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Lost and Found

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“It’s...o-over…?”

 

He stayed curled in the corner, shaking as he gripped the knife with both hands. There was nothing he wanted to believe more. The nightmare that he’d been living for...how long had it been now? He couldn’t remember, all sense of time stripped away from him a long time ago. But it was so hard to believe. Was it really that easy…? Or would he be punished, the second he tried to move from his spot, curled defensively in the corner?

 

With shaky, terrified breaths, he uncurled himself. But he didn’t let go of the knife, no, he wouldn’t give up his one defense for anything. He slowly pushed himself to his feet, legs wobbling under his weight. How many days had it been since he was allowed to eat? He was at his limit. But he couldn’t just stop, not yet.

 

With little steps, he inched towards the body that laid on the floor, not even flinching when his bare feet stepped into something warm and sticky. Full of apprehension, he kicked the body as hard as he could.

 

No response.

 

Air caught in his throat, before he choked out a sob. No response. There was no response…! There was no response! With a pain filled cry, he lifted the knife high above his head, before bringing it down as hard as he could, driving the blade into the already lifeless body. Again and again, over and over. He didn’t care about the blood that splattered across his face or that soaked his tattered, black hoodie. It didn’t matter. It didn’t fucking matter, because there was no response!

 

All at once, all the energy left his body and the knife clattered noisily to the floor. Tears streamed down his face, sobs shaking his exhausted body as his gaze slowly landed on the door. The door of the old, ‘abandoned’ apartment building that had been his home for however long now. The door to the outside. When was the last time he had seen the outside? Seen beyond the boarded up windows? He couldn’t remember. But he wanted to see it, so, so much. He didn’t even know what to do once he got out there, and it didn’t even matter, because he could go outside !

 

As fast as his legs could carry him, stumbling and teetering everywhere, he burst through the door and down the creaky, old hall. Down the stairs, through the next hall, more stairs, and then what appeared to be an old lobby of sorts. And right there, right in front of him, there was light! He rushed towards it, just waiting for something to go wrong. Waiting for him to be there, to drag him back into hell. It was right in arm’s reach…!

 

He tripped through the double doors, skidding to a painful halt along the cement. Minor bumps and scrapes like that didn’t faze him though. And anyway, he was too...in awe. The wet ground, the rain beating down on him, soaking him in seconds. It was cold. But...it felt good. It felt amazing. He pushed himself to his knees slowly, body shivering with the effort. He could see the sky. He could see the street and the cars passing by. All the buildings that made up this city, that at some point in his life, probably seemed small. It was huge in his eyes and so intimidating.

 

Breathing in deeply, he savored the feeling of fresh air filling his lungs, the smell of the freshly falling rain so much better than he ever imagined. He was so used to that musty smell inside the building, mold and mildew always making him choke if he breathed too deeply. This was just...clean. Cleansing. Another sob bubbled up in his chest, but this time it was full of happiness and relief. Even if he got caught, dragged back inside, and tortured for however many more years for this attempt at escape, this one moment was worth it. It was worth it !

 

“Oh my... oh my God , are you okay?!”

 

Gasping, he pulled his attention from the sky above, staring ahead at the street. A few people were standing on the sidewalk, looking at him with concern and maybe a little bit of fear. Looking down at himself, he noticed the way the rain washed the blood from his hoodie. Gripping the torn up hoodie in his hands, he wrung at it nervously. What should he do? What were these people thinking? Did they want to hurt him?

 

A man, apparently with the lady that had called out before, took a few steps towards him. In alarm, he scrambled back a little, eyes wide and fearful. The only place he could go was back inside, but...h-he didn’t want to! He wanted to stay here! Anywhere but back inside! Anywhere but there!

 

“Hey, kid, I’m not gonna hurt you. That’s, uh, a lot of blood. You okay?” The man slowed his approach, holding a hand out in an attempt to calm him. But he couldn’t trust him. He couldn’t trust this kindness. “We’re gonna call an ambulance, okay? Can you stay put? I won’t get any closer, I promise.”

 

What choice did he have, but to agree? He backed himself against the old building that he had called home, curling in on himself, but keeping a wary eye on the people that watched him. More and more people stopped, just to stare at him and whisper amongst each other. His previous relief forgotten, his tears turned to ones of fear. What were they all planning? What were they gonna do to him?

