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Let everything return to zero

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The day he finally leans down to kiss Kaito, Christopher curls his fingers just so, delicately, like he's holding one of Mihael's favorite china cups, and tucks a lock of hair behind his ear: he doesn't want it to end up tangled between – into – their mouths, that's all there is to the gesture (and perhaps a cowardly carefulness not to invade the other's personal space anymore than he has to, not when he's already committing such a transgression of personal boundaries and self-imposed ethics). It's not his intention to come off as coy, artificially so, like it's a calculated move or his body language is all broken because it would be otherwise uncharacteristic of him. Christopher sees, before closing his eyes, Kaito arching an eyebrow (wondering or disappointed or what else, because Kaito seems to emote solely through a range of frowns nowadays) and forces a smile which, he's sure, will only add to the shamelessness of his actions, will make Kaito angrier; still, he needs it not to crumble, for whatever would show on his face otherwise is not something he can allow himself to show Kaito.

It's a cowardly act, nothing more than a way to corner Kaito and force him to give Christopher the one thing he truly wants: some sort of certainty regarding them: forgiveness or punishment to put his heart at ease one way or another; an answer, without having to ask the question first. He has been careful, the way only a lowlife and a backstabber could be, not to give Kaito the time or the space to step back, raise a hand; the chance to elbow Christopher in the stomach and make him vomit out the words. He's starting to realize that it's a bad habit of his, the natural fruit of a weakness deeply rooted inside of him, at this moment like it was back then, when he had sought, he had wanted, to hurt Kaito, to be spiteful and bruise him because the world had just been turned upside down, robbing him of the last, the only good thing he had left, and Christopher needed to get back at it somehow, to get back at Kaito too for being part of it and one of the reasons for that pain—for being that final wound. He had yelled and shoved and struck, irrationally wishing that the hurt he was inflicting upon Kaito would somehow spread to his father and all the people who could still afford to be happy and go about their daily lives taking their boring normalcy for granted, while Christopher was kept up at night by guilt, loneliness and the anxiety that his siblings might be adopted and never return to him if he didn't hurry, and what if Faker had been mistaken, what if their father were still alive instead, calling for help in a place where no one would hear him, was it too late, what exactly was left for him to salvage and fix.

Christopher could have kissed Kaito then instead, when he knew Kaito would have wanted him to; he would have, had he been a better person, but it was easier to play adult and big brother, not letting himself believe that there really was the support and the affection that Kaito wordlessly promised, within that kid who could barely reach Christopher's shoulder if he stood on his tiptoes. It was easier to reject the idea that mature, responsible Christopher would need such things at all. It was easier to smile with condescending affection, laugh and wave off with arrogant benevolence the hand that was presented to him time and time again—in that sense, at least, it could have been said that Christopher was very skilled in mimicking those mistakes adults commit endlessly, effortlessly, like it's second nature to them. How cute, he would think then, looking at Kaito, measuring his efforts like it was his natural right, his role. What a good kid, but so naïve still, and immature. He would issue this merciless judgment, nod to himself, satisfied, and pat Kaito's shoulder or his head, like it was his natural right or his role. How immature I was, I am, thinks Christopher now, because Kaito is a better person and a better big brother than he'll ever be. Kaito, who had protected Haruto with everything he had, torn his insides to shreds for him, while Christopher had given Tron free reign, the right to consume everything with his hatred—even his children; Christopher's most precious siblings. He left them at the mercy of a cruel god, he let them suffer through horrible things and do horrible things in turn. The responsibility for their scars and their sins weighed down on his and his father's back, equally.

The truth was that Christopher had always been aware that revenge would lead to nothing, deep down. Going along with Tron's plan merely meant to continue what he had started by striking Kaito, to repeat it countless times until it sated his heart—a satisfaction that would begin, and end, the moment before he would finally be forced to face the gaping wound that tormented him, the void that threatened to emerge from it to devour him whole, erasing the person Christopher had desperately wanted to believe he was. The truth was that, at some point, somewhere in his heart, Christopher had looked at the twisted form of his father, the immense hatred and sadness in his eyes, and had decided (for himself; and implicitly: for his brothers and the stranger that used to be Byron) that there was nothing to be done, not to save him or turn back time, or piece back together the warm thing their family had been once upon a time. It had been a devastating realization and a reassuring one at the same time, because it meant, in retrospect, that he had been right in casting aside his doubts as mere paranoia; that leaving his brothers behind had been the right choice, the only thing he could have done. Facing them as V, instead of Christopher, was liberating: a cold slab of marble to seal the tomb of their childhood, their family and all the happiness they had been granted and could have had still. Christopher had told himself it was the only way to face the future as they were, that Thomas and Mihael were young, yes, but needed to understand, because the world was harsh and wouldn't spare anyone, not a father with a family to return to, not even children, and weren't these all family matters, after all? The truth was, however, that Christopher had been silently pleading all along, begging his siblings not to look at him as their big brother anymore; not to seek guidance from him, not to reproach him for all the things he did and did wrong and all those he didn't do at all.

