Todomatsu huffs, lugging the giant picnic basket behind him. Hanami season was coming to an end, and Todomatsu was nearly in a frenzy worried that he wouldn’t be invited for a sakura watching party. Thankfully, he gets a last minute invite which he accepts immediately. It’s not his first pick of a Hanami date—both the girls coming have boyfriends already, but it’s much, much better than nothing. One of them even mentioned that they would be making homemade sandwiches and maki rolls for the occasion, which had him saying yes at fast as humanly possible. The only minor setback to this arrangement was he was quickly relegated to holding the gigantic picnic basket while they made their way to the river bank, and he does his best to save face and not face plant as he staggers to keep up with them.
Todomatsu isn’t happy about being a NEET for most of the time, but he is grateful now, especially since the park is much less crowded now than it is on the weekends, and they were able to quickly find a good spot to spread out their picnic blanket. The temperature is balmy and calm, and Todomatsu plays the perfect gentleman, unpacking the basket for the girls, playing up his role since all he had to bring was plastic cups and cutlery.
The calm, almost wistful strumming of an acoustic guitar nearby is the perfect accompaniment to such a beautiful day, and Todomatsu lets himself relax, sipping at his fruit beer. The conversation with the girls is light and pleasant, and Todoamtsu resists the feeling to take a mid day nap, lulled by the gentle guitar, a far cry from the noisy enka he had to endure at home, courtesy of one—
“Hey Totty,” Sasaki nudges him, pointing to the mystery guitarist, “that guy looks like you a bit!”
Todomatsu freezes. He guesses that to normal people, this phrase is non-threatening, even mildly interesting. But to him, it’s enough to send chills up his spine.
He finally musters up the courage to turn his head and sure enough, Karamatsu nii-san is not forty meters away from him, on a park bench strumming away at his prized guitar.
Minako hums contemplatively. “Maybe we could invite him to sit with us? We could probably request some songs from hi—“
“No!” Todomatsu shouts, which draws curious stares from the girls. “Uh—I mean, he probably wants to be left alone—he looks like he’s concentrating pretty hard anyways…“
At least this bit was true, as Karamatsu looked every bit like he was completely absorbed in his playing, his eyes closed and foot tapping along to the beat.
“If you say so…” Sasaki sighs. “He doesn’t look like he’s busking though, maybe we could—“
“Bad idea, I mean, look at his clothes, he’s probably some vagabond, y’kno—“
Sasaki doesn’t wait for Todomatsu to finish as she picks up their remaining food and strides over to Karamatsu. Todomatsu watches nervously as Sasaki presents the food to Karamatsu, who seems taken aback. Todomatsu braces himself for the painful fallout, but to his surprise, Karamatsu doesn’t jump up and try his regular overbearing schtick, and instead bows his head quickly in thanks, looking flustered but pleased. They talked for a few more minutes about something that apparently made Sasaki laugh before Karamatsu got up, packing up his guitar and leaving with a hearty wave.
Sasaki comes back in a good mood, and Todomatsu stares at her in disbelief. He’s never seen Karamatsu be in such a positive interaction with a girl before. “W-what did he say?”
She sits down, still giggling to herself. “Lots of flowery stuff about how grateful and touched he was and how he needed to serenade the whole park with his voice before the day was over.”
“Aaah, you should’ve asked for his number to get to come to play at our karaoke sessions!”
Sasaki crosses her arms, put out. “I should have, shouldn’t I?”
Todomatsu keeps quiet. He is a little relieved Karamatsu didn’t come over, but more curious over the fact that Karamatsu had apparently rejected the offer. Where was the aggressive try-hard of a brother he knew and…well—begrudgingly loved?
Todomatsu gets home before dark, as he prefers it. As much as he doesn’t like hanging out with his brothers in public, they are good meat shields against anything scary in the cover of night.
“I’m back!” he calls out, to silence. Perhaps the rest of the family is at hanami parties of their own. The house all to himself! That was a rare treat, maybe he could—
Todomatsu jumps as the sliding door to the dining room slams open, with Karamatsu leaning against the doorway, his hand obscuring half his face in what is probably meant to be a “cool” pose.
“A few Karamatsu girls today were kind enough to gift me some delectable treats not a few hours ago,” Karamatsu proudly says, gesturing grandly to the leftover spread that Sasaki had given him. “Would you do me the honor by joining me?”