 

Sirens drawing near only served to scare him more. A lesson, previously ingrained into his brain, clawed to the surface. Sirens were bad, they meant police. Police were bad. Police would hurt him. Police would lock him up for good. But he only just got free!

 

Sure enough, two officers approached him slowly, murmuring words of comfort that fell on deaf ears. He was too scared to hear them. Too scared to care what they had to say. He noticed a third officer enter the building. Minutes passed by, the officers trying to coax him towards them, but he stayed huddled where he was, shivering violently. Static filled his ears, suddenly, a voice mixed in there somewhere.

 

“There’s a body up here, grab him!”

 

He had no time to move, as hands seized him in a rough hold, pressing him to the ground hard. He screamed, he kicked, sobbing loudly as his arms were jerked behind his back, something binding his hands together. “I’m s-sorry…! I’m sorry…! Do-don’t h-hurt me...p-please don’t hurt me…!” He cried out, his voice raspy from lack of use. 

 

His pleas went ignored, both officers hefting him up and dragging him through the crowd of people, before throwing him into the back of a cruiser, and he couldn’t resist. It took all the strength he had, just to escape earlier. There was nothing left in him. Sobbing, he watched as the door closed behind him, once again cutting him off from the outside world.

 


 

They questioned him a few times that day. Sometimes, the person who talked to him seemed nice, even brought him food or a drink, which he consumed greedily. And other times, they were scary. Yelling at him, slamming their hands against the table, as if they wanted nothing more than to hurt him. In those instances, he would cringe and whimper, mumbling for forgiveness. But that’s all the talking he would do. 

 

Next came some strange lady, wearing weird clothes. It reminded him of something, but he couldn’t quite place it. First, she made him open his mouth, running a cotton swab all inside, and placing it in a little, plastic baggy. Then she took his hoodie away from him, at least giving him a plain, black T-shirt to replace it. He didn’t like it very much, staring at his thin, bony arms. The flesh there was covered in bruises, scars, and deep cuts. He remembered each one so vividly. Taking a shaky breath, he tore his eyes away from the sight. 

 

They locked him in a cell, by himself. It was small, but he couldn’t be bothered by that. Not when he saw the small bed in the corner. With a soft sound of amazement, he slowly approached it, letting a hand press down into the thin mattress. The officer that escorted him there watched him with curiosity, gaze full of pity.

 

“You can use it.” The officer said slowly. Unsure, but willing to push his luck for the chance to lay in a bed, he slowly sat on the edge, before pulling himself onto it and laying down. And it was heaven. A slow smile spread onto his face, tears welling up in his eyes again. This was amazing! It was so comfortable! Letting out a sound of contentment, he curled up a little and closed his eyes.


He had no idea when he fell asleep, or for how long, but when he woke, it was to whispers outside his cell door. Slowly, he sat up, rubbing at his eyes sleepily as he listened. 

 

“You’re serious? That long, and he’s still alive...he’s lucky.”

 

“I worked the case, back then. We searched everywhere we could for him, but we couldn’t find a trace. We presumed he was dead and the case went cold. Just looking at him now, though...that kid’s been through Hell. We’re not helping, leaving him locked up in there.”

 

“Sir, with all due respect, he still murdered someone! The man was barely recognizable!”

 

“The DNA testing already came back. That guy was his kidnapper, and I have no doubt he probably deserved what he fucking got. This is being treated as self defense. We’ll be taking him right to the hospital, getting him a full exam. Which should’ve been done in the first place.”

 

“Y-Yes sir, ah...here we go!”

 

The door to the cell clicked open, and he watched as a large man walked into the cell with him. Just the size of the guy was enough to make him shrink back in fear, pulling his knees to his chest and pressing his back against the wall. But the man didn’t come any closer to him. Instead, he just gave a gentle smile, kneeling down and reaching a hand out.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Osomatsu. How would you like to finally go home?”

 

Osomatsu. His eyes widened a little at the familiar name. It was a name he hadn’t really heard in years, but he often repeated it to himself so that he didn’t accidentally forget. At some point, it had gone from “Osomatsu-kun”, to other names. Cruel names that slowly broke him down, just like each and every blow he had been dealt. Just hearing that name... his name, was when everything really clicked.

