Not going to lie, you fell off your bed when you received that text from Todomatsu at 3 a.m.
It began with something usual: he texted you saying he was scared, which was normal assuming he could probably have a nightmare; however, when you asked what was wrong, the answer surprised you so much that made you fall onto the cold floor.
“This room’s too big and I’m alone.”
He didn’t really said anything strange per se, but you sensed something was off, so you put on a jacket and called him after locking the front door of your house.
You were more than prepared to spend the night comforting the youngest brother.
You became close to the Matsunos after a party with your friends on a bar. It was momentary. Already on the dark streets, doing your best to remember which direction your house was, you were able to distinguish a boy on a robe that seemed to get closer, suddenly that boy transformed into three, and then into six. Of course, at first you attributed this to all the alcohol you drank that night, but they started talking to you, concerned, and you learned that they were actually sixtuplets. Even when they had just left the public baths they helped you get home safely, and the rest is history.
You've known them for a while, that's why you couldn’t believe that they were leaving their parent’s home when Todomatu told you.
“You serious? Like, seriously serious?” You talked with your mouth full of fries as the male nodded, averting his eyes.
“I was there a few days ago and… it seems everyone has left…
It wasn’t a surprise. You swallowed the food and hugged the boy tightly. You couldn’t understand what he was going through, but you could at least try to ease his pain. You wanted ―needed to know how everyone else were doing, and how exactly they got to that resolution so fast. In all honesty, you was kind of worried about their well being outside the Matsuno residence.
“You could talk with Choromatsu-niisan. He was the first one to get a job and leave.” He suggested, finally starting to eat the snacks.
“Sounds good, but where am I going to get his address?”
“I have it.” You looked at him in surprise. “He gave it to everyone, in case we wanted to visit him.”
“Alright then, it’s decided. I’m going to bother him tomorrow.” You observed as he finished eating and then rested a hand on his shoulder. “You should sleep now. I’m not going anywhere until midday, yes?”
His eyes illuminated and he nodded happily as he turned off the lights and made himself comfortable on the futon beside you, who decided just to lay on the floor, your jacket emulating a pillow as you looked on the Internet how to get to Choromatsu’s new home.
A new day came, and fortunately, Matsuno had a good night. He claimed to have slept really well, and with that you were satisfied. Before you went he asked if you would like being his roommate; even when you declined his offer, you promised to have another ‘slumber party’ soon.
Your mission: ambush the otaku when his shift ended. Knowing Choromatsu, he’d get nervous when he sees you, but he’d try to act cool in front of his colleagues. For the sudden appearance, you would treat him to dinner and after that you would have a serious talk with him. Everything was planned.
And just as planned, everything went smoothly.
You arrived a bit early, so you had to wait for a while before the middle brother came out, but when he finally did, he received you with a candid smile. You had always been closer to the oldest brothers, so noticing he was doing well made you incredibly happy. After hearing how his coworkers teased him, you two left the building, chatting animatedly.
“It’s been a while, huh?” He said out of the blue.
“Eh? Not really. The last time I was in your house was like… a week or so?.” You explained, making him blush slightly. “But now you’ve got a job, time must feel different!”
“Y-yes, actually.” His eyes fixated on the ground. “It’s weird. It has only been a few days yet I feel like a whole month passed already…”
The melancholic expression on his face made you worry, so you decided to carelessly pat his back.
“I can see wrinkles on your face already, Choromatsu.” You sang. ”It’s disgusting, please stop.”
This made him smile, and the atmosphere became lighter, somehow.
After having udon as dinner ―because the gentleman insisted to pay, so you decided to eat something cheap― both of you arrived at his new apartment, which wasn’t as tiny and filthy as Todomatsu’s. Not wanting to ruin the mood, you began asking about his comrades, the amount of work he had to do, and things related. You evaded mentioning his family as long as possible. Just when the subject was touched by him, you began talking.
“I… spent the night at Todomatsu’s.” You began, trying not to make him sad. However, before you could continue, he paled.
“Oh my God please don’t tell me you two slept together? ?!” He started freaking out in the middle of the sentence, but your grimace calmed him.
“What the fuck?! No!” A tone of disgust. “He was… scared. So I made him company while he slept.”
“Wait, I don’t understand…”
The spark of confusion on his eyes made was enough to understand that he wasn’t aware of what had happened the last few days. Chewing your lower lip, hurriedly choosing what words to say, you cleared your throat and explained him what happened.
“Yes.” You concluded. “I don’t know why, though. Sorry.”
“It’s ok…” The middle brother kept trailing off, probably in disbelief. You placed your hand on his shoulder and looked at him.
“It’s not something bad, Choromatsu. Don’t be sad.”
Upon hearing those words, the boy’s lips curved upwards; and he tried to clear his mind.
The two of you spent various hours watching funny videos on your smartphone and commenting them; then decided to dream about the future, especially his, that seemed really promising at the time. You lost sense of the time, and when you looked at the clock on the wall it was already past midnight. He fidgeted on his spot a little before opening his mouth.
“Y-you spent the night at Totty’s s-so maybe y-you could…” His stuttering and embarrassment made you want to ease him, but decided it wasn’t the best time.
You agreed. And being a gentleman, Choromatsu lent you the futon while he slept on the plain floor.
“You sure? You have to work tomorrow.”
“I don’t mind, really.”
Both slept facing the opposite side.
You dreamt of waves and a calm ocean you were swimming in. But then the clear firmament was tinged gray, and the howling wind began disturbing that peace, making the ocean go wild. When dreaming you know something’s going to happen, and you knew at the moment that you were going to drown, soon.