Totty grimaces, holding his stomach, “Uh, I’ll have to pass, I’m really full now…”
Todomatsu sighs, before sliding next to the dejected Karamatsu, and gulps as he stares down at his fifth maki roll that day. “Itadakimasu,” he weakly announces. Beside him, Karamatsu picks up his own roll with a hearty “Bon Appetit!”
It was just like Karamatsu nii-san to push his ‘kindness’ on others to the point where it became more of an annoyance than anything helpful or useful, Todomatsu thinks, taking minuscule bites just to keep up appearances.
“Where are the others?” he asks, just for something to talk about.
“They went to Chibita’s! I, however, decided that it was best to stay here in the event that you would return home—lost, starving, confused—“
“How can I be lost if I managed to get home…”
“How could I live with myself if I leave my youngest, sweetest brother alone to fend for himself?”
Todomatsu huffs. Sure, he plays up the youngest brother schtick from time to time to get what he want—but Karamatsu is taking it way too literally. It was such a hassle to deal with such an oblivious tryhard sometimes.
But that was the crux of the whole incident today, wasn’t it? Todomatsu has never heard Karamatsu play something so…so….soothing. Calm, even. Like there’s something inside of that head of his that wasn’t concerned with being flashy or attention grabbing. It’s a far cry from the performance Karamatsu was giving him now. Like for whatever reason, Karamatsu was willing to display the worst of himself, and keep the strangely talented side close to his chest. For what? Karamatsu could have easily roped in a few ‘Karamatsu girls’ with his guitar, but doesn’t go for it. It might be overanalyzing on Todomatsu’s part, but he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.
The next day finds Todomatsu feeling under the weather. He’s floating in and out of consciousness, but he can tell that none of his brothers are in the room with him, giving him a wide berth. Which suits him fine, as they’d either ruin his rest or demand something from him for doing the slightest favor of taking care of him. However, lunch time comes around, and he does begin to feel a little hungry. Staring up at the ceiling, he weighs his choices, before sighing, and lets out the softest, “nii-san,” before he hears the storm of footsteps and the swishing of the door with Karamatsu wheezing slightly, pausing to catch his breath.
“Totty! Have you summoned me?” he bellows.
Todomatsu rolls his eyes. Not really. Out of all the brothers, he’d have chosen Choromatsu to take care of him, even if that shitty fapper was going to berate him the whole time while doing so. Karamatsu wasn’t the worst pick, but it was still a 50-50 toss up if he was actually going to do anything useful or make everything worse.
“Karamatsu nii-san, I—“ he fake coughs lightly for the added effect, “I’m a little hungry, so if you could, could you please—“
“My pleasure!” Karamatsu declares, before rushing downstairs, and Todomatsu smirks to himself, smug. Another flurry of footsteps sound out, and Todomatsu frowns. Surely, Karamatsu couldn’t have whipped up something that fast could he? Unless…
Just as Todomatsu feared, his older brother wasn’t back with lunch, but his guitar instead, and he plops down next to Todomatsu.
“I’ve thought of something better than physical sustenance, my dear Todomatsu— emotional sustenance, the gift of song.”
“I’d really prefer soup, nii-san.”
Karamatsu waves off his words and Todomatsu would have smacked him across the face if he wasn’t so sick. He should’ve known that Karamatsu would take advantage of his weakened state to subject Todomatsu to an impromptu concert now that he wasn’t able to crawl away from it.
“Before that, let me serenade you with a beautiful tune to lull you to a blissful sleep—“
“By making a racket?” Todomatsu whines.
Karamatsu lets out a self-assured ‘heh’, before strumming out a chord, then readjusting his fingers to begin playing out a melody. Todomatsu frowns, deeply annoyed that he wasn’t able to get what he wanted out of Karamatsu after all, but a few more bars, and he’s surprisingly liking the song Karamatsu is playing, feeling rather reminiscent of yesterday’s reverie. If he had to be honest, he could actually get a good rest hearing this, but he’ll first have to wait until Karamatsu is done, and really demand for his soup before he can sleep properly.
“I still believe in your eyes….”
Todomatsu’s eyes snap open, and he looks on in horror as Karamatsu continues to belt out the words to the incredibly schmaltzy early 2000s English electronic dance tune. “Stop! Stop!” he wails, desperately slapping Karamatsu’s knee even as Karamatsu pours his heart and soul into the song.
