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My Secret Keeper

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The last thing Ichimatsu ever expected to see was Choromatsu wearing a dress.

This was saying something, considering all of them had a collection of dirty secrets and unspeakable deeds they’d committed in the past. At this point in their lives, Ichimatsu thought there would never be something that would surprise him about his brothers.

But Choromatsu wearing a navy-blue cocktail dress was definitely very low on Ichimatsu’s something-my-shit-brother-would-be-into list. If it was Totty that was another story. But Choromatsu?

Never.

So when Ichimatsu entered the supposedly-empty bathroom to see Choromatsu in a dress clipping on earrings, he was shocked to say the least. The two stared at each other in silence, eyes wide.

“Don’t tell anyone,” were the first words out of Choromatsu’s mouth. They were barely above a whisper.

Ichimatsu just stared. He hated being this openly rude to one of the few people who actually knew him, but he couldn’t help it. He’d never seen Choromatsu like this before.

His brother had on a dress with thin spaghetti straps and a low-cut back that left the smooth skin of his shoulders exposed. There was a slit running up one side that also showed off an entire leg. Choromatsu had shaved, Ichimatsu noted. He was also wearing makeup, and an oddly stylish green bob wig. And…were those breasts?

Choromatsu noticed where Ichimatsu was staring and covered the area with his arms.

“They’re not real!” he said.

Ichimatsu turned away quickly. Real or not, staring at boobs was a definite no-no. While his back was still turned, he heard Choromatsu sigh.

“I guess I should explain, huh?”

“Y-you don’t have to.”

“I will.” Another sigh. “I figured I’d have to tell someone about this eventually. I’ll get out of this so we can talk.”

Ichimatsu swallowed. “S-sure.”

He went upstairs and sat in the bedroom, waiting for Choromatsu. About 10 minutes later the other came up. He was dressed down in his usual green sweatshirt and blue jeans. The dress was tucked away in a plastic bag. He sat down on the couch next to Ichimatsu.

“So…”

“So…”

The two sat in silence, unable to figure out exactly what to say in that moment. What were they supposed to say?

Ichimatsu could feel the cold sweat forming on his palms already. This was bad. He was already bad at social interactions, but the one thing he could depend on was his brothers. Now the most ‘normal’ of them proved to be not quite as normal as what met the eye. Asking your brother why he was keeping crossdressing a secret should not be an awkward thing, right? Or was it? Was he blowing it out of proportions?

The more Ichimatsu thought, the closer he got to a panic.

Thankfully, Choromatsu was the first to speak.

“I can explain.”

Ichimatsu gave a grunt of acknowledgement. To anyone else it would’ve seemed like a rude gesture, but Choromatsu knew this was the best Ichimatsu could do in this situation.

“I’m not sure if I’m completely happy being male anymore.”

“Eh?”

“Yeah,” said Choromatsu. “I dunno. I started thinking about being independent, and this sort of happened. It’s not what I expected about making a name for myself, but…”

Choromatsu just shrugged a bit, smiling sheepishly. “So yeah. I’ve been saving my money to buy these things instead.”

Well, that explained the lack of new idol materials lying around the house.

Ichimatsu swallowed. “So, um, when…?”

“When did I start doing this?”

“Yeah…”

“Recently. I actually bought a Nyaa-chan cosplay about a year ago, and, well…” His face turned bright red. “Something about it just felt good. Empowering, almost. After that I started borrowing Totty’s clothes too.”

Ichimatsu nodded again. No one questioned when Todomatsu had acquired women’s clothing and a couple of wigs, but that wasn’t important. What was important was the way Choromatsu was fidgeting with the hem of his shirt and biting his lip. What was important was the way Choromatsu was sniffling and looking away from him. What was important was making sure Choromatsu didn’t feel bad about himself.

Ichimatsu awkwardly opened his arms. Choromatsu blinked, staring at his younger brother with a mix of confusion and…hope? Without saying a word. he clambered into Ichimatsu’s lap and buried his face into his brother’s shoulder. He sniffled. Ichimatsu held him tightly, petting his back.

After a while Choromatsu pulled away, rubbing his nose with his sleeve. “Sorry.”

Ichimatsu shrugged. “It happens.”

They sat in silence again, but this one was more comfortable. Choromatsu had his head leaning against Ichimatsu’s shoulder. The two never really spent time one-on-one. Ichimatsu had to admit this was nice.

“Do you want me to call you something else?” he finally asked. “Like, a girl’s name?”

Choromatsu shook his head. “I’m still figuring it out myself.”