 

He had escaped.

 

He was finally out…!

 

His name was Osomatsu, and after having been ripped away from his family a long time ago, he was free!

 

Tears welled up in his eyes yet again, and he threw himself at the man, a detective probably, but he didn’t care. Because reality was getting away from him and he needed someone to remind him that this was real , and this man had done just that, and he was so grateful, and excited, and scared, and just...just…

 

Was this happiness? Yeah, he thought so. He was definitely happy.

 

Surprised, the detective held the sobbing boy, gently rubbing his back. Under the shirt, he could feel the bumps of Osomatsu’s spine, which only made his heart hurt. The detective had two children of his own, and to imagine either of them going through something like this made tears burn in his own eyes. Was this the first kind touch the boy had felt? No, not boy...he was a man now, one that had his childhood ripped away from him. Beaten and broken and scared, but still a man who had somehow managed to stay alive this long. 

 

“Osomatsu.” The detective mumbled gently, carefully gripping Osomatsu’s shoulders and pushing him away just enough that he could see his face. He could feel the shoulders tense and shake under his hands, and he loosened his grip a little. “I’m going to get you out of here, okay? But I’ll have to take you to the hospital to get a checkup. While you’re there, I’m going to call your family. Does that sound good?”

 

“M...My...f-family…?” Osomatsu asked slowly, voice shaking and cracking at the strain of sudden use. His family. Who...who were they again? He had...a mom. And a dad. Like any other person would. And he remembered having brothers too. They were the same as him. They looked like him. What did he look like? Thinking back, all he could see were blurry faces.

 

“That’s right. Do you want to see them?” 

 

Even remembering their names was difficult. It scared him. Did they remember him? Did they...did they look for him? Osomatsu could feel his chest ache a little, his eyes turning away from the detective. Did he want to see them? That wasn’t the right question. Did they want to see him ?

 

“I-I...want t-to see...t-them…”

 


 

“Good morning, buraza! It’s another beautiful day--!”

 

“I’m going to play baseball today, Nii-san! I hope you’ll watch me again today! Muscle, hustle!”

 

“...I’m gonna go feed the cats. You can watch me today, too, if you really want.”

 

“I bet you’d rather go for a jog with me~! Forget these guys, and hang out with your favorite, youngest brother instead! Hehe~!”

 

“Oi!”

 

Choromatsu sighed heavily, glancing back over his shoulder as his brothers bickered back and forth, the four of them kneeling in front of the shrine that was dedicated to their eldest brother. This was a morning ritual for them; before breakfast, they’d go and “speak” to Osomatsu about their plans for the day. Then, before bed, they’d tell him all about their day. 

 

Choromatsu absolutely despised it. He hated that he had to see that shrine everyday, that he had to see the picture of a ten year old Osomatsu giving him that toothy grin. It was a constant reminder of events that he had never actually recovered from. Losing his brother, his best friend! And the worst part of it all?

 

He didn’t believe Osomatsu was dead at all.

 

Everyone had just given up looking for Osomatsu! All because the police suspected Tougou had been responsible in the murder of another kid. Because there was no trace of them. There was no body, no proof that their eldest brother was actually gone! But it was like no one really cared about whether or not they had hard evidence. In everyone else's eyes, Osomatsu was gone for good.

 

And Choromatsu knew his family cared, he knew they loved Osomatsu as much as him. They were devastated too, the day the police decided to put the case down. Choromatsu, though...he just couldn’t let it go! There was something inside of him, a tormented piece of himself that knew his older brother was still out there! 

 

Today, that piece of himself seemed extra fired up. A feeling churned inside his chest, something like anxiety. It was almost like he knew something was going to happen today and it had him wound so tightly, he just--

 

RIIIIIING~!

 

All the brothers looked startled by the sudden noise, their attention turning to the phone that rested innocently near the front door. It wasn’t often they got phone calls, ever rarer to get one this early (11 a.m. was hardly early, Matsuyo had insisted exasperatedly) in the day. Matsuyo walked from the kitchen, drying her hands and leering at her five sons that simply continued to stare.

