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The idea of leaving little notes for his brothers has always been appealing to Karamatsu - he toyed with the idea of leaving little i-love-you ’s! and you-can-do-it ’s! to hide in their book bags or pockets or wallets to brighten their days and congratulate them on taking on a brand new twenty-four hours head first and taking one more step in front of the other. He had confessed to Osomatsu, once in their teens, his grand plan. His brother had laughed for a solid minute before yanking him down in a hug, somehow roping both their mother and father in sometime later, like some sort of affectionate black hole. A wretched cuddle vortex. Todomatsu probably has the scene documented on his phone for blackmail.

He’s glad that Osomatsu’s laughter dissuaded him so much, as Karamatsu now sees what a bad idea it is. He didn’t realise how quickly something like this could vex him - it gets old, to put it simply. How could a simple post-it could irritate him to the point where he viscerally feels unwell? A vicious feeling similar to hate festering deep within him like something rotten - though he could never truly dislike his brother, only his actions. Karamatsu narrows his eyes at the little green sticky note, lined so Choromatsu doesn't write crooked, and scoffs. He slides his forefinger under the paper, peeling it off the surface of the bathroom mirror, and crumples it without a care. He tosses the offensive note over his shoulder and sets to brush his teeth.

It’s not like Choromatsu wrote anything rude, a simple:

I won’t be back until late tonight, please leave food in the microwave for me. Thank you.
- Choromatsu.

Formal and stiff, like he’s talking to a stranger and not his brother who he’s known for over twenty years, who lives in their apartment and takes care of all the menial chores that neither he nor Jyushimatsu care to do.

Ever since moving in together, Choromatsu has not said even a single worthwhile word to them.

 

At first Karamatsu was delighted to see little post-its here and there around the house. His hardworking brother still wanted to communicate with them, despite being busy with his desk job he had wanted to keep up interactions with his housemates! He had replied too, at first. A ‘ we need eggs ’ was responded to immediately with a flourish, glitter pen in hand as he wrote his affirmative. A ‘ you use too much salt when cooking ’ was dealt with accordingly, though somehow he seemed to have found issue with how little salt there was in his plate. It was only until Karamatsu saw him look Karamatsu dead in the eye, silently press down a post-it that said he should use more fabric softener in the wash and leave without a word that things changed. Pages of responses taped on the walls in reply dwindled into a paragraph. Gradually it became one word responses ‘ okay 's and ‘ understood ’s. Then Karamatsu stopped responding at all.

The club advisor for drama liked to quote Shakespeare. ‘‘All the world's a stage!’’ he said once, in the club room, ‘we perform everyday! We put on our costumes and act out the parts given to us; to younger children we play the role of a babysitter from time to time, to our friends we show a side of them we don't show to anyone else, and so on!’ So Karamatsu will turn this apartment into a stage, he will act as if he doesn't resent Choromatsu for not speaking - he will wash his clothes, clean up his figures, cook for him, and buy him snacks without qualm - he takes the role of a big brother seriously, he will be kind but distant until Choromatsu gets his act together. To his little Jyushimatsu, he will behave like he always does. They will laugh and share inside jokes and spend days off together in the park, and Choromatsu will have no one but himself to blame when no one extends a hand to him.

Ah, what an awful way to think. It’s petty, of course. It’s mean and passive-aggressive and Karamatsu is horrified for even having the traitorous thought cross his mind. When he was the one being ignored he remembers how he felt very clearly. It could’ve been something close to despair, with how cold he felt every time someone spoke over him or ignored him and he just tried to make more noise to distract from his blood turning to ice, it was like his skin turned to permafrost. He got bigger and brighter with his gestures in an attempt to thaw both himself and everyone else until, ironically, Choromatsu sat him down for a talk.

Karamatsu wishes Choromatsu would talk to him now. A sharp remark, an insult, anything would be better than these damned sticky notes. All he wants is for Choromatsu to open his mouth and speak to him.

