Ah. Korekiyo guessed today was not a good day for Kaito, or any of the douchebags he hung out with from time to time. No, not Kokichi and Rantarou, the other ones. People so caught up in their own masculinity that they took it out on those they deemed ‘feminine’ by their own standards (which were royally fucked, Korekiyo can attest to that).
He felt bad for them.
Words were just words, and he could understand that it wasn’t coming from a place of contempt specifically for Korekiyo himself, but more for their own feminine side (their ‘weak’ side, their ‘girly’ side, their ‘PMSing’ side, Korekiyo chuckled to himself). Their insults were weak and uncreative, so Korekiyo wasn’t affected by them as some might be, but he did not approve of their use of derogatory terms. How many times had Kaito called him a faggot again? How many times did Korekiyo hear the word ‘tranny’ directed towards him? Daffodil? Nancy? Pansy? At least some of them sounded nice, like daffodil. And it’s not like Kaito himself did it all that often, despite being the one who technically started it, but he didn’t do much of anything to help when other people called him names like that either. He just stood there, not going as far as some of the others as they passed by Korekiyo’s table, mumbling a half-assed ‘fag’.
Though not really anyone helped, so maybe Korekiyo should be easier on Kaito.
Again, he had nothing against Kaito in particular, because he wasn’t even the ringleader. He didn’t say stuff like that all the time, especially when his more sensible friends were around. The reason he took particular interest in Kaito was because he could tell that he was a good person. He took care of his friends, he was funny, everybody loved him, and he protected people who needed it. He fended off bullies from the younger college-goers, as he was older than most of the people in his year. It’s just that he had some internal prejudices that slipped out in very unsavoury ways. Oddly enough, Kaito was tolerant with other people (Rantarou was gay, for instance, and Kokichi was definitely not straight), so this only furthered Korekiyo’s confusion. He actually thought that they would become friends, so of course he had held him to higher standards.
Korekiyo was alone at the lunch table, poking at his food (soggy salad and some rice, nothing fancy today), appetite nowhere to be found. It’s not that Korekiyo didn’t have any friends, per se, but it’s not like he, well, had any friends. He talked to people, and people talked to him, but he didn’t have any one person in particular that he hung out with regularly. Friends sat next to you during lunch. Friends told off the dicks who called you ‘molly’. Friends liked you. He could hear the mumbling of other students, some pitying comments about the poor victim of those intolerant men (if you noticed and felt bad, then why the fuck did you just sit there?), and some sniggering remarks of agreement, of how he deserved it. Maybe he did, what was the criteria? He was feminine. He was interested in men. He was weird. He was isolated. Was that all it took to deserve it? Korekiyo wished someone would give him a straight answer already, as he was well-versed in antiquated anthropology, and could only bring himself to understand why the perpetrators themselves would find it in their toxic-masculinity mindset to call him things. Why did innocent, innocuous bystanders have to agree?
So Korekiyo sat alone, not quite friendless, not quite sad, as his consciousness was dragged to the back of his head, so far back that maybe he wouldn’t hear what they said about him, so far back that he felt hidden. So far back that he found Sister.
Korekiyo had grown up in the largest house- one that was traditional and courageous, a symbol of beauty for everyone- in a small village. The house didn’t feel nearly as large when it was jam-packed with people, though. It wasn’t just him and his parents, it was his parents, his grandparents, his aunt and uncle, their sons (his cousins), and their grandparents. So, all in all, there were three pairs of elderly, two pairs of working-age couples, and four boys, so fourteen people in total. Korekiyo was an only child, but he had his cousins there so it wasn’t like he grew up spoiled. However, he was still isolated from them.
“He was born a sissy.” Korekiyo’s father would tell guests, waving a bored hand in the direction of his son. They would give their condolences to him, like he was the death of a Proper Son. It took Korekiyo a few years to understand what they were talking about. He didn’t realize he was a problem.