“...Hey. you awake?”
You weren’t until a second ago, but you were a light sleeper and his voice echoed in the room. You opened your eyes, remaining silent, however.
“After Osomatsu kicked Jyushimatsu, Karamatsu dragged him outside. I know they were talking, but I was too anxious to listen. You could… you could ask him what he said, if you wanted.”
“Sleep already, dumbass.” You closed your eyes once again, satisfied with this information. “Thank you.”
“No.” He replied, softly. “Thank you.”
When you woke up, Choromatsu was already gone.
That made you wonder how you managed to remain asleep as he got ready for work. However, the fact that you didn’t sleep a wink the night before was a valid answer to the question. He had left the key on the floor before the door with a note that read: “leave it under the rug. good luck, have a good day”. You couldn’t help but smile upon reading his hurried calligraphy, and did as told.
After having lunch at a near coffeeshop and exchanging a few texts with Todomatsu, you discovered that Karamatsu actually had a roommate! And it was no other than Chibita! You felt genuinely happy for him, he wasn’t by himself, alone; he had someone to live with. But…
Where the fuck did Chibita live?
At the thought, you began to sulk. Your chances of finding the second son were fewer now, since asking Chibita where he lived was utterly creepy; besides, you weren’t sure if you should tell him what was going on between the brothers. Thus, the option of asking Karamatsu’s address was finally discarded. You kept walking for an hour thinking of possible solutions. You had to think of another way to reach the boy… maybe silently following Chibita to his house after closing the oden shop…?
You stopped abruptly upon seeing a familiar head of black among the crowd.
He was not wearing his beloved shades or a pair of cheap contacts, his leather jacket was nowhere to be seen, and wa now replaced by a neat suit. His expression was calm, and not exaggerated like most of the time. But it was him, you’d have recognized him anywhere. He was ordering some coffee on a shop, helding a list.
“Karamatsu?” Said man turned around slowly after letting out a choked sound.
“[Name]?” He looked happy to see you, or something of the sort, because he totally forgot about the barista and the order. “It’s wonderful to see you here, beautiful! It has been a while since our paths crossed.”
If there was any doubt left about the true identity of this guy, it had been answered.
“Not really.” You deadpanned, and the barista cleared his throat and interrupted.
Matsuno apologized to the boy on the counter and bowed before resuming his task. The list was long, at least seven beverages. He paid after getting everything and they exited the shop together.
“What were you doing there? And why are you dressed like that?”
“Well, my angel, I’ve got a job now.” His chest raised in pride as you remained silent in awe. However, he exhaled in a long sigh and averted his eyes before continuing. “And I was doing… um... errands…” He muttered the last word.
“Oi, are you embarrassed?” You tried to meet his gaze. “You shouldn’t! I’ve been there too! Everyone has to do that for a while.” You laughed it off and patted his shoulder caringly, watching not to spill anything.
“So tell me, what are you doing in this part of the town? Is your workplace around?”
You remembered you had not shown up to your job for two days straight and paled.
You had to make up an excuse. Maybe you could say you were sick. And the energy was cut off. Sick with no electricity, unable to communicate.
“I was actually thinking on a way to find out where did Chibita ―and by extension you, lived.” You explained. “I wanted to talk to you.”
Karamatsu ceased walking and looked at her for a second. Your expression was serious, as well as your tone. He wasn’t dumb, he understood what you wanted to talk about.
“What time is it?”
“Around 3 p.m.” You answered.
“Could you wait for me a few hours?”
You arranged to meet at the same place at six.
Those three hours weren’t as short as you thought. You forgot to charge the battery of your phone in Choromatsu’s place, so after an hour of going through various videos on youtube a window popped signaling you only had 15% left of energy. You decided to save it.
Time seemed not to advance, and you tried to entertain yourself. Counting the people dressed in red, observing the insects on the ground, thinking about the last couple of days you’ve had… Fuck, you still couldn’t believe you missed work. So stupid! Oh, you were going to receive a punishment from your boss…
Thinking about your tortuous future made your mind rest for a while from the subject of the sixtuplets. You had wondered before, was it correct for you to meddle in? They were just friends, you really liked them, but they were a family and were supposed to talk their problems out. The matter seemed to get even worse whenever you discussed the issue with one of them.
“Sorry for the wait, Karamatsu girl.” A voice broke your train of thoughts, and you looked up to see that oh-so familiar face.
“It’s nothing. How was your day?”
“Exhausting.” He flashed a sly smirk and his eyes shone, as if he was proud of that. “Let’s have a date, my flower. And then we shall talk about what’s troubling you.”
“If you want it to be a date, so be it.” You giggled, raising an eyebrow. “But don’t call me ‘flower’ again. It hurts.”
A smile was his reply.
You decided to go to a bar instead of somewhere more elegant, mostly because you knew you would have a hard time talking, so a few drinks would be good. He ordered for bpth of you almost immediately, already knowing what you wanted. The wait for the sushi and alcohol wasn’t short at all, but you decided to greet it by talking about trivial things, nothing too serious. Although you were eager to know, you decided that waiting to get to the subject would be the best option.
As soon as the food came, the atmosphere turned gloomy. Karamatsu could tell how much the whole thing hurt you, so he decided to start before you could ask anything.