 

Sometime around the seven month mark, Jyushimatsu gets a promotion - though Karamatsu doesn’t quite know what a promotion at a construction site would entail, he dearly hopes it won’t get Jyushimatsu injured. Karamatsu can deal with sprained ankles and bloody knees, but broken bones are an entirely different matter. If Jyushimatsu was limited in the things he could do, if his mobility was halted, Karamatsu doesn't think he would handle it well at all. Jyushimatsu moves here and there and everywhere all at once because he feels like he can’t think unless he’s doing something kinetic. He fidgets, taps his foot and basically is never still. His vim is frenetic and his vivacity is unending.

Jyushimatsu asks if they could all go out to celebrate the next time Choromatsu gets a day off. Karamatsu replies it’s up to Choromatsu if he decides to open his mouth.

But still… Karamatsu can’t help but imagine it. Choromatsu will arm himself with sweaters and extra napkins and scold Karamatsu for the inappropriate clothing he will most certainly wear, and Karamatsu will pretend to take his chastising to heart. All three of them will get shitfaced and kicked out of whatever fancy restaurant has the misfortune of hosting them and they’ll trot home, a sticky and gross drunken mess that probably won’t even change before collapsing on the futon in a heap.

“Choromatsu-niisan will probably complain the whole time!” Jyushimatsu laughs.

That sounds wonderful.

Karamatsu takes Jyushimatsu out anyway, nothing fancy as Jyushimatsu only wants an actual celebration with Choromatsu. There is a tiny corner store near their old home - the man at the counter recognises them still. Old now, wrinkles at his mouth and crows feet at his eyes, when they were younger every time they got a hundred on a test he’d give them a little treat as long as it costed no more than five hundred yen - so lollipops, little packs of ice-cream in the freezer, and packs of sour candy were all fair game.

Jyushimatsu excitedly talks about his promotion as Karamatsu picks up some milk and eggs. He throws some party glasses in too, just in case.

The man, as kind as ever, gives them two wooden spoons and several tiny containers of strawberry-vanilla ice cream with a wink, and Jyushimatsu gasps excitedly. It is after they make their way home, when Karamatsu unlocks the door, laughing about how Hatabou of all people can apparently drive a forklift, when he sees it.

A little green post-it on the tiny table in their apartment. Pristine handwriting scrawled in dark green ink. No Choromatsu. Obviously he had to have come home to leave it, so where is he? Karamatsu sets the paper bag of ice-cream and miscellaneous other things aside, before moving slowly, his heart beats in his ears as he approaches the note. Immediately, Karamatsu burns. Nothing intense, embers instead of a full on fire but it doesn't help the fact that he’s still angry. He rips the sticky note in half and kicks the table, which really leads to more harm than good and he has to bite his knuckle to keep from screaming out.

I came home early. I took the day off so I could see Nyaa-chan’s new live concert!! She’s so great isn’t she? When you come home I’ll probably be sleeping to get my energy up so don't make too much noise!
- Choromatsu

Jyushimatsu immediately comes to his aid, and Karamatsu feels terrible about his outburst. He breathes in deeply, ignoring Jyushimatsu’s concern to collect himself. It doesn't bother him at all that Choromatsu choose to spend his rare free day at a concert instead of with his family. He can spend his free day as he wants. It doesn't matter that their only form of communication has become complaints on sticky notes. Not at all. Karamatsu tucks it all in, crushes it down like garbage in a trash compactor. He’ll deal with it later.

“Beloved Jyushimatsu,” he starts, as charming as ever, “it seems Choromatsu has the day off, but is sleeping at the moment - in preparation for a concert later tonight, I presume.”

“Oh,” he says softly. “We can't do anything today then. Maybe next week niisan!” He pats Karamatsu’s head. “I know you were looking forward to all of us going out together.”

Karamatsu doesn't know what Jyushimatsu is talking about. He had never truly expected Choromatsu to spend time with them in the first place. He’s upset with himself for coming up with the scenario in the first place and disappointing them both.