Korekiyo was not a traditional symbol of masculinity, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, they were a traditional family so a strong man, a warrior, was desired. Korekiyo stayed inside reading books, while his cousins went out hunting with their dad. Eventually, his father began going with them as well, having had given up on his only son. Korekiyo didn’t mind, he was older and much smarter than his cousins, and he had never had any blemishes on his body, nor did he desire any. An obvious exaggeration, as thirteen years of life could not exist without some amount of physical pain, but the worst he had gotten was a scrape from tripping on the stairs, a cut from a kitchen knife while he helped his mom cook, nothing serious. No scars, no bruises, just pale, perfect skin.
The other villagers said he looked like a ghost, translucent and elegant for his age, with piercing, commanding eyes. He barely ever left the comfort of his own house, and so he became more of an enigma among them than just a lonely boy who had grown up surrounded by books rather than people, who didn’t know what it was like for a life to become a story, only what it was like for a story to become a life.
His father always insisted he cut his hair, but Korekiyo never let him. His mother advocated for him, and eventually Korekiyo was allowed to let it grow out. He grew it long and beautiful, and before his fourteenth birthday it was down past his mid-back. His infamy among the inhabitants grew and- as his father was unwilling to acknowledge such a disgrace- they all began to wonder who this person was and where they had come from.
Korekiyo had studied literature and culture so heavily during his years of isolation that he had found something tangible to grasp. These days, no one remembers old parts of culture, but this is what books are for. Korekiyo’s brain began to make sense of itself when he found out that in old cultures, there was such a thing as a human who fell between a man and a woman. Among Native Americans, this was referred to as ‘two-spirited’, and was revered for its rarity and spiritual implications. It wasn’t defined by appearance, but by qualities, and it was usually applied to homosexuality or those who didn’t believe themselves to be either male or female. They said these people had the qualities of both a man and a woman, and that they were healers and caregivers. Korekiyo believed himself to be that, two-spirited.
He began to collect furisode and susohiki kimonos, very elegant and prestigious garments, though he never wore them outside of his room. It was personal, and he knew his dad would hate him for the rest of his life is he saw him dressed up like a woman with his hair decorated and his face made up like, and he could hear his dad say it, some whore. So, fourteen years old and a mystery to those around him, Korekiyo stood alone in his room, staring at himself in the mirror. The kimono didn’t fit him perfectly, too loose in some places, but he was overjoyed. He held his head high, red lipstick catching the dim light. He felt beautiful.
He froze when he heard the door to his room open. Well, not exactly froze, more like the exact opposite, contorting his body into a stiff bow towards the door. He hoped to apologize before he was even asked to, scared that it was his father and that he would be hit for the first time in his life.
“Korekiyo? What are you doing?” It was his uncle. Better than his father, but not by much. He looked more commanding and powerful than his brother, who was quite average, but he was much more understanding when it came to Korekiyo. He had always tried to cheer him up after his father had insulted him, and he always took an interest in the books Korekiyo read. Yes, Korekiyo liked his uncle.
“Ah, uncle. I’m very sorry that you have to see me like this.” Korekiyo said, his back beginning to ache from the ninety-degree angle he was holding it at.
“No need for all the formalities,” He chuckled, “I won’t tell your dad.”
Korekiyo was relieved, like the bricks keeping him bowed had all been taken off at once. He straightened himself when his uncle came closer, a small smile on his face. He saw something in his uncle’s eyes, though. It looked like how he might imagine a starving man looks when he finds hints of food, a trail of breadcrumbs. Korekiyo was smart. It took him only a second to realize what was happening.
He felt a hand trail up his sleeve, and suddenly Korekiyo was all too aware of the disgusting warmth of the hand and the pathways of sweat it left. He pushed his uncle back a bit by the shoulders, desperate to get the heat radiating off of him a thousand feet away. The grip on his arm tightened, and, before he could tell what was happening, the backs of his knees hit the bed. He sat down on it in fear that he might be pushed down if he didn’t move quick enough.