“There is no choice, I belong to your life…”
Todomatsu turns to smash his face into the pillow, not believing his awful luck. What did he do to deserve this? His face is even redder than it has ever been before. He thought that eventually, he’ll be able to build up a tolerance to Karamatsu’s embarrassing nature. Or maybe his defenses were weakened today? Either way, this was a quick way to murder him.
At some point, Karamatsu finally finishes his song, but Todomatsu doesn’t peek up from the pillow lest he gets asked about the performance, and drifts off for a troubled sleep instead. He’s awoken almost an hour later by a slight nudge, and he grumbles, rubbing his eyes, before the smell of chicken soup hits him and he props himself up by the elbows to watch as Karamatsu sits next to him, ladling the soup into a bowl, then gently blowing on it to cool slightly before spooning Todomatsu a bite. Todomatsu accepts it gratefully, chewing a bit at the soft rice.
“I didn’t think you’d get the soup.” Todomatsu confesses.
“Heh, well….” Karamatsu throws back his head, before sheepishly shrugging. “Mom sent this up and told me to stop making noise.”
Todomatsu gives him a lofty ‘I told you so’ look but opens his mouth again for another bite. “Well, it’s usually a dinner and a show, right? Not one after the other.”
Karamatsu tries to laugh, though it cracks slightly, “Yes, well, I had assumed I would be able to lull you to sleep, then sneak downstairs to properly make soup instead of having you wait in agony.”
Todomatsu was about to tell him that it was already agony listening to such an old, painful song, but after a few more bites, he’s feeling full and sleepy, settling into the covers once more.
“Well, it was ok to listen to. For like two seconds. You’re allowed to play…”
Karamatsu nearly drops the spoon in shock. “Really?!”
“...as long as you don’t sing those awful lyrics.”
Karamatsu considers it. “What if I made up some lyrics--”
“No, they’ll be worse. Don’t you dare.” Todomatsu glares at Karamatsu, stifling a yawn to keep up appearances.
Todomatsu misses the fond look that his older brother gives him, as he scrubs at his face and turns away, settling in to sleep. Karamatsu gently sets aside the bowl in favor of picking up the guitar. “Anything for you, Totty.”
The next time Todomatsu wakes, it’s dark. He quickly gropes around for his phone, pressing the power button to find that it’s roughly one am. A quick look around confirms that none of his brothers are in the room with him, most likely sleeping in the dining room downstairs in an attempt to quarantine him for the moment. Todomatsu whines a little, noting that he only has 9% battery left. He’s never been good being on his own, especially in the dark. He’s going to have to find his charger and--
There’s music. It’s soft, but unmistakably there, and judging from the sound, seems to be drifting from the roof. The strumming is light, skirting between sweet and melancholy, and Todomatsu forgets his fear of the dark as he concentrates on the music. Eventually, he finds himself getting up, climbing up the ladder to the third floor to follow the sound.
As he suspects, Karamatsu is up there, legs dangling off the side of the roof. Todomatsu stands by the door to the roof, transfixed. What he doesn’t notice was that he had taken his phone up as well, and it chirps angrily as the battery dips back down to 5%. Todomatsu attempts to muffle the sound with his pajama shirt, but the damage was done, and Karamatsu abruptly stops, and turns his head, alarmed.
“Todomatsu!” Karamatsu nearly trips in his haste to meet Todomatsu at the entrance. “What are you doing out so late? You’ll get cold like this--”
Todomatsu lowers his head, trying to fight off the blush to his cheeks. “I’m fine! I just woke up, feeling a lot better.”
Karamatsu lets out a relieved sigh, but places a hand on Todomatsu’s shoulder, and the other on his forehead, tilting Todomatsu’s burning face up. “Well, your forehead feels fine, but it’s not good to leave this stuff to chance. Come on, let’s get you inside.”
“I….okay.” Todomatsu nods, as Karmatsu’s hand rests on his back, letting himself be steered downstairs to their bedroom. Karamatsu waits patiently for Todomatsu to settle in, sitting cross-legged next to their bedding but not making a move to get in, most likely still going to join the rest downstairs, but Todomatsu appreciates the fact that Karamatsu understands his need for someone to be around when it’s dark without prompt.