 

“One of you couldn’t answer the phone? Honestly…” She scolded lightly, before clearing her throat and answering. “Matsuno residence!” The five brothers looked between each other sheepishly, before the four who weren’t already eating breakfast seated themselves around the table.

 

There didn’t seem to be anything interesting in their mother’s conversation. Just quiet hums and acknowledgements. It wasn’t until the sound of a shuddery gasp and the phone hitting the floor that they all whipped their heads around to actually pay attention. Matsuyo’s hand covered her mouth, tears quickly welling up in her eyes, before she sunk to the floor with a cry.

 

“M-Mom?!” Karamatsu was the first to react, rushing over to her side. The others followed right behind him of course, startled to see her cling to Karamatsu suddenly as she cried, her words unintelligible. The second brother swallowed hard, slowly wrapping his arms around her, offering what comfort he could. His eyes turned to Choromatsu, before they flickered to the phone.

 

Choromatsu’s first thought was that it had something to do with their father. An accident, maybe? Health issues? Frowning, he bent over to pick up the phone, staring at it in his hand for a moment, before he pressed it to his ear. “Hello? Who is this?”

 

“I’m sorry, I...I knew I should’ve just come down there in person. Is this one of her boys?” The voice on the other end was unfamiliar and familiar all at the same time. Choromatsu furrowed his brows, tapping his foot impatiently.

 

“It is. I’m Choromatsu.” The third brother answered, looking at his brothers as they leaned forward, waiting for answers. They all looked so concerned, and why wouldn’t they be? “Could you please tell me who you are and what’s going on? Our mom’s really upset, and we want to know why.” He demanded.

 

“I’m one of the detectives that was responsible for working on your brother’s kidnapping case years ago.” Hardly the answer Choromatsu expected. His eyes widened slightly, his grip on the phone tightening. “Listen to me, we found him. We found Osomatsu...alive. Your brother’s alive! We have him at the hospital, if you could all come down and--”

 

The phone clattered noisily against the floor once again.

 


 

 

“You’ve done so well, Osomatsu-kun, thank you!” Osomatsu looked at the nurse with tear-filled eyes, his arms crossed awkwardly over his chest. He had been put into a hospital gown, the rest of his clothing having been confiscated. First his hoodie at the police station, and now his pants. Why, he wondered? They had insisted on doing a full body inspection, which he understood, but now he was left feeling even more vulnerable than before.

 

The kind detective was still with him, though, which was a relief. Even if the guy was easily intimidating, Osomatsu found himself reassured by his presence. It was probably the only reason he hadn’t bolted yet, if he were being honest. Said detective seemed to notice Osomatsu’s eyes on him, giving him a slight smile of encouragement.

 

“I got a hold of your family, while you were getting changed.” The detective spoke up, watching as the nurse examined the poor, nervous boy. There was so much to examine; broken bones, infected injuries, so many scars and bruises. And by the occasional, solemn expression the nurse wore as she wrote on her clipboard, things probably went even deeper than that. “They really want to see you, I hope you know. Are you still okay with seeing them?”

 

“I-I...wanna see them too…” Osomatsu quivered as the nurse gently ran her fingers along his wrist, the bone aching at the attention. It was bent at an odd angle; an old injury from a long time ago that was still fresh in his mind. It had hurt so bad and the way it looked was enough to make him sick. But it had long since healed to nothing more than an irritating ache. Or maybe he had just gotten used to it? “Do...d-do they r-really wanna see me…?”

 

“Trust me, kid. No one’s gonna be able to keep them away from you. We’ll file them in here, one at a time though. Don’t want you getting overwhelmed.” The detective flashed Osomatsu another smile, that was shakily returned. 

 

“Okay, dear, that’s it for now. We’ll have to do some other tests later, but it's gonna be some time before we can get to you. So, I want you to go right ahead and climb into that bed there and get some rest.” The nurse pointed to the bed with her pen, smiling sadly as Osomatsu immediately obeyed without question, climbing under the sheets and settling against the pillow. “There’s a tv here, the remote’s on the stand beside you. You can watch anything you want.”

