaudy material. It's just a normal looking, nondescript black notebook. Nothing denotes that it's his, one would have to open it to find out who it belongs to. But it's still empty inside, regrettably. Empty except for a few sparkles, he idly recalls.

He tucks it into his hoodie, secured for now. He won't hide this one on the roof. The book's cool surface against his skin provides him with chilly reassurance of its safety.

As he hears his brothers entering the house and calling out their return, he gets up cautiously and makes his way to the edge.

Their mother answers them back and welcomes them home in the background as he decides he doesn't care that the pens are expendable, he would like to retrieve the one that fell.

The tiles of the rooftop are now unforgivably cold, and his palms are sweaty which only makes his fingers stiff and harder to bend, but he manages to carefully reach out and grab the pen and quickly shove it into his front pocket.

The front door slides shut and the sound of it seems to be much louder than it can possibly be, as if his brain has taken the sound, magnified, and duplicated it. He didn't ask to remember every instance of that particular, familiar sound, layered over and over and over.

It inspires irrational anxiety to swell in chest, makes his mouth go dry. He swallows and nearly chokes on nothing, embarrassingly enough.

He needs to shove himself out of his own head and soon. He already has a reputation for being self obsessed and he only likes perpetuating the notion if it works to his advantage, which it will not if he truly can't focus on the happenings of Now.

There will be time to order his thoughts later, in the dead of night, since he can't seem to even begin writing until he gets them out of the way. Thoughts of how things started to feel less and less real around him as his dreams got more and more surreal.

More memorable than his actual life.

Someone calls for him from inside and his body involuntarily locks up. He hadn't even heard their arrival into their shared bedroom. Maybe he had left the door open.

"Ooooi, Karamatsu!"

It's Osomatsu's voice and he sounds like his usual self, with maybe just a hint of impatience as he says the name.

Karamatsu, right.

He's Karamatsu.

The voice that snaps him back to reality is much louder this time, Osomatsu must have stuck his head out the window to yell at him. Karamatsu must have taken too long to respond.

"Are you up there? Come on, don't freeze your ass off on the roof. Don't you feel cold?"

Karamatsu almost tunes out again at the sound of Osomatsu's rambling voice. It's calming in a way that eases his body and makes him want to fall asleep, his earlier anxiety leaving as quickly as it came.

He can't find it within himself to feel unsettled over Osomatsu's voice having such sway over him if it yields these kinds of results.

"-going out to Chibita's 'cuz mom isn't making dinner tonight. We're gonna leave without you, you know! Grab your shit and let's go already!"

He kick starts his brain into action, with the firm command to respond already, idiot.

"I'll meet you at the door, brother!" Is the best he can come up with.

His voice is steady, if not a bit hollow sounding, after a full day of being unused. He at least managed to place his usual emphasis on the word "brother."

He hears Osomatsu begin to say something else but he ignores him in favor of focusing on his descent from the roof. He's fallen off so many times that he may have developed a lack of respect and caution for the height when he makes a move to willingly drop down from it.

With ease, he lands onto the small balcony landing that was previously hidden from sight. He memorized its placement long ago, though it still gives him a slight shock every time he sees his legs dangle over the edge of seemingly empty air only to land firmly on a solid platform. He enjoys the miniature thrill and how it sends a weak electrical jolt running through his legs and up his spine.

He swings his legs over the wooden fencing of the tiny balcony and drops down onto the roofing of the first floor. From here, he easily makes his way to the front of the house and drops down onto the ground, directly in front of their door. His legs tremble only the slightest bit.

Karamatsu poses, out of habit and perhaps muscle memory, whipping his shades out and onto his face while looking dramatically to the side with a hand partially obscuring his visage, knowing that once the door opens, the light from within will cast a deep shadow onto him. He is ready to perform.

The door does slide open, but someone barrels past him instead, sending him stumbling back a step and setting his sunglasses askew. He manages to catch a glimpse of yellow, purple, and pink blurs before righting his footing and adjusting his shades.