“I don't know how much you know about this, so I’m starting from the beginning, ok?” He waited until you nodded to continue. “A week or so ago, Choromatsu got a job. It was weird; knowing that one of us actually managed to do that, that is. However, this wasn’t the only thing: he got an apartment to live in by himself.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I wasn’t feeling alright.” He made a pause and watched carefully how you bit down a piece of sushi. “I mean, I was glad for my little brother, but something in my chest hurt. And later that evening, before having dinner, I discovered what it was.
You raised an eyebrow in confusion, and he took advantage of the moment to eat something..
“I realized that if one of us moved on from the house we grew up in, none of the other could stay there any longer.” He continued, after swallowing. “Why, you’d ask that is, beautiful? Because if one is missing, the void would only grow larger with time, instead of disappearing.”
You were dumbfounded at how seriously the jet haired was talking, it didn’t seemed him at all. His eyes met yours and he smirked, trying to keep his cool.
“That night, during dinner, the atmosphere was tense, but the whole family tried their best to make it better for Choromatsu. All; with the exception of Osomatsu.
We gave presents to him, for his new house. We laughed and congratulated him, and yet, our older brother just stood silent the whole time. I don’t know if the others felt it, but I did. I missed his mocking tone, but tried to ignore it. I thought… I thought he was just jealous. Perhaps.”
Another pause. This time, you offered him a glass of beer, which he gladly accepted.
“When he kicked Jyushimatsu, I was really mad, because he had destroyed the mood we tried so hard to set. I punched him on the face. Hard. I actually hurt my hand. And I dragged him outside to have a talk. Turns out, my dear, that I was speechless. He didn’t even tried to get up from the ground. He didn’t. Even. Try.”
He sighed heavily before reaching out to grab the bottle and serving another glass for the both of you.
“I don’t remember exactly what I told him. Something along the lines ‘stop ruining your brother’s happiness’.” He snorted. “Honestly, Choromatsu was anything but happy at that time. He didn’t wanted to leave us, as much as we wanted him to stay. But you know what he said?” He waited for her answer, a slow shake of your head.
“He scoffed and looked at me right in the eye. ‘We don’t need him, anyway’.”
You furrowed your brows in disbelief and stared dumbfounded at the male beside you. That sounded like something Osomatsu would say, but not in a serious moment like that. He should’ve been really hurt to spit something like that to his brother.
“Really, “ Karamatsu spoke again after taking a long gulp. “I was scared. He never looked at me with so much hatred. It was horrible. And yet, he was addressing us as a whole. We can’t be a whole if one of us isn’t there!” He said matter-of-factly, growing irritated at the memory.
“It was like he decided to cover the hole Choromatsu left. So I told him to stop saying bullshit, sorry for my language.” He bit a piece of salmon sushi and talked with his mouth full. “Hwe was nwot amwused.” He swallowed. “He insulted me and told me I didn’t understand. And he was right, I don’t.
“Even when we’re sextuplets, I can’t know what he’s thinking…” He trailed off and began to sulk. Rapidly, you filled his glass with liquid. This gesture made him look at you with a satisfied smile, and recovered. “He’s my brother, and I love him, but he was acting like an idiot. So two days after, I left the house. I couldn’t stay there after Totty decided to live alone as well.”
He looked so sad you weren’t able to resist, so you wrapped your left arm around his shoulder and brought him closer to you. Patting his back lovingly, you thanked him for telling you everything, even when it wasn’t necessary for him to do so. Although he hesitated at first, he returned the gesture, and both shared a long hug for a while. After that, you decided to drop the subject for a while, as you started drinking even more and asking for more food.
The conversation went from ‘why is buying coffee for everyone so difficult’ to ‘I wish we spent more time together’. The incident between the Matsuno brothers was left behind for the rest of the night as the two of you continued drinking and submerging yourselves into alcohol. Before midnight you were light-headed; but when the clock signaled 1 a.m and Karamatsu began wondering why clocks only had twelve numbers, you realized he was wasted ―so were you, a little. However, alcohol kept coming, so you kept drinking.
People entered the bar, people left the bar, the customers on the tables around you changed multiple times, but you remained there, laughing like idiots, and sometimes even insulting each other.
One of the servers had call out to you for you to realize how late it was..
“I’m sorry to bother you, but we’re closing in thirty minutes.” He bowed.
You had to go to work.
Standing abruptly, you asked for the bill as Karamatsu insisted he would be the one to pay. He lost all color on his face when he saw the five digits on the paper. He reached out for his wallet on his pocket before a hand stopped him.
“What about splitting it?”
His face illuminated and he looked at you as if you were some kind of deity.
Both paid but stayed in the bar until it closed. You drank merely water and asked another server for an antacid. Upon leaving the bar you realized he was way happier than on the beginning of the night.
You looked at your phone: only 5% left. You grimaced and looked at the male who walked ―more like wobbled― beside you. He had a smile plastered on his face, and that made you glad.
“Hey, Karamatsu.” You asked, and he looked at you. “At what time does your shift start?”
“What time is it?” He slurred.
“Around 4 a.m.”
“I still have five more hours. More than enough.” His suit is disheveled, his tie… untied. And yet he looks kind of good. “What about you?”
“Half of that. I have to be at the office before seven.” You grunted. “Can I use your shower? It’s been two days since the last time I took one.”
“Woah, what? And yet you manage to look stunning. I envy you, precious.” Some words were harder to pronounce for him than others, but he managed to complete the sentence.
“It was because I’ve spent the last nights with Choromatsu and Todomatsu.” You explained. “And neither of them have a bathroom I could use.”
“So… you checked up on them as well…”
Suddenly, his tone changed, you noticed. He looked melancholic.
“How are they doing?” He finally asked.