 

Osomatsu looked towards the remote, hand reaching out for it almost excitedly, before he paused. His gaze became wary, looking between the nurse and detective almost suspiciously. “Go on, Osomatsu.” The detective urged softly, nodding his head in approval. “No one here is gonna hurt you, I promise. You’re free to do what you want.”

 

Fidgeting nervously, Osomatsu let his hand grip the remote, though he made no move to actually turn the tv on. “I just...T-Tougou won’t...h-he’ll b-be mad when he w-wakes up…” He stammered. The detective let out a slow breath, rubbing his hand over his face. Did this kid really not remember that the guy was dead? Or was it simply that he didn’t understand? Shock, maybe?

 

“Don’t you worry about anything, dear.” The nurse seemed to notice the detective’s conflict, jumping in quickly to settle the situation. “This is a safe place, you have nothing to be afraid of. In fact…” She leaned closer, making sure to still keep a respectable distance between herself and Osomatsu. “How about I get you a treat for doing such a good job for me? How does ice cream sound?”

 

He didn’t really remember it very well, but he knew that at some point, it had been something to get excited about. “Y-Yes please…!” He agreed softly, eyes brightening just a bit. Having people here that were acting so kind...he was scared. Tougou was nice, too, in the beginning. He didn’t really trust them. But there was a larger part of him that just wanted to believe that these people were good. Not everyone had to be like Tougou, right…?

 

“Alright, I’ll be right back. You just settle in there and relax.” Osomatsu hummed in agreement as the nurse offered one last smile before walking out. That left just him and the detective in a fairly comfortable silence, though the officer looked to be in deep thought. 

 

There were questions that had to be asked, it was part of his job. But looking at this boy in front of him, seeing how frail he appeared gave him pause. Was it really right to try and force Osomatsu to talk about things so soon? No, of course not. Hell, the poor kid didn’t even seem to realize that his captor was dead; it was shock, it had to be. After all, the detective had heard stories about the way Osomatsu acted when he was first apprehended. He had to have had some kind of awareness at that point, right?

 

“U-Uhm…” The detective startled, lifting his head to look at the fidgeting boy. Osomatsu wanted to say something or ask something, but he seemed too scared to really ask. He wouldn’t even make eye contact. 

 

“What is it, Osomatsu?” The older man asked kindly, resting his chin on the back of his hands. Osomatsu rubbed his arms, looking this way and that, eyes examining all the different machines and utensils that were put away neatly in the room.

 

“I j-just, uhm...w-when is my family gonna get here...?” Osomatsu asked cautiously, hugging himself nervously. So many years, he had dreamed of this moment. The day that he could see his family again, the day his mother would hug him and his father would pat his head. And his brothers...he wouldn’t be lonely ever again! If only he could remember the faces that had faded over the years. It was okay, he wouldn’t have to. He’d be able to see them with his own two eyes soon enough!

 

“Well, there’s a lot of traffic out around this time of day. It's just a little too far for your family to walk out here, so they probably had to get a taxi; or a couple. I bet they’ll be stampeding through those doors any minute now.” Osomatsu nodded slightly in understanding, fidgeting a little. The detective let out a little sigh, rubbing a hand down his face. “Osomatsu, are you feeling up to answering some questions for me?”

 

“...What kind of questions…?” 

 

There was obvious suspicion in Osomatsu’s tone, his head ducking to show his discomfort. The detective exhaled deeply, sitting up straight in his seat. “Well, we really need to know what happened, Osomatsu. Anything you can tell me right now about Tougou? How he treated you, what happened after you were kidnapped, how he...how you escaped. Anything, Osomatsu.”

 

Osomatsu hunched his shoulders, shaking his head slightly. He wasn’t allowed to talk about those sort of things! Tougou would be furious, he’d be punished for sure! Even if this was a safe place...tears were already burning in his eyes, his hands wringing together nervously. “I-I’m n-not supposed...I-I don’t remember e-escaping…” Osomatsu’s thoughts were suddenly all over the place. How did he end up in that jail cell again? He just...woke up there, right? Or did he wake up in the hospital? Was there really a jail cell? 

 

How did he get here again? Osomatsu slowly lifted his hands to tangle in his hair, a nervous habit he gained after years of abuse. Protect the head, always protect the head...whimpering softly, Osomatsu clenched his eyes shut.