Jyushimatsu and Ichimatsu seem to be playing "keep away" with Todomatsu's newest beanie, which at the moment is too balled up to be recognizable. Ichimatsu tosses it back to Jyushi while Todomatsu yells at them both to stop playing around because it's, "Too damn cold!"

Jyushimatsu jams the beanie on his own head instead and makes a disturbingly accurate imitation of Todomatsu's usual cat-like, cutesy smile. The effect is ruined though when he places a sleeved hand to his mouth and his smile widens into a grin. Todomatsu takes the opportunity to snatch the hat off of his older brother's head and grumble while Ichimatsu has already returned to his slouched posture, hands finding their way into the pockets of his new jacket.

His cheeks are slightly red and he appears to be pleased after another successful round of temporarily stealing an article of Todomatsu's clothing. It's a newly formed habit he's developed that's specifically targeted at only their youngest brother, ever since the bathhouse incident where he was accused of being a, "totally normal, zero darkness fourth brother!"

While annoying, it seems to be only a benign brotherly prank between the two of them that sometimes spreads to include any others that are nearby when Ichimatsu is feeling mischievous instead of wrathful.

The slow movement of a shadow cast from the doorway behind him drags his attention away from his three youngest brothers, who begin walking in the direction of the oden stand, and he finds himself going still.

Time slows and he feels a tingling sensation in his face and at the tips of his fingers. Goosebumps, and the urge to reach out and take hold of something intangible.

Osomatsu has a soft grin on his face, his eyes set on the trio ahead of them as he casually strolls past Karamatsu.

It's a peaceful expression, one that's fully content.

Karamatsu feels like he's witnessing something he doesn't want to see because it looks too calm for how his world feels. It's a harsh contrast to how hollow his lungs can feel at times, empty of even air, space filled with nothing at all, inverse pressure squeezing them tightly inward.

The scene is too blissful. Nothing could possibly be wrong here. Everything is perfectly fine. Normal.

Karamatsu half expects Osomatsu to comment on how "cute" their little brothers are being, but Osomatsu says nothing and only glances back briefly to look past him, making a motion with his head to beckon someone forward. He goes on ahead, with the expression of someone who wants to stir up more minor trouble to get in on the fun.

Karamatsu feels far away, as if watching a tranquil scene from someone else's life-

"How long have you been standing there? Did you actually wait for us to come out the door..."

The sharp, cutting voice of Choromatsu trails off into something that sounds like a softer version of exasperation. It's a well worn tone of voice, coming from his immediately younger brother, ever playing the role of the fussy mother hen.

...He still sometimes imagines Choromatsu as a constantly hovering butterfly, however, and the image he conjures in his mind is sickly green. Which isn't fair to Choromatsu, he knows.

He knows he's only trapped in this mood because of what he failed to expel out of himself and into the book.

At least there's no rising gauge, there hasn't been one in years. All of them have changed.

The front door slides closed, the sound almost drowns out his brother's voice as he speaks again, even though it couldn't possibly be loud enough to do so in reality.

Anxiety takes hold over him once more, softly squeezing his lungs in a misleadingly gentle reminder of its presence. He curses himself for ever remembering the feeling. Speak of the devil.

"At least pull your sleeves down if that's all you're going to wear," Choromatsu murmurs under his breath with disapproval as he walks past Karamatsu, intentionally loud enough to be heard.

The butterfly's wings flare up into a bright, toxic, poisonous looking combination of colors. Still, it's a striking image, and Karamatsu catalogs it for later before his brain catches up and processes the situation he's gotten into.

Ah, the jackets. Each of his brothers are wearing their new outerwear, they must have only come home to retrieve them before quickly setting off again. Karamatsu thinks he might not have noticed their arrival or departure if not for the incidental things that shook him from his brooding. He almost opted to sleep to Osomatsu's voice...

Just as he's being ignored now, in fact. He looks, this time while actually taking note of his surroundings, and finds that Choromatsu is far off, at the tail end of the group getting further away from home.

Springing into action, forcing his body to move, he figures he can catch up to them with just a few strides and pretend that he never spaced out to begin with.

Stubbornly, he keeps the sleeves of his hoodie rolled up even as he shivers. His body remembers the cold at the worst moments, truly.