“Todomatsu’s still scared, I spent the night making him company. And Choromatsu is… doing his best. Both their apartments are tiny, and they barely have any furniture, but… I can see they are giving their all.”
He remained silent, dark orbs fixed on the sky, in deep thought. He exhaled through his nose and talked without gazing on your direction again.
“Chibita leaves to the central market to get ingredients in thirty minutes. We’ll wait and then you can use the shower. If he finds out I let you in, I’ll be definitely kicked out.” He smiles, but you can tell he wasn’t joking.
The walk to Chibita’s house was long and silent. He barely talked, and you cursed yourself for mentioning the brothers. It wasn't your intention, really. Alcohol was still present on your blood, and that made you lose control over the things you said, sometimes. Karamatsu wasn’t angry either, you noticed. If something, he looked pensive. You couldn't help but wonder what exactly he was thinking about.
When you finally got to Chibita’s place, it was empty. Karamatsu used his spare key and invited you inside.
While you showered he took his time to change into something more comfortable to sleep. He folded his trousers and shirt and left his coat on a hanger. When the sound of water stopped, he looked at the door of the bathroom. It was weird, if he weren’t still slightly drunk he’d be thinking about how appealing you were with your hair soaked after a bath. However, at that moment, he could only think about everything you were doing for him and his whole family. What a mood-ruiner.
“Do you need any spare clothes?”
“I have my uniform on the office, I’m ok for now, thank you.” You used a towel to dry your hair as the male escorted you to the door. “You know? We should hang out more.”
“Yeah. It was fun.”
A long silence followed, so you wondered if it was a good time to take the antacid.
“If you still wanna check up on the others, Jyushimatsu visits professor Dekapan’s lab often, I always see him injured.” He said as he opened the door. You looked at him, mockingly. “I-it’s not like I’m stalking him! I’m just worried about the wellbeing of my brothers, that’s all!”
But neither of you moved.
“...you don’t have to do this, [Name].” He usually called you by dumb nicknames, but when your name came from his lips, you knew he was either surprised, or dead serious. “This is something between us, brothers, and I feel like you’ll end up hurting yourself if you get more involved.”
You remembered the dream you had when you spent the night at Choromatsu’s.
“You’re all precious to me. I know it may be difficult, but I want to help.” Your eyes half lidded as your lips curved upwards. The one that worried You the most was the older brother, but seeing how hurt were the others you couldn’t bring yourself to pay attention to him just yet.
Karamatsu let out a snort, and you looked at him with making an unintentional pout.
“What’s so funny, Shittymatsu?”
“You made a face.” He answered.
The male spent all the night with his eyes exposed, not once wearing his usual, ridiculous sunglasses. And you were glad, because he expressed a lot of things that way.
He moved his arms sloppily in a try to hug you, but hesitated ―probably embarrassed―, so you completed it.
“Thank you for everything.” He murmured, and you left out a breathy laugh, your arms still wrapped around his torso.
“Y’know. I’m not sure if this is the alcohol talking; but if I had an older brother, I’d like him to be you. Not like you. The real you.” You whispered on his ear, your hot breath making him shudder.
When you separated, he awkwardly patted your head, trying to show some kind of brotherly love to respond to your words. You couldn’t stop grinning.
“H-have a good day at work.” He muttered.
As soon as you arrived at work you got changed and apologized for missing two days. You gave the excuse you thoroughly prepared, and somehow, your boss believed it! That was probably because of the terrible look on your face after spending a night out drinking and talking about sad things without sleep. You charged your phone and prepared the antacid.
After taking it all in one gulp, you began reading the prospect, in hopes that it could also help to ease the growing grief on your gut.
Work wasn’t hard that day, only a few people called your boss and you successfully convinced them that he was occupied. Not too long ago you was promoted to the boss’ secretary, one of the four or five he always had present at the office; you were in charge of derivating the important calls to him and disregard the ones that weren’t. Your co-workers asked you about your health, and you responded as cheerfully as possible, feeling bad for making them worry but with the thought of the Matsuno brothers still present in your head.
You received a message from Todomatsu asking if everything was alright, and you wondered if it was correct to meddle like that.
You answered saying that you’d meet Jyushimatsu later that day.
Although you didn’t know where Dekapan’s laboratory was, it wasn’t so hard to get there because you knew exactly how it looked. After asking for directions you got there safely.
The hard part was not encountering the fifth son, but waiting for him. Apparently he’d got a part-time job, and his shift ended around 6 p.m, so you had to wait around three hours for him to appear. Good thing you charged your cellphone.
Time passed… not fast, but it wasn’t a painfully long wait either. You started texting Totoko, who had apparently gone to Singapore to study languages but came back within a week, missing her family and her life in Japan.
From: Totoko Yowai.
Ahh, [Last]. Singapore is such a different country! I can now be with my friends here!
You weren’t sure if by ‘friends’ Totoko was referring to you. But you decided not to ask.
From: Totoko Yowai.
Where are you now? Wanna hang out? We could go to a club and hunt for cute boys! I wanna have a date so bad!
You furrowed your brows, how in the world was she able to type so fast?
To: Totoko Yowai.
Kinda busy atm. But you could ask Osomatsu, I’m sure he’ll accept.
Just second passed until you received a reply.
From: Totoko Yowai.
That’s disgusting. But I do need someone to praise me, you know ♥ I'll consider it. I thought you liked the red one, though.
You blushed a bit at her response, but shrugged it off to reply.
To: Totoko Yowai
Osomatsu? No way. Go and invite him. G2g bye.