Ichimatsu nodded slowly.

Choromatsu sighed. “You’re probably wondering if this is a permanent thing or not, aren’t you?”

“A bit.” Ichimatsu glanced over. “Is it?”

“Again, I’m not sure. I’m still figuring it all out.”

“Well, do you like having a dick?”

“What do you think?”

Ichimatsu smirked. “I don’t know what we’d call you without one, Fappymatsu-niisan.”

Choromatsu did not look impressed. “Really? You’re going to call me that now, after everything?”

The younger shrugged. It was normal to do that.

Choromatsu began to rant about something completely asinine. Ichimatsu usually would’ve clicked his tongue and told the other to shut up, but he didn’t this time. Choromatsu was obviously still shook up about being discovered. His rambling wasn’t usual. There was a distinct waver in his voice, and it was pitched higher. Choromatsu was also stuttering. His hands shook a bit.

He looked on the verge of another breakdown.

This time, though, Ichimatsu knew what to say.

“I’ll keep your secret,” said Ichimatsu, “until you’re ready to tell everyone else.”

“Thank you.”

Two months later Choromatsu came down to dinner wearing a grey skirt with his usual plaid button-up. Everyone except Ichimatsu stared. No one was sure how to comment on it.

“Soooooo,” said Osomatsu finally, “is this a new thing you’re doing to help Choromatsu Junior get up and running?”

Choromatsu’s eyes narrowed. “Please don’t call my dick ‘Choromatsu Junior.’”

“Fine, fine.”

Todomatsu frowned. “Seriously though, Choromatsu-niisan. What’s up with the skirt?”

Ichimatsu could see the moment of hesitation, when Choromatsu debated whether or not to tell them what he’d told Ichimatsu just a few weeks before. The elder turned to Ichimatsu for help. He shrugged.

Do what you think you’re ready for, his eyes said.

So Choromatsu nodded. He turned back to Todomatsu.

“Just trying something. I don’t know, but I just really wanted to wear a skirt today.”

“Weird…” Totty mumbled.

Karamatsu chuckled, wrapping an arm around Choromatsu’s shoulder. “Well, I for one support you on whatever fashion journey you decide to pursue, burazaa.”

Everyone braced for Karamatsu to be shot down by the straight-man. Instead, though, Choromatsu smiled and patted Karamatsu’s hand.

“Thank you, Karamatsu-niisan. That means a lot.”

No one else said a word at the dinner table that day, save for Karamatsu and his babbling tears.

Choromatsu slowly became more open about the fluidity of his gender. He usually wore the same old clothes, but on occasion he’d ask the others to call him ‘Nee-san’. His collection of women’s clothing grew to include heels, more makeup, and nail polish. He got his ears pierced.

No one questioned the changes, least they face the wrath of Ichimatsu’s dark aura.

Four months later Choromatsu began to go out in public presenting female. He was nervous at first, and had a panic attack in a public restroom after being misgendered at a store. The only person with him at the time was Ichimatsu. It soon became another secret he kept until Choromatsu sat down with the other. He explained everything.

After that incident, no one dared to question Choromatsu. Ichimatsu smiled at the newfound support. He smiled because he wasn’t the only one Choromatsu could depend on.

Six months later no one questioned when Choromatsu came downstairs wearing a new wig and a pair of leggings with a new skirt and blouse. Osomatsu just pointed towards the bathroom.

“Get your face on, we’re going to Chibita’s tonight.”

Ichimatsu, who had just brushed his teeth, was leaving the bathroom as Choromatsu came in. He nodded to the other, stepping aside. “How are you, Choromatsu-niisan?”

Choromatsu turned with a huge smile on his face.

“Ichimatsu! I have an answer to your question!”

What question? he thought. “Okay?”

“Call me Choromi.”

Jyushimatsu, who had been listening in, jumped into the room laughing.

“Choromi-neesan! I really like it!”

Which meant everyone heard.

There was a flurry of movement that resulted in congratulations and well-wishes. Choromi shouted something about the fact she wasn’t dying or leaving, and that Karamatsu was being creepy. Ichimatsu backed away. Let Choromi have this moment.

And that night, five brothers and a sister made their way to eat oden. They all ate and yelled and got drunk and progressively fell asleep on the table. It was as if nothing changed. But Choromi gave Ichimatsu’s shoulder a nudge as Karamatsu’s drunk rambling finally gave way to snores.

“Thank you,” she said.

“What for?”

“For keeping my secret until I was ready.”

Ichimatsu shrugged. “Whatever.”

But deep down, both of them were smiling.