The notebook beneath his clothing remains hidden, but he readjusts the way his hoodie sits on his body while he slows his pace once he catches up to Choromatsu. He doesn't want it to show and he feels safer with it on his person, even if it's empty.

If he were to somehow lose this one he feels like he might not procure another for a long time, procrastinating, allowing time and life to get away from him again.

It's too easy to fall into the rhythm of everyday life. Of stagnancy.

If he intends to keep it with him at all times, he'll have to be more vigilant with paying attention to his surroundings. To his brothers. They're used to physically attacking one another and he's a very common target for stray blows. It's something he's come to ironically enjoy, however, just like most other things that would usually annoy anyone else. The blows may be unexpected but they have the welcomed side effect of viciously yanking him back into the moment. But it would only be inconvenient now, if the notebook with him were to be found out or damaged in the aftermath.

Too preoccupied with thinking of imaginary consequences, he accidentally walks straight into Osomatsu's back. He stops dead in his tracks as he feels his cheeks heat up in a harsh and instantaneous spike of self embarrassment. Wasn't he just admonishing himself to avoid this very scenario?

Osomatsu casually swings his body to the side, slowing his gait but still walking forward while facing back, about to reprimand him, before his eyes land on Karamatsu's heated face. He stops walking, leans forward with a tilt to his head and asks, "Are you getting sick or something?"

Karamatsu tries to salvage the situation but stumbles over an exclamation of, "Ah, mistake!" It comes out sounding strangled and inadvertently corroborates Osomatsu's theory, as if his throat were actually sore.

Choromatsu, from beside him, metaphorically pounces in for the kill, voice a dull monotone, as if fully done with him and merely stating what should be obvious by now.

He stares at Karamatsu blankly and drones, "I wouldn't be surprised if you were getting sick, dressed like that. Maybe you should go home and get an early start on dealing with it, stop it from spreading to the rest of us."

Sudden irritation flares up within, which serves only to make his face appear redder.

But Karamatsu merely clears his throat and decides to be obnoxious, announcing, "Non non non, my brothers," and here he can see them both struggle to not just simply turn away. They don't however, because if he were sick in truth, it'd involve them. Knowing he has a captive audience, he continues.

"My passion is a flame that burns brightly," he pauses dramatically and spreads his arms out wide, as if daring a chill wind to blow past him.

Challenge against nature accepted, the wind responds with impeccable timing, but he still finishes with a flourish, holding himself and stating, "so bright and hot that it has turned my body into a furnace."

He further deepens his voice and gravely declares, "I cannot fall ill."

His audience is deathly silent. Even the wind has died down. Success.

Choromatsu just sighs and zips his jacket up all the way, the collar now obscuring the lower half of his face, covering his mouth.

Karamatsu can still imagine the frown growing there, regardless.

From behind the cloth barrier, he hears Choromatsu tiredly break the silence to say, "...you're shivering, idiot. You're unbelievable."

Karamatsu smirks, and shakes his head, the motions well rehearsed. He retorts smoothly, "Heh. My body shivers just as the flames of a fire yet waver in the wind."

His younger brother hunches over and groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. Exasperation in his voice, he quickly snaps back, "What? What the hell does that even mean?"

"It means that he's fine."

Osomatsu finally recovers and steps in, an easy grin on his face.

"I gotcha." He says as he nods to Karamatsu.

Karamatsu is stunned for a moment.

His face stays red and Choromatsu snorts and walks off. He is trapped standing still and facing his only older brother, a scene that keeps repeating. Said older brother takes advantage of his stun-move and swipes the glasses right off of Karamatsu's face.

"So you can actually watch where you're going, yeah?" He offers as explanation.

Osomatsu tucks the stolen item away in his own pockets and moves to catch up with Choromatsu, elbowing him in the side and chatting him up as they walk onwards.

He is left feeling warm and cold at the same time, as if his body can't settle on one temperature, or his brain can't decide which feeling is real. All sound has faded away and the only thing his mind has decided to fixate on is the image of his brothers standing still, mid-step, as Chibita's oden stand comes into view beyond them.

Everything is fine.