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the answer may not have words

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Chrono named your problem. He called it being a coward. You always called it being a piece of shit. Mom said it's low self-esteem, and that it's not a problem, Ma-kun, and anyway it's my fault; you are a dragon who will leap through time and space and lay claim to the earth spreading before you.

Niisama didn't say anything because he wasn't there, then.

Losing was never the end of the world. It was heartache. It was an old wound. Powerlessness—you unable to touch that which dances and flickers just beyond the reach of your longest finger: Victory. Niisama's back. Their love.

Love.

The secret you found is this: love is free. You don't have to pay for it. There isn't a monthly subscription. You don't owe anyone anything but you also don't get your say. You can give some in return but they don't always care that you do.

"Thank you for being born." That has nothing to do with you, whether you win or lose or smile or cry. Only you and your earthly presence, the breath you take unprompted. Only you.

Before this would've been terrifying, and maybe that's why you couldn't know.

Love is this: An old older brother, a new blessèd boy, ice cream and ketchup and fries. Your name, shouted and whispered and guarded, a reason and a battlecry. Their fight, what they bring to it, what they don't care if they lose along the way. Defeat and defeat and second and third tries, their reaching out to what lingers just at the length of their longest fingers.

(Only you.)

Relapse will be this:

After, when it's your fault that Taiyou's slower.

After, when Niisan will never leave you alone, except when he does and you wish he hadn't.

After, when you can't bring yourself to call him "Chrono" to his face.

Now is this:

You are bound by Gyze and then you're not and you're in someone's arms and you're whole but you're not and fuck fuck fuck but they're here and they fought and they fought and they fought and you're okay and they're okay and they love you even if for no reason at all.

"Okaeri," Niisan is saying, and "Ma-kun," and "Kazuma," and "Thank all."

"Kazuma," Chrono is saying, and clutching you close and "Fuckshitdamn."

"Tadaima," you say, and the weight of it overwhelms you, and you cry.