They turn their shitty little boxy T.V. on, volume near inaudible and captions turned on as Jyushimatsu scoops all the ice-cream out of the containers and into a bowl. He enters the kitchen, just a few simple steps as there really isn't any border between the kitchen and living room besides the difference in tilings - wooden flooring to white squares cemented together - and takes a few packs of cookies with a grin. Plopping down to watch something-or-another game show, Karamatsu scrapes the cream out and his brother crushes the biscuit to drop in their ice cream. Eventually Jyushimatsu leans against Karamatsu at one point, or maybe it’s the other way around, in any case they fall asleep entwined, and Jyushimatsu laying uncomfortably heavy on his brother.

Karamatsu wonders if Choromatsu will yell at them for making such a mess, or he’ll complain that he didn't get any ice-cream.

 

Karamatsu wakes up first and there he is, like some sort of cryptid. Choromatsu bows his head over a pad of sticky-notes, pen in hand. Karamatsu blinks, as if the film of sleep still covering him is making him hallucinate things somehow. The living room is shockingly clean. He wraps an arm gently around Jyushimatsu, still heavy on his chest, and uses his other arm to cradle his head. As he raises up, his little brother curls his legs in - similar to how Ichimatsu sleeps - and shifts to make himself more comfortable. As he settles, Karamatsu speaks softly, all the rancid feelings bubbling within him pop. It feels like ages since he last saw Choromatsu, and he dearly wants to talk. There’s a blanket around them, he realises somewhat distantly, Nyaa-chan’s face is strikingly photorealistic on fabric and when the sheet slips off and pools around them, he’s almost thankful. A lovely lady, but not one he wants to having staring at him from a blanket.

“Choromatsu?” He feels like he’s about to cry. It’s him. He's here. His brother looks up so fast Karamatsu is surprised his head didn’t snap off his spine due to the force. “Brother, what are you writing?”

Choromatsu bites the inside of his cheek, fidgets with the barrel, thumbing the clip until it snaps off. It’s okay, Karamatsu is patient. He will wait. For a minute Choromatsu opens his mouth, and Karamatsu's heart soars like a blimp, feeling high and airy at the prospect of being able to speak with him.

Choromatsu hands him the sticky note, a complaint against them leaving the living room a mess.

 You guys should learn to clean up after yourselves; I’m going to the concert
- Choromatsu

He places it down, exhaling shakily. Of course, he shouldn't expect anything more. Karamatsu tightens his grip on Jyushimatsu, pressing a kiss to forehead - it feels like the only reason Karamatsu hasn't lashed out yet is because of his little brother's weight. He rocks him slowly.

“Choromatsu,” he starts, then pauses, not knowing what to say. He tries again. “My apologies for the mess; we just wanted to celebrate.”

“... Celebrate what?” So now he speaks! What a marvel! An absolute miracle! Let’s all give a round of applause.

“Oh, you would be the last to know wouldn’t you?” There’s no need for him to be so nasty, he can see Choromatsu flinch at his tone, and Karamatsu hums, threading his fingers through Jyushimatsu’s hair - through his bangs, patting down ruffled hair, messing it up again - before speaking again. “Jyushimatsu got a promotion at work - he’s such a hard worker. I’m proud.”

“Oh, that's,” Choromatsu stutters over his words, surprise colouring his features, “that's really great!” A pause. “You should’ve woke me up.”

“Oh, we couldn’t have - we both know you needed the beauty sleep.” Was that condescending? Perhaps Todomatsu rubbed off on him. “This concert is important to you, isn’t it? Even more so than work, since you took the day off for it.”

“Don’t talk to me like that Karamatsu,” his lips thin, upset, “I don’t like your tone. If you woke me up to tell me I wouldn’t have been upset; it feels like I haven't spoken to you in forever, it would’ve been nice to - ”

“Because you haven't.”

“What?”

“You have not opened your mouth to say anything to Jyushimatsu and I in quite a few months - sans your shitty notes.” Choromatsu looks taken aback, and hopefully, hopefully Choromatsu can see what exactly is the problem here.

“You… you don’t like the notes?” It went in one ear and out the other, unsurprisingly, and he’s called the empty headed one?

“Oh, beloved Choromatsu,” he starts, and Karamatsu knows full well he’s being patronising now. It’s disrespectful and nasty but he can’t bring himself to care. “I apologise that I do not appreciate how our conversation has dwindled into nothing but a series of sticky notes where you complain about everything I do.”