You blocked the screen and observed how someone approached her with his usual huge, open-mouthed smile.
“Yeah, it’s me.” You answered, trying to emulate his enthusiasm but failing miserably. “How is everything going Jyu―”
You stopped talking upon noticing that he was hobbling to get to you. Jyushimatsu hugged you tightly, making the bones on your spine pop, but you couldn’t tear your gaze away from his right leg.
“What happened to you!?”
“Ah, an accident.” He explained, his expression not changing. “But the professor will make it better in no time!”
“W-wait, Jyushi. You sure this is ok?” It had been a while since the last time you called him by that nickname, since the other became jealous at their closeness. The reckless brother always had a special place on your heart.
“Yeah, I’ve doing it for nine days now!”
“I always see him injured.” You remembered the troubled expression on Karamatsu’s face.
He headed to the door upon hearing no reply, and before you could do anything, it opened; Professor appearing and blocking Matsuno’s way. He looked at him for a moment, his expression was one of concern, but also sympathy, as he let Jyushimatsu in. Dekapan gazed at you for a couple of seconds and nodded, if something, to reassure you that your friend would be alright.
You spent half an hour looking at the ground, sometimes shifting to see if his silhouette was visible from the outside.
When the male came out your jaw dropped, surprised. His wounded leg was now healed, and he was walking normally. By his side the professor smiled at you, and you returned the gesture. You made a mental note to tell Karamatsu about this miraculous events, in order to let him know that his younger brother was ok.
With that unfaltering smile Jyushimatsu walked to your side and looked you dead in the eye.
“I’m alright! No need to worry.”
“Yeah, so it seems.” You smirked. “But I suppose it hurts, right? Be more careful.”
You giggled at his antics. Even without his brothers he remained the same, or at least he did a really good job hiding it. He offered walking you home, but you declined politely before resting both your hands on his shoulders.
“You can talk to me. It’s ok if you miss them. They miss you as well.” You deadpanned, no sign of amusement in your voice.
He shivered upon hearing your words, and looked away seeming troubled.
Then, he closed his mouth.
“I miss everyone.” His tone was sad, and your eyebrows dropped, understanding the feeling. You traced little circles on his clothed skin, and that made the boy relax. He tugged your arms away carefully and turned around, facing the dawn. “And I’m worried.”
It was natural for him to do so, but to speak it up was different. It never crossed your mind that he’d be so open about it with you.
“You… you’ve been checking on everyone, am I right?” You nodded absentmindedly, aware that he couldn’t see it. “I suppose you haven’t gone to our house. When I left, Ichimatsu was still there. I’m worried.
I… I think he left as well. He wouldn’t resist the ambient without the rest of us there, but I doubt he managed to get a job... I’m really worried.” He repeated for the third time, and then you realized where he was going.
“I’ll try to contact him. Tomorrow. Ok?” A step.
Matsuno faced you once more, now wearing a smile. But it wasn’t his usual, goofy one. He had the corner of his lips tugged upwards slightly. He also took a step on your direction, and hugged you again, tenderly this time.
You patted his back before separating, both saying goodbyes and going to your respective places. You thought of a thousand ways to find Ichimatsu, and thought the easiest way was to ask his younger brother. You reached for your phone and noticed you had a message from Totoko, but decided to read it later. You texted Todomatsu and he answered within a few minutes: he had no idea where the fourth son was.
A long sigh left your lips, you had no clue where Ichimatsu could be. With annoyance, you checked Totoko’s text.
She said Osomatsu had rejected her.
The next day at work was tiring as hell. You received a lot of calls because one of the secretaries was sick. You felt guilty, because all of your coworkers had to go through the same when you spent two days focusing on the sixtuplets. Although the moments of silence were negligible ―most of the time the phone was ringing―, you spent most of the day thinking about Ichimatsu and his whereabouts. Maybe he got a roommate like Karamatsu, or maybe he managed to stay in a friend’s house…? He didn’t had any friends and he was socially awkward, there was no chances that he shared his new housing. But… how could he afford living alone?
You couldn’t stop thinking about it. If he was living alone, then how? As you walked down the street to get some groceries, you counted the possibilities. Maybe there was an abandoned house and he was staying there? In the best case scenario he managed to get a job and he was living on an apartment with five cats! That would be great―
“Oh, sorry.” You absentmindedly apologized to the stranger you bumped against.
Why was it impossible for him to get a job? He was smart, and although he was bad at socializing he could really do a lot of things… that didn’t involve cooking… or cleaning… or dealing with people… well maybe he wasn’t that skilled after all but...
You stopped on your tracks.
You began running after him like a madwoman, yelling his name. A few people turned around to glance at you, and you felt utterly uncomfortable doing that, but you encountered him by chance and couldn’t let him escape. Who knew when you would be able to see him again!
A familiar purple hoodie appeared on your line of sight and even though you were tired you made a last effort to reach him. You grasped his shoulders tightly from behind and made him turn around.
The first thing you noticed about him was how skinny his face looked. It was weird, his cheeks used to be rounder, or so you thought. Maybe it was because he was so sad he hadn’t been eating well.
“I found you! Oh my goodness I can’t believe I actually did it!” You sang at the same time you shook him. “How have you been? Where you goin’?”
He averted his eyes pursed his lips, he didn’t seem as glad to see you. His reaction was far different than his brothers’. You tilted your head in confusion and asked again.
“Ichimatsuuuu. It haven’t been that long but I’ve missed you.” You pouted, making a faint pink dust appear on his cheeks. “You missed me?”