Christopher had decided to kill the hope in his breast, but it would not truly end unless he killed the fragments that resided within his brothers as well, and so he had betrayed them and the Byron who left one day at dawn to follow after his soon-to-be murderer, like Abel did with Cain at the beginning of time and people would do over and over, hurting and being hurt, until it all returned to nothing, smiling a calm smile, surely counting on Christopher to take care of everything, should anything happen although—although, no, he never suspected a thing; it wouldn't have scarred him as much if he did.

Perhaps, Christopher is betraying Kaito too – again – with this kiss, so it makes him feel a bit better when Kaito grasps his hair, the hair he grew out because Byron wore his long, gathered in a thick braid, and Christopher felt like he could burst from happiness and pride whenever people glanced at him and went, oh my, you look just like your father!, which Kaito probably got a lot as well, because the resemblance with Faker is there, clear as day in his hair, his cheekbones, his eyes and the shape of his chin—it's possible that Haruto took after their mother, Christopher wouldn't know, there were never any pictures of her around, not even in Kaito's personal room, leading him to believe that this is yet another similarity, the one choice Faker made that Kaito wholeheartedly agrees with, but he knows better than inquiring about it, knows he should be careful because, truthfully, Christopher has always been sort of clumsy with this kind of thing and not in a hilarious or endearing way, no, he knows from experience, like that time Thomas was teasing Mihael over his plump cheeks and Christopher reassured him that they were very pretty instead, because their mother had been the same, looked almost just like Mihael, at which Thomas' eyes had clouded over, because he knew he looked nothing like Chris, nothing like Byron, and nothing like Mihael so nothing like their mother so what was his place, where did he belong, not the youngest who is entitled to be spoiled and coddled, not the oldest entrusted with the things that mattered, and when Mihael demanded to see pictures Thomas stood up, startling the dog and dropping his serving of cake with its dainty platter onto the expensive rug; well, he said then, the cake was dry and this tea sucks, because he had to pretend that he had intended to be mean and spiteful all along because he did not care, even though it was the cake Christopher got at their favorite bakery after hours in line, and the tea was Mihael's carefully brewed tea, already so delicious even though it was only his third attempt. Hadn't Christopher known, then, as Thomas stomped away and up the stairs to his room, that he wanted to be stopped, scolded a bit maybe, just to know that his actions held a weight to them, that he wasn't ignored and unimportant, and hadn't Christopher remained silent instead, scowling disapprovingly the way adults are supposed to do—the way he did with Kaito when Kaito used to look up at him with a flushed face, sparkling eyes, words ready on his tongue waiting just for the right moment, but Chris only ever smiled, congratulating himself for reading between the lines and for knowing what's best, for sparing Kaito any unnecessary embarrassment, because he was young (like his brothers) and needed support and protection, and wasn't he lucky that Christopher cared for him (like he did for his brothers of course)? And Kaito.

Kaito grasps his hair which Christopher grew out because his heart swelled with pride when they told him, oh my, you look just like your father!, but nowadays Christopher feels more like his own person, more like the boy-young man who screwed up and is a coward, than the immaculate ghost of a father he conjured up to dilute the loneliness and the anger and the helplessness on the nights he watched Byron stuff his things into a briefcase, smiling: be good to your brothers Christopher, and Christopher could never bring himself to ask: but what about me, who will take care of me. He bets that Kaito would never even think like that, Kaito who truly is a good person, and brave, and the perfect big brother.

Kaito, with his shoulders that felt birdlike under Christopher's hands once upon a time, and his head tilted back, just a little, just enough so it seems as if his cold eyes are staring him down even though Christopher towers over him; Kaito who doesn't pull on his hair like he has all the right to do, should he only wish so, and tucks it behind Christopher's ear again, with a gentleness that doesn't match his scowl (which one is it? what's this one for, I can't read you anymore, no, I was never able to in the first place it's arrogant isn't it that I feel guilty now like it's my fault you don't smile anymore). Kaito who is eighteen now and will never grow any taller anymore, with his cold eyes that make Christopher feel judged, despised, rejected, which Christopher thinks, is exactly how it should be.

"What's with that face?" spits out Kaito. "If you want to tell me something, I won't understand unless you speak clearly."

Christopher drowns out the impulse to bite back, which he would have done at any other time, and straightens himself up, smiles a smile that can't hide the tremor in his voice when he begins: you're right, trying to believe that he's ready to stop running away and confess everything, but the truth is, he's losing all the words he'd painstakingly gathered across weeks, months, maybe the years when he didn't know he wanted to be able to say them yet. They drop from his tongue, one by one, like dead leaves. Maybe, this time, he's the one who will be hit. Maybe, this time, it will be Kaito to end everything.

Kaito clicks his tongue, says: "You look like you're having too much fun commiserating yourself, in front of your student of all people. Aren't you ashamed?"

"You're right," Christopher repeats like a broken record, to buy time, just enough to find a response that isn't a blatant excuse.

Kaito walks closer, close enough that he could be the one to kiss Christopher this time, instead he looks to the side, then down, and "Haruto missed you," he mutters, a bit too fast, a bit too jumbled up to match the emotions, or lack of thereof, his face displays.

Christopher wishes he could stop his lips from shaking into a crooked smile and actually say something, but that is before Kaito turns away, calling him an idiot with a voice that reminds him of the times he would hide his flushed face after being praised, clumsily trying to sound stern, and failing, and at that point Christopher knows he can only nod and wait for the day Kaito will find the words he wants him to hear, too.