“No, I didn't realise they would annoy you - he said - I thought you’d like them!”

“I don’t.” He says bluntly, and Choromatsu goes pale. His mouth shuts with an audible click. “I did, but now I don’t. They aren’t annoying in themselves, but they say the same old bullshit, don’t they?” Choromatsu wavers, shaking like leaves in wind.

“Okay.” He says quietly. “Okay, sorry.” Karamatsu gives a gentle smile, and it looks like it does more damage than good due to how wounded Choromatsu looks, how he recoils. “I… I’ll write something else.”

“Oh, come now, Choromatsu! Isn’t that a bit timid of you? I thought rolling over and showing your belly was my role.” Karamatsu tuts.

“What’s your problem?!” He yells, but he doesn't look angry, not at all. He’s upset, pure and simple, and Karamatsu does not want to acknowledge he put that look on his brother’s face.

“Perhaps having plans other than congratulating Jyushimatsu. I did not see a single praise for him on that sticky note.”

“Fuck you!” His cheeks turn pink from frustration, and his hands tangle in his hair. Now he’s angry, but it doesn’t give Karamatsu any sense of satisfaction at all. “You didn’t tell me until just now!”

“I wonder why that is? It couldn’t possibly be because you are never here.” He starts, “But speaking of that, you have somewhere to be, correct? Won’t you leave?” Karamatsu is tired, he thought a conversation with Choromatsu would take a weight off his mind, but all it’s doing is making him more angry. Choromatsu scoffs, standing roughly as he yells.

“Fine! I will!” And as Choromatsu storms out, he gives a long hard glare at them, before spitefully slamming the door. Karamatsu scowls, sucks his teeth and moves to untangle himself from Jyushimatsu, only to find that his hands grip him harder in response, the hands bunching the fabric of his shirt near tearing the clothing.

Karamatsu moves his arms to Jyushimatsu’s shoulders, pressing harshly as to dislodge his brother. An absolutely futile effort. Jyushimatsu will not budge for the life of him. He looks down, taking a hand to pry his brother off, almost successfully removing his pinky, when he sees Jyushimatsu looking at him with wide eyes, fully awake.

“Karamatsu-niisan,” he says, and Karamatsu is not too proud to admit that Jyushimatsu’s smile is terrifying to him at the moment. “Why was my name in your mouth just now?”

 

“You shouldn't have used me to start a fight,” Jyushimatsu admonishes, taking the chance to scold him while he prepares everyone's clothes for the wash the next day. “You’re mad because you don’t talk as much as you used to -”

“Not ‘as much’, Jyushimatsu. It’s ‘at all’.” He says, checking the pockets of Jyushimatsu’s cargo shorts. He finds three lollipop wrappers, two acorns, and a plastic car. He places the acorns and the tiny car to the side, and flattens out the wrappers - Rocking Raspberry, Pretty in Pink Lemonade, and Gloomy Grape - and shows it to Jyushimatsu. He has a candy wrapper collection somewhere, but he doesn't know if these specific ones are something he owns them already or not. Jyushimatsu shakes his head, and Karamatsu places them off to the side.

“At all,” Jyushimatsu amends, “but you were really out of line, you know.” He hands him one of Choromatsu’s suit jackets, and Karamatsu sets to feeling it up - a wretchedly plain thing, an ugly boring grey that doesn't suit his brother at all. “Niisan, I just think you want to be mad at him.”

“I don’t know what you're talking about.”

“You and Totty are really alike in the worst ways! You both love yourselves a bit too much!”

Karamatsu feels something in the breast pocket, and moves to take it out as he speaks. “Perhaps,” he says petulantly, sulking like a child, “But I see no problem with that - self love is very important!” He snaps his fingers, looking down to see if whatever it is could be worth keeping.

“It’s not a problem with Choromatsu really, I think, but with you? I don't think I’ve ever ever ever seen you act like this! I don’t think you want to admit you’re part of the reason you two stopped talking, so you're making yourself believe it’s all him, but that's not true.”

“Jyushimatsu, it pains me to say this but -” his words die in his throat, making his next exhale rotten and sour.