“Y-yeah… Whatever...” He mumbled, and you grinned.
You wanted to talk to him. Ask so many things. You opened your mouth to speak but the growling of his stomach stopped you.
He tried to cover his red face with his bangs.
“No need to be ashamed, Ichimatsu. Come on let’s grab something to eat and then go to your place. We have so much to talk about!”
He seemed reluctant, and that made you slightly annoyed. If anything, you weren’t a patient girl. You grabbed his wrist and basically dragged him to the nearest pub. Matsuno remained silent, so you decided to start talking about his brothers, deciding it would be better to be frank with him. You approached every brother differently, you noticed. As if it were a tale, you told him about the visits, about the majority of the serious conversations, and about how concerned Jyushimatsu was.
“He… he is?” He asked after making a choked sound out of surprise.
“Yes. But you shouldn’t be surprised, he’s your brother after all!”
With his head hanging down, Ichimatsu had no other option but to follow your lead. But after some minutes of walking, he slowed the pace gradually until stopping. He looked at you, confused, but his half-lidded eyes wouldn’t show it. You freed his wrist.
“I didn’t force them to talk to me. They did it because they wanted, so… I don’t think I should make you talk to me if your not comfortable with it.” You focused your eyes on his slightly dirty hoodie and his sandals. “I’ll walk you home and go.”
He stiffened at the sound of the last word, but you didn’t notice.
“Come on. Take the lead.”
A few seconds passed, and none of you moved. You started getting irritated.
“Oi Ichimatsu, really, I don’t have all day.”
That was when you noticed how tense he was. His black orbs fixed on the ground, wide open. His chapped lips pursed in a thin line.
You weren’t a clever girl, you’d never been, that was why it took you so long to realize, maybe. Or perhaps because you were reluctant to accept it.
>”I… I think he left as well. He wouldn’t resist the ambient without the rest of us there, but I doubt he managed to get a job... I’m really worried.”
You never considered that possibility.
Your body started shaking, partly with fear, but also anger. You let out a nervous laugh that made the male focus on you.
“What’s so funny?” He was unamused.
“I just… I just thought of something really stupid.” Your laugh made the fourth son uncomfortable, but you didn’t stop. “Tell me, Ichimatsu. Where are you living at, exactly?”
You prayed, you hoped, and closed your eyes. You waited for an answer, any answer would be ok, but the only thing you got as a reply was silence. You clenched his jaw, the shaking didn’t stop.
“I said, tell me where―”
“I heard you the first time.”
That was it.
That cocky answer made you snap and forcefully grab the collar of his hoodie, bringing his face closer to yours. With this, you finally noticed how much his features changed, his originally rounded face being slimmer now.
“If you don’t want me to fucking punch you, Matsuno Ichimatsu, you’ll fucking answer me.” Your eyes aflame, you were able to see the tinge of fear on his orbs. “Where did you sleep last night?” You punctuated every word, carefully.
The boy furrowed his brows, and once again decided not to respond. However, he did look at the side. Surprised, you followed his eyes and what you encountered made a wave of grief run through your body.
It was a dark alleyway.
Your fists relaxed, although you were still holding him, and you lowered your face, hiding from his gaze.
Hot tears started coming out. It hurt, it hurt on the deepest of your chest, because you did think about this, but decided ignore it completely. And now, reality was in front of you, and it was too much to handle. It felt like boiling water streaming down your face. It ached so much.
“Why are you crying?” He spoke after some time.
“This is wrong.” You spitted, furious and heartbroken. “Everything is wrong. You shouldn’t be living like this, none of you should be suffering. You guys aren’t happy with this change at all.” You rested your head on his chest, and he stiffened at the sudden contact.
“How long it’s been since you’re living like this?” Your voice cracked midway.
“A week, or so.” A feminine, strangled sob startled him. Making a girl cry wasn’t really on his bucket list.
“Don’t cry.” He was probably nervous, but his voice came out as soothing.
“Take my hand.” You demanded, making him fidget a little. “I will stop crying if you take my hand.” He did as he was told.
Without moving your head from his chest, you examined the hand that held yours. It was dirty, his nails were long, dead skin taking a dark color. That was the hand of someone who lived on the streets. You sniffed, and stopped crying, as promised. Looking up, you managed to catch a glimpse of his concerned expression before rapidly changing to his usual, bored one.
“I’m certain you are not eating good, neither.” A growl from his stomach was a perfect reply, and he looked away, embarrassed.
The situation could have been amusing some other time, but not now. You gritted your teeth and, without releasing his hand, started to walk. It was a slow pace, sometimes your shoulders bumped his, and vice versa. For strangers, you supposed, you must have looked like a couple. Maybe Ichimatsu thought that as well, because his palm started sweating and he was notably nervous, his face on fire.
“Where are we going?” After some minutes of walking, he inquired.
But you didn’t reply until you reached a two star hotel.
“Wait here.” You ordered, and the tone used made him shudder. You disappeared into the building. Ichimatsu had a bad feeling about the whole thing, but obeyed nevertheless.
You came out after twenty minutes, a key in hand.
“There.” You placed it on his own. “You’re gonna sleep here for two nights. I’ll be here on the third, and take you somewhere. I know someone you could live with, but you’ll have to work for them.”
He was speechless, but as soon as he processed the information he grimaced.
“I don’t need you pity.” Matsuno tried to give the key back, but you refused several times. “Oi, I told you I don’t want―”
It happened in a couple of seconds, so he was unable to dodge it. You grabbed his shoulders and gave him a head bump. He let out a hiss of pain, and heard you yelped, It hurt more than you imagined.