 

The knife...the blood...Tougou was there, sleeping…? Yes, he had to be sleeping! And then…?

 

“Hey, Osomatsu!” The detective raised his voice a little, not missing the look of pain and confusion on the boy’s face, not to mention his quickly growing erratic breathing. There was no way he was going to get any answers, not today. And he was hardly cruel enough to try and push any harder. “You don’t have to answer right now, Osomatsu, I’m sorry. Just take some breaths for me, okay?”

 

Of course, Osomatsu obeyed. But he still looked distressed. “I’m s-sorry…” He stammered, slowly lowering his arms. “M-My head f-f-feels jumbled, and--”

 

"You don't have to apologize, you didn't do anything wrong, Osomatsu." The detective insisted, getting up and walking over. He hesitated for a moment, before sitting on the edge of the bed. "I shouldn't have asked, it's too soon to ask those kinds of questions. But I need you to understand one important thing; Tougou is gone. He's not coming back for you, he'll never be able to hurt you again. Okay?"

 

Osomatsu gave the detective a look full of doubt and uncertainty. "I...I-I don't know…" He mumbled softly, looking down at his hands that were fiddling with one of the sheets that covered him. In this light, it was easier than ever before to see the scars and bruises that marred his skin. What would his family think if this was one of the first things they saw? Would they think he was ugly for it? Tougou always said so, said he was an ugly, broken kid. Maybe they wouldn't want him back after all? The thought dulled his excitement to say the least.

 

"C-Can I get...uhm, my...m-my parka back…?" The sudden change of topic seemed to throw the poor detective off, the question bewildering him even more. That old, tattered thing? It was sealed up in an evidence locker somewhere back at the station. Even if he could get it, he was pretty sure he'd burn the disgusting thing. But seeing the way Osomatsu stared at his bare arms, understanding came crashing down.

 

"I'm sorry, I can't. Its...it got lost." The man lied lamely, rubbing the back of his neck. "I asked your parents to bring you some clothes, though. Maybe they've got something similar. And if you ask, I bet they'd be more than willing to get you a new one." 

 

Osomatsu seemed saddened by that, shaking his head a little. Why would they be willing to do anything for him? One look at him and they might not even want him. Hell, how did he know for sure they were coming because they wanted to see him? Maybe they were coming to tell him that they wanted him to go back. Tougou always did say no one wanted him. If they did, they would've come for him, right? Why had he let his hopes get up?

 

The detective watched helplessly as the poor boy slowly dissolved into tears for seemingly no reason. There were demons that he couldn't see, nothing that he could fight. Just because he was out of that hellhole and away from that damned monster, didn't mean he was okay. The poor kid was going to have a long road ahead of him, a lot of healing to do. All he could hope was that Osomatsu's family would be a godsend for him.

 

"I've been kept away from my Osomatsu for ten years ! I'm not letting you get in my way!"

 

"M'am, I understand your feelings, but your son is very--!"

 

"Don't tell me you understand! You don't understand anything!"

 

Osomatsu shrunk down in the bed, nearly burying himself beneath the sheets as the sound of screaming reached just outside the room. The detective winced, before giving Osomatsu a sympathetic smile and patting his leg reassuringly. "I'll be right back, Osomatsu." 

 

Outside the room was a sight to behold. Six men trying to hold one woman back, while the nurse that had been caring for Osomatsu held her hands in front of herself defensively. The detective let out a long breath and rolled his shoulders a little. If he had to hold back the entire family, he would do his best. Osomatsu couldn't possibly handle all of them stampeding into the room.

 

"Hello, Mrs. Matsuno." The detective greeted calmly, walking over and crossing his arms over his broad chest. "I understand your eagerness to see your son safe and sound, but we really need to get you up to speed on a few things; he's not ready to have you all rushing in there at once."

 

"Then just let me in." Matsuyo demanded, shaking her boys and husband off of her with a stern look. "I'm his mother and I haven't seen him in years . I need to see he's okay with my own eyes!"

 

"We all want to see him, dear." Matsuzo tried to placate her, rubbing her back reassuringly. "But we don't know what to expect. We really should hear what they have to say before we rush in blindly."