Still, it’s a little weird to try and fall asleep with someone in the room not doing anything, and he eyes the guitar once more. He couldn’t ask Karamatsu to play for him, not without running the risk of waking up the rest of the household.
“What were you doing up there?” Todomatsu asks instead.
Karamatsu shrugs, smirking slightly. “The moon was calling to me, and I was compelled to respond in turn.” A pause, as Todomatsu gave him a judgemental look and Karamatsu hastily changes his answer. “That, and inspiration struck, and I wanted to try and play it out before I forgot. You took choir back in high school, you know what I mean, right?”
Todomatsu shakes his head. Sure, he’s been in choir, but he wasn’t a musician at heart, he mostly joined to get a chance to know the girls in the other grades. The most he can attest to is not going horribly off-key during karaoke.
A thought seemed to have struck Karamatsu, and he looks worried. “Ah, Totty, I didn’t wake you up just now with my playing, did I?”
Todomatsu shakes his head. “I was bound to wake up anyways-- been sleeping the whole day. And the song….wasn’t….bad.” He’s trying not to coax Karamatsu’s ego into some uncontrollable storm.
But Karamatsu doesn’t speak, and Todomatsu frowns a bit at him, waving a hand in his face, “you ok, nii-san?”
Karamatsu seems to snap out of it, groping for sunglasses that aren’t there, and eventually settles for covering his face with his hand in an effort to look unruffled.
“P-perfectly fine, Totty! I’m just...that means...a lot, that you like it. Or, at least don’t hate it.” He fidgets, before getting up quickly. “You must be exhausted, dear brother, I’ll leave you to your slumber,” going without much of a fuss.
“What is its name?”
“I meant, the name of the song you wrote.”
“That’s the name. Todomatsu.”
“You’re weird, nii-san.”
Karamatsu’s predilection for enka comes back in full swing quickly, and he’s back up on the roof with Jyushimatsu making a ruckus. Todomatsu has taken to muffling their caterwauling with the TV.
But in the rare instances when it’s only the two of them, Karamatsu without fanfare will slow his pace, and smile over at Todomatsu, winking at him (‘for my best Karamatsu boy!’) before plucking away at a light, sweet song. Todomatsu steals looks every now and again at Karamatsu, but his brother always seems to have his eyes closed when he’s playing his own songs, a bit lost in his own world. It’s an atmosphere that Todomatsu doesn’t quite know what to make of, has never really associated with Karamatsu.
He lays on his side, frowning at his phone. Nobody has replied him back, no invitations to do anything and there’s nothing for him to browse. To be honest, it’s like this most of the time, but it’s a compulsion to check anyways, something he can’t quite stop. A mistap on his home screen opens up the camera, and he’s about to go back before changing his mind and presses record. Karamatsu isn’t fully even in the shot, but his playing is loud and clear.
He frowns slightly at the image he’s getting though, thinking that it’s not getting the one rare time that Karamatsu even looks...slightly, remotely cool, but he can’t make himself look like he’s overtly recording him. He should stop, he should really, really stop before…
Karamatsu ends his song, and looks over at Todomatsu, smiling at him and Todomatsu hastily drops his phone with a clatter.
“Totty, is there something--”
He didn’t delete the video like he told himself he would, and instead, he takes out his phone time and time again for the express purpose of watching it. He entertains the idea of posting up somewhere-- instagram, facebook, twitter-- wherever, so it’s like he had a purpose of recording it in the first place, but every time he goes to post it, he never goes through with it. It was his song Karamatsu was playing, wasn’t it? It was his, it was…
Stupid. Todomatsu thinks to himself, looking down tiredly at his phone, before pressing it to his chest. This whole thing is stupid.
But the thoughts follow him like a ghost from the subway and along the way home. Todomatsu tries to tell himself it’s fine, even normal. It’s...normal, to think your older brother was cool. And kind. And sweet. Normal people do that, right?
He hears the familiar chords to the song-- his song, and he wanders over towards the park, and finds Karamatsu...surrounded by a few people. Todomatsu halts, noticing Sasaki and Minako there as well, sitting on a picnic blanket as they swayed slightly to the music. Something indescribable courses through Todomatsu, feeling embarrassed and angry and small all at once. But the dumb, stupid, little thought that pervades all of that was still, “wasn’t that song meant for me?”