The object in his pocket is paper, rather, it’s a sticky-note. Electric blue with glittering ink, crumpled and folded and worn as if its been read repeatedly, a little ‘I love you! Do your best today!’ scrawled crookedly on it from back when Karamatsu still replied to him. He puts the sticky-note back in Choromatsu’s pocket, feeling ill suddenly. He checks the side pockets, digging up folded up loose-leaf paper. He unfolds it, quietly. It’s a recount of a day both he and Jyushimatsu shared, a glorious retelling of a movie night they shared without him, signed with ‘Work is hard, but we’ll always be here for you! You can always count on me, brother.’ Karamatsu quickly hides that away too. In fact he shoves the entire jacket off his lap as he scrambles to get up.

“Find something interesting?” Jyushimatsu hums, cupping his cheek with his palm. He looks like he knows exactly what Karamatsu saw; Jyushimatsu has always been the best at resolving conflicts in the family, sans Osomatsu.

“I… I need to make a call, brother.” Jyushimatsu laughs victoriously as Karamatsu trips over his feet.

 

Karamatsu calls his office from the house phone, rocking on the balls of his feet anxiously as he waits for the pick up.

“Hello?” He hears, a woman's voice, and immediately hangs up. He tries again, responding and asking to be connected to Matsuno Choromatsu, though it takes quite a bit longer than expected. ( “Matsuri Choroe? I don’t think we have any Matsuri’s here.” “Non, non, non, my love! It’s Matsu as in pine, No as in field, and -” )

When they finally connect, Karamatsu speaks first, “Brother I -”

Choromatsu hangs up on him. Karamatsu blinks, staring down at the phone owlishly before it starts to ring once again. He faces away from the wall and slides down it, coiling the cord connecting the house phone to it’s box. He waits for Choromatsu to speak.

“I - Karamatsu.” He states, tone resolute despite the initial stammer. “Is there something you need?”

“It has come to my attention that I was out of line yesterday, and I wanted to apologise.”

“Yeah, you really were.” A tired sigh from the other end of the receiver. “I don’t know what got you so pissy but - ”

“I miss you.” Karamatsu says, and Choromatsu makes a strangled noise from the other end of the line. “I miss you being around - we don’t talk like we used to. I miss complaining with you on the roof; I miss you mothering me; I miss seeing you.”

“I… I do too - miss you, I mean,” Choromatsu admits. “But I can’t really help it - my work hours are insane .”

“I am aware.”

“I… have all the notes you ever given me, you know? Somewhere but I have them.”

“I found some in your pocket today, I know.”

“Osomatsu… he said you brought up the idea once. I thought it was pretty good! So I took it - I didn't realise you would hate it so much.” Oh, Osomatsu! Their beloved eldest! Karamatsu going to punch him in the face next time they go to the fishing pond.

“I don't hate it, I just hated that you wouldn’t talk to me - I asked you a question yesterday and you handed me a sticky note instead of speaking.”

“I - I didn’t mean to make it feel like I didn't want to talk to you! I - look. We should talk about this later, my boss is giving me the stink eye, I’ll see you later?”

“Will you actually speak to me this time?” His voice comes out much weaker than expected and his ears heat up. Bringing his knees up to his face he repeats his question, with more energy. He can imagine Choromatsu’s right now, bending down low at his office desk and tangling his fingers in his hair, biting his top lip like he always does because he’s so scared of being just good with work and wants to be extraordinary at everything at everything he does - like he already isn't.

“Yeah,” his brother says softly, “I will.”

 

Karamatsu starts leaving little notes again, attempts to open up communication and Choromatsu’s become a bit more personal in response. It takes Choromatsu four months to get another day off, but they celebrate Jyushimatsu’s promotion eventually. Keeping them close, keeping them near Jyushimatsu links his arms with theirs and babbles incessantly - about his day, about his girlfriend, about his friends at work, about Choromatsu, and about himself too. They get absolutely pissed and Jyushimatsu tries to pole dance on a section of a wall. The plaster ends up cracking, spiderweb cracks running up to the ceiling and while people scream as they bolt.

Choromatsu ends up complaining the entire time and it's wonderful.