 

"Please listen to your husband." The detective stepped closer, clearing his throat and lowering his voice. There was no need to risk Osomatsu overhearing them. "Your son is alive, Mrs. Matsuno. But he's gone through an ordeal and he's not what one would consider well."

 

"He's gone through severe physical abuse." The nurse stepped in, finally able to get a few words in. "The worst I've ever seen. He's very malnourished and it has affected his growth, he's very small. We haven't got to do x-rays yet, but I can already see that he's had several broken bones that haven't healed correctly."

 

"That's not even scratching the surface. There's obviously been mental abuse on top of that; he has a bad stutter, which isn't surprising with the circumstances." The detective continued, placing a hand on Matsuyo's shoulder and guiding her back towards the waiting room where she could sit. The poor woman looked ready to burst into tears again at any minute. "He's terrified of people and loud noises from what I've seen. I haven't had enough time with him to see all the effects this has had on him and I'm hardly a psychiatrist. But this situation is going to require some tact and care."

 

The brothers could only listen as the nurse and detective spoke. But as they moved to the waiting room, none of the brothers followed. Instead, their heads simultaneously turned to face the room the detective had quietly snuck out from. That was where Osomatsu was, the brother they hadn't seen in years.  

 

"I wanna see Osomatsu-niisan." Jyushimatsu mumbled quietly, his voice muffled by the sleeved fist he held in front of his mouth. "We can see him, right? We're his brothers, he wouldn't mind, right?"

 

"We can't. Not yet, Jyushimatsu." Ichimatsu reached out to pat his immediate younger brother's head reassuringly when he deflated. "They said he's scared. We could end up doing more harm than good if we just go in all of a sudden like that. Better if we wait until they give us permission."

 

"Ichimatsu's right. I'm sure they'll guide us to his side in no time at all. But only at his comfort. That's for the best." Jyushimatsu looked at Karamatsu with furrowed brows, before nodding his agreement. Karamatsu smiled fondly at him. "In the meantime, brother, why don't I get you a treat while we wait. Something sweet, hmm~?"

 

Jyushimatsu's spirits immediately seemed lifted, his arms going straight into the air excitedly. "Candy!" He yelled, before being shushed quickly by the others.

 

"Well, if you're offering to, can you get me something to drink, Karamatsu-niisan?" Todomatsu asked, smiling cutely at the older. Karamatsu hummed and nodded his head, turning away to find the nearest vending machine.

 

"Oi. Me too, Shittymatsu. Something to drink." Ichimatsu called after him, before pausing and turning to look towards the third born who had remained quiet this entire time. "Choromatsu? What about you?"

 

Choromatsu either ignores him or didn't even hear him to begin with. His eyes were still planted firmly on that door, his fists clenched at his sides so hard that they shook slightly. Karamatsu paused at the silence, turning to look at Choromatsu with some concern.

 

"Brother? Choromatsu?" He called, taking a few steps back towards his brothers. If Karamatsu were being honest, Choromatsu was the one he worried about the most when they received that phone call just a few short hours ago. The third born had never handled Osomatsu's abduction well and he had always been so...angry when their missing brother was mentioned. It only got worse when the police dropped the case and declared their brother was likely deceased.

 

But Osomatsu wasn't deceased. Choromatsu had been right about that all along. And now, he was being denied seeing his brother after this long? It was as if in that moment, Karamatsu and Choromatsu's thoughts synced up for a single moment. They both moved at the same time with different intent; Choromatsu pushed by his brothers and made a dash towards that door, while Karamatsu moved to stop him.

 

Choromatsu was faster.

 

"Choromatsu, stop! Not yet!"

 

"Choromatsu-niisan, wait!"

 

"You idiot, you weren't listening at all!"

 

"Niiiii-san!"

 

The third born slammed the door open, his heart hammering in his chest. For years, he had just wanted this one moment. The moment he could see Osomatsu again, alive and safe and…

 

This was not what Choromatsu expected, nothing like how he imagined this moment. A small body laid in a bed that looked somehow too big for him, his bones visible underneath taut skin. Scars and bruises covering every inch of flesh that was visible. And wide, terrified eyes staring back at him, welling up with tears.

 

"W-W-Who...a-are you…?"