He must have lingered too long, as Sasaki turns her head, and upon noticing him waves him over, “Totty! Totty, is that you? To-- wait, where are you--”
Todomatsu doesn’t hear the rest of her words as he turns tail and races home, heart beating out of time. He doesn’t stop until he’s at the front door, fumbling with his keys.
He shuts himself in the bedroom, leaning against the closet door, catching his breath, squeezing himself into a ball, feeling even smaller and stupider than ever before. He cranes his neck up, hitting the closet door behind him, and a slip of paper floats out from under the door. It’s a music sheet, and judging by the handwriting, Karamatsu had written this out, and apparently had decided to name the song after Todomatsu. Todomatsu manages to smile a bit at that, before noticing the date on it written at the bottom.
He frowns, before sitting up and turning around to open the closet door fully. A cascade of music sheets spills at his knees. All of them with his name at the top. He sifts through them, but it’s just chords upon chords, with Karamatsu’s chicken scratch all over them, of key changes and minute notes scrawled all over the page, as if he’s indecisive. He gingerly thumbs through the pile, and notices a few sheets down the name of the song changed to “Todomatsu 2”. He sinks down onto the tatami. The rest were the same—sometimes the name changes to Totty or Todo, but they were all numbered—all the way to number 26 where Karamatsu had simply written “T”. Along the way, it seems that Karamatsu was seemingly more frustrated as he went along, with more changes and scribbled out notes. And at the very end, at the very last page with only two bars of notes, there in small, sullen katakana was--
I need to stop.
The front door clacks open, and Todomatsu is shaken out of his reverie with a jolt, scrambling to pick them all up, before….
“Totty?” Footsteps up the stairs. “Totty, are you home? Sasaki-san said that she saw you, but you left?” The bedroom door slides open. “Is there something wrong, Tot--”
Todomatsu clutches the sheets to his chest, acutely aware that he must look like an idiot, but Karamatsu is looking ghostly pale, terrified even, but eventually holds out a hand. “Ah, T-Todomatsu, it seems that you, ah--”
“They’re all named Todomatsu.”
Karamatsu waits, then softly replies, “yes.”
Todomatsu nods, feeling the sheets crinkle in his hands.
“Are...are you mad?”
Todomatsu thinks about it, but shakes his head. He doesn’t know how to describe what he’s feeling, but he’s not mad, at least. “This is...this isn’t what I was expecting.” He admits at last, looking up. “Am I supposed to be mad?”
Karamatsu takes a step back, “I-- uh-- I hope you’re not, but it’s...up to you? Oh god, what am I saying,” he whines, his voice going up an octave above his normal timbre.
Todomatsu slowly stands up, noticing the way Karamatsu’s adam apple bobs nervously. It feels surreal, this atmosphere between them. But eventually he hands over the sheet music to Karamatsu, his chest feeling strangely cold now that he’s not holding the papers close to him anymore. “I...I don’t know where to go from here,” he admits. And I’m scared to find out.
Karamatsu shakes his head. “I never want to,” a deep sigh, “want to push you into anything. Ever. But this is me. I guess. I never planned on you finding out, but...here we are. I took these out from the attic because I wanted to burn them, but--”
Todomatsu reaches a hand out to grab Karamatsu’s arm, but pulls away quickly. “No! I mean...please don’t. I like your songs. I like…that they’re for me.” That much was true, wasn’t it?
Karamatsu looks down at his work, a half smile on his face. “I wrote the first few ones, thinking that, maybe, you’d like to do a duet with me one day. You’d sing, and I’d play. And thought about how that would be like. And then after that, I just stopped at thinking about you.” He turns his head away. “A-a thousand pardons, Todomatsu, you probably didn’t want to hear that--”
“Why didn’t you ever ask me?”
A dramatic sigh. “Your brother is a coward, Todomatsu. You should know that by now.”
Todomatsu shakes his head, “there seems to be a lot I don’t know about you, I guess. But I….I want to change that.”
“Really?” It’s impossible to miss how much Karamatsu’s face lights up at the idea.
“Don’t make me say it again.” Todomatsu pulls the first page of the stack, the very first song, scanning it. “You never wrote any lyrics, how am I supposed to sing this?”
The smile Karamatsu gives him is almost blinding. “I can definitely add some for you.”