“Do as I say, dumbass!” Your hands massaging your forehead. “Oh my god your nose is bleeding! Sorry!”
The jet haired boy felt something dripping from his nose, and sighed.
“I’m going to get a tissue… inside…” He trailed off, but his words made you smile widely.
“See you in a couple of days, I suppose.”
“Yep!” You flashed a toothy grin. “And take a bath, you stink.” You elbowed him, the male blushed and turned around, heading to the door.
“You… you should talk to him.” He said out of the blue, surprising you. “You’re not like us, you’re easy to talk to, he may open up to you.
“Thank you for everything.” He finished before hurrying inside.
You stood there, eyes fixed on the glass door, smiling. Your thoughts fled away, repeating those last words in your mind.
“I guess… I have no option now...” You mumbled, looking at the sky.
You couldn’t work at all that day. You were distracted, everything you did was somehow wrong, and all the people you attended on the phone ended up hanging up, due to your lack of attention on the subjects discussed. Your co-workers asked if something was wrong, worried. You even heard them talking about you being sick again, but in reality, you were only thinking what you would do to get to the older Matsuno.
Your shift ended, but you kept thinking of ways to avoid the confrontation. Talking to Osomatsu has always been hard for you, even when your relationship was really good. What were you supposed say? How would he take it? Just being yourself wouldn’t work, you already suffered a breakdown with Ichimatsu, you were unable to hold yourself together, you were afraid of what could happen being in front of him.
You remembered Totoko’s message, and you furrowed your brows in worry. Osomatsu would never do something like that.
“Maybe I shouldn’t… meddle so much.”
Drowning on a deep ocean you were. Just like that dream.
“Oh, if it’s [Last]-chan!” A familiar voice called her, and upon looking up she spotted Matsuyo.
“M-Matsuno-san.” She called with a forced smile, nervous.
“Oh dear, I already told you to call me by my name.” The woman patted her shoulder tenderly. “I wish we could have you dinner with us again. Sadly, our house isn’t that lively anymore…”
“Yeah, I’ve been talking to them…”
“Really? With my NEETs?” She opened her in surprise, but then smiled, melancholic. “I wished they would have taken their time… everything happened so fast. And Osomatsu…”
Ah, there it was.
“He hadn’t been eating much lately, I’m worried about him. I understand he’s hurt, but I fear for his health.”
“He doesn’t come out from his room, he’s silent most of the time, and whenever we talk to him he barely responds. Today he even got a letter from Choromatsu and…”
No. No. No please.
“...I don’t think he even read it all.”
It was done. She died of suffocation, drown in that ocean.
“Is he home now? I’m gonna check up on him.” [Name] stated, making the older woman smile fondly.
“He is. Alone. I would really appreciate that. I won’t be home in a couple of hours, I need to do groceries, and my husband is still at work.” She explained before the younger walked away with a determined expression.
“I hope you can do something for him…”
Resolution didn’t last long. As she reached the Matsuno residence, her determination faltered. It was too much pressure, who knew what he could be up to? Her phone buzzed on her pocket, it was a message from Todomatsu.
He asked about his brothers. He said he was worried.
“They’re all worried about you, dickhead.” She whispered, and opened the door.
“I’m coming in!” She announced. No reply, of course.
A note on the table was left, noting that the old woman had gone to market.
[Name] knew well the way to their room, and slided the door open before letting out a heavy sight.
Red welcomed her. He was facing the wall, seated, his arms moving, signaling he was busy with something.
“H-hey, Osomatsu. I came to see you.” She did her best to not show her anxiety. He didn’t respond nor looked at her. “Um, sorry to bother. Is… everything ok?” Silence. She noticed the open letter on the stand. He did read it.
“Um… are you jerking off?” She heard him snort and noticed his shoulders move, that made her smile.
“Hey, I could come back later if you want―”
It was the first words she heard him say, and that relieved her a little.
“Ok. I’ll stay.” The female finally closed the door.
“Help me.” At the beginning, she thought about doing a joke about him masturbating and asking that, but she changed her mind upon hearing his voice again, cracked this time.
Concerned, the girl approached him slowly, noticing his movements had stopped. With her hand placed on his back, she crouched to be at his level, and look directly at his face. However, what caught her eye was something else.
His hands. His wrists. His fingers.
Eyes open in horror, her breath hitched, and you froze on the spot, the red trail still flowing. Your mouth went dry, your lungs stopped functioning,
That was how it felt when you were drowning.
“It wasn’t my intention.”
But you weren’t there to hear his next words. You rushed to the kitchen, remembering what you were told once about minor hemorrhages. Sugar absorbed the liquid and allowed to see the wound directly for further treatment, if needed. You grabbed the whole jar of sugar and almost tripped when you kneeled on the floor beside him once again.
Shaking hands took his and you heard a metallic sound, signaling that the razor had been freed from his grasp. Two spoonfuls, and white seemed to cover red for a little, before it started to tinge. As seconds passed, still not looking at his face, youl rolled up his sleeve, and gasped upon seeing the red marks there.
Tears silently rolled down your cheeks, but you did your best to keep breath steady and to remain focused.
“How long have you been doing this?” Your voice trembled, nevertheless.
“It’d be a week, tomorrow.”
You washed away the now red sugar and applied some more as you basically ran to the bathroom searching for the first-aid kit. Bandages, muslin, alcohol. You took everything you could and rushed back to see him just as you left him.
He hissed when you applied the alcohol.