“You know, I always thought you were beautiful. To find you dressed like this... What were you thinking?”
Korekiyo was thinking that he wanted to look pretty. He was thinking that maybe it would help him embrace his two spirits. He wasn’t quite sure what his uncle had meant, but he sensed danger so he backed further onto the bed. His uncle followed, cornering him on the mattress.
“Your skin is even softer than I imagined.”
There was a hand trailing up his leg. The fabric of the kimono was bunched up around the obi.
His outfit was being ruined. He couldn’t bring himself to think anything else. His outfit was being ruined. It was all a waste. It was ruined. It was all ruined. This one moment of peace. Tranquility. A feeling of being whole. Devoured. Gone in the blink of an eye.
Korekiyo could feel rough, uneven nails digging into his thigh. He choked as he felt them drift farther and farther up, until they reached the fabric of his underwear. His uncle groaned, rubbing the soft cotton under his fingers.
“You even wore panties. Were you expecting this to happen? What a slut.”
How was he the slut? He wasn’t the one forcing himself on a minor (and a family member). He wasn’t the one pulling the underwear off of some skinny, trembling kid. He wasn’t the one with an erection pressed up against someone who just wanted to feel complete for once. He couldn’t scream for help. He didn’t want to be seen like this, in women’s clothes, being touched by a once-loved family member. He couldn’t push him off, his arms were frozen and even when he desperately tried to move them he couldn’t. His brain was short-circuiting left and right, his senses were blurred at the edges, and he felt a sudden sense of responsibility crushing his chest.
One of those short-circuits cut off his connection to his body, like cutting the string of a balloon tied to some stupid, scared kid’s wrist.
Korekiyo realized he was completely and utterly detached from his body. He sat in the back of his brain, watching the scene play in front of him as though it were happening on a tv screen. He saw the things his uncle was doing to him, understood how truly messed up it all was, and yet he felt nothing. Someone else had taken his part, sacrificed themselves for his sanity. Sister. He believes it was Sister.
He woke up that morning feeling sore everywhere. His insides felt raw and he wanted to puke he wanted to puke so bad he wanted it to all come out of his mouth so he wouldn’t even have to think about anything coming out of that soreness in the pit of his intestines. He stood up with a wince and wobbled over to the mirror, his knees buckling and stiffening with every step. He took off his shirt and his underwear (still the ones from last night, what a slut) to see if he looked as bad as he felt.
He wanted to clamp his eyes shut, but with some sick sort of resolve he forced himself to stare. A punishment for letting it happen. The bruises around his neck didn’t bother him so much as the ones on his thighs and his hips. How hard had he been held down? How thoroughly fucked was he, in all senses of the phrase? He didn’t leave his room that day, but he told his mom he felt sick so it wasn’t anything suspicious. At least he had taken a shower last night.
Later that week, his uncle came again.
Later that month, his uncle came
Korekiyo barely ever remembered their encounters. But Sister did. Sister can count all the times he had visited. It’s happened so often that neither of them even register it as something terrible anymore. It’s happened so often that Korekiyo knows when to expect him. It’s happened so often that both he and Sister have begun to associate it with pleasure. It’s happened so often that both of them don’t even know they’re going to be fucked up by this for the rest of their lives.
Korekiyo had begun sneaking out at night by the time he was seventeen. It was somewhat of a ritual, pulling on tights, putting on a dress, and applying just a tad of lipstick. This didn’t matter, though, as his mouth was covered by a mask. He had sewn it a while back, and he found it useful for a multitude of reasons. He could wear lipstick without his dad knowing, it kept people from talking to him, and it was dramatic. Though his uncle had lost most of his interest (most of), it had at the time kept him from kissing Korekiyo. Kissing was far too sacred and affectionate to ever share with a partner born out of lust- though Korekiyo had broken his own rule many times before. Usually, though, he never shared small kisses with people. Those were the ones that really meant something.