He sighed when you did the bandages ―quite sloppily though, your hands were still shaking.
He apologized when you started to sob.
“Why are you crying? It should be me.” His tone monotonous.
“Shut up. Just… shut up for a moment.” It was ironic, how now that he was starting to talk, you shushed him.
You held his hand tightly and realized you couldn’t stop crying. His expression was still a mystery for you, you hadn’t made eye contact at all. But when you turned around to see him, he tucked his head on the crook of your neck.
“I’m sorry.” His voice was muffled by your clothes. “I’m so sorry for everything.”
You started sniffing and tried to shift in order to him clearly, but he was putting all of his weight was onto you, so you lost balance and ended up falling. Osomatsu remaained on top of you, on the same position.
“I made you cry. I made them leave. I made mom sad. I’m sorry.” You felt her shirt getting damp. “I tried to stop, I really did. But it helped me to forget... ”
You realized that you weren’t the only one dying on that ocean, he was as well. And now you two were on the limbo, or maybe Heaven, even. Who knew.
You placed your hands on his back and began caressing him tenderly, the last teardrops rolling down your cheeks. After hesitating for a moment, you slipped your hand under his hoodie. Osomatsu stiffened, you noticed; but upon feeling the naked skin, you began drawing circles with your thumb on his back, lovingly. He relaxed after a couple of minutes.
“I made them leave. And hate me.” His voice cracked, but he wasn’t crying anymore.
“They don’t hate you, stupid. You’re their older brother, they love you. But they are concerned.” You whispered into his ear.
“Choromatsu’s letter… he…”
“Shush it. I don’t need to know what he said.”
You two remained like that for a while, in silence. The weight of his body not letting you breathe normally, but you managed to get enough air. You didn’t want to bother him at that moment.
You couldn’t tell for sure how much time passed since you got there, but after a while, Osomatsu finally moved. You realized your shirt was stained with snot. Not that you really cared at the moment, but knowing it was kind of gross. He moved to the side, resting on his elbow, and for the first time you looked at each other in the eye.
Osomatsu’s were red from crying so much, he had black bags under them, signaling that he hadn’t been sleeping much, either.
Yours were not as red, but swollen. You had black circles as well, and that made the boy tug his lips upwards slightly.
“Why are you doing this?” He asked, truly interested.
“Because... I love you.” You replied sweetly, without a second though. However, you realized what you said when you noticed his expression of surprise, so you decided to add something. “I love all of you.”
“Oh.” He averted his eyes, and then smiled mockingly. “You got me there! I was thinking it was a confession. We could’ve had beautiful children, y’know.”
He was back.
“Whaaat? I don’t wanna get a job.” He crossed his arms on his chest.
“Well, you have to if you have to live with me.” You didn’t stop typing on your phone as you talked.
“Who said I wanted to live with you?”
“Matsuno Osomatsu, five minutes ago.” You smirked. “I won’t be paying for everything y’know? Also you’ve gotta deal with my roommate as well.”
“What―?! You’ve… you’ve got a roommate?!” He exclaimed. “Who is it? Who is it?!”
“Won’t tell you.” You sang, and he sulked.
“Whatever. I don’t even care.”
It was like being reborn.
“I’m home!” You announced, closing the door behind you.
“Welcome.” Two voices answered, and you looked into the kitchen only to see your two roommates.
“Osomatsu, you’re early.” You noted as you left some papers on the table.
“I finished all my paperwork so I could leave early.” His chest swelled in pride.
“He actually took half of his paperwork to finish here.” Another masculine voice added.
“Oi, Ichimatsu! You were supposed not to tell her!”
Living with these two is lively, you thought as you smiled. Your parent’s house was big enough for the three of you, and while Osomatsu and you worked, Ichimatsu took care of the house, their ―new― cat and did the chores. It was harmonious. It was nice. And you were happy.
“Woah…” You breathed in the delicious aroma. “What’s that smell?”
“Oi!” Said boy smacked his brother with a spoon. “I made yakisoba with the leftovers of teriyaki chicken from yesterday.”
“Damn, Ichimatsu. You’re getting better at cooking. It smells really good!”
“Thanks.” He smirked, and focused back on finishing dinner.
“He made a lot though. We’ll have to eat yakisoba as breakfast.” The older Matsuno protested.
“Nah, I don’t think so. It is a lot of food, indeed, but you’ve always eaten a lot.” You shrugged before the bell rang. The trio looked at the door. “They’re here already? Well, they’ll have to wait a little bit. Osomatsu, wanna open the door?”
You waited until other familiar voices echoed on the walls of your home. There were four of them, greeting over and over again.
“Woah… this is so nice.”
“This is the first time we’ve been on [Name]-chan’s house, after all.”
“Where is she? Where is my Karamatsu girl?”
“Uwaaaa, so big!!”
You weren’t sure if the table was big enough for the six of them.
Everyone started eating and complimented the fourth son for his new skills in the kitchen. Not going to lie, it was really good. Everyone chatted, exchanged experiences about work, anecdotes, and laughed about it. You just heard and refrained from talking unless someone asked, because after all they went through, it was great to see them happy and united again.
From underneath the table, a hand rested on top of yours and you looked to side, a questioning look on your eyes.
“Thank you.” A squeeze.
It was just a whisper, and no one seemed to listen. He wasn’t thanking you just for what you did for him: rescuing that one time, letting him live with you, or finding him a job. He was grateful because of the moments, because even if it wasn’t the same as before, they were all together again ―thanks to you. You squeezed Osomatsu’s hand back and smiled at him.