Korekiyo would climb out the window and drop a few feet to the ground. His room was on the second story, but there was a hill outside of Korekiyo’s window that really helped to lessen the drop. He had to get out of that house. His dad had been getting worse and worse with Korekiyo’s peculiarities, threatening to send him to military boot camp, and his uncle still eyed him and touched him when no one was looking. He thought it best if he at least conversed with people outside of his house, people who didn’t know him. Luckily, security at the village bar was practically non-existent, so he could get in easily despite being underage. He tended to be much taller than most everyone there, especially since he wore shoes with short heels. It was confusing for most people, and he reveled in it. They usually assumed he was just a tall girl, but his voice gave him away.
Most men commented that they would have never known, ‘with legs like that‘.
His intentions were pure when he was seventeen. He went out to meet people, maybe make some friends, and to dress the way he wanted. He found out that most people were only interested in him when he was flirting. It’s not like a tall, phantom-like androgynous human sitting down next to you and babbling about the breathtakingly beautiful thing that humanity and culture is would be a fun time for a bar-goer. However, if that person wasn’t babbling about history and was, instead, touching you feather-light in every spot you didn’t know needed to be touched and telling you about how lonely they are, you might be more interested. Depends on what you go to the bar for.
By eighteen, he was well-known at the bar for his persona, and- though he did not like it being pointed out to him in a rude manner- his sexual escapades. He didn’t understand why he was so attracted to the idea of strangers, but he thought maybe it had something to do with the fact that all his terrible, faded memories were associated with such a close person in his life. He didn’t want sex to be automatically paired up with intimacy for his own sake. He wanted it to be considered just as intimate as self-pleasure, if not less. Korekiyo’s heart belonged to Sister, so he could do things with her and not feel bad about it. They loved each other. He didn’t love these people, however. He was just curious and lonely and it was the only way he could spend a night pretending that he was pretty and acceptable.
There was a sort of trend among the people he spent his nights with. This village was ancient and filled with a history of the occult and witchcraft, so there’s no doubt that some of it had seeped into the modern day. But this was different. Almost every person who took him back to their house was interested in some form of sadomasochism. Korekiyo was usually the one who ended up with his arms and legs bound, but he had also been on the controlling end. It was fun to watch a person melt, turn to putty, at the smallest touches. But it was more fun to see people unleash their frustrations through one of the strangest and most varied methods he had ever seen. He realized that he also very much enjoyed it (despite the fact that it actually made his stomach twist- in a way that someone who hadn’t gone through what he had would associate- with panic). He liked the bruises on his wrists from the cords. He liked both the feeling of powerlessness and total control. He liked hurting others and being hurt. Strange, right? Korekiyo believes this village is cursed. He cannot blame people for hurting him if he is, in fact, correct in his belief.
That’s why he was spread out on a stranger’s bed, hands tied to the headboard. The rope coiled down his body, around his legs, pulling them to his chest. He just wished the man (Korekiyo had already forgotten his name, what a pity) would spend less time telling him how beautiful he was and just fuck him already. It reminded him, reminded Sister, too much of his uncle.
He had read somewhere that countries brought out from a dictatorship and forced into a democracy have no idea how to function. Even if the dictator was harsh and ruining peoples’ lives, they don’t feel safe without them. It had seemed strange to Korekiyo when he had first read it, but now he had begun to understand. An abuser will pin you down and ruin your life, but you’ll still waddle back to them. You become accustomed to it. You associate it with being taken care of. When it’s taken away, that familiarity is gone. You’re lost. Korekiyo felt more lost than ever before. Was he the victim of abuse? He had never explicitly said ‘no’ or ‘stop’ unless it hurt more than it needed to. Korekiyo realized it might have been his own fault. If only he had hit him that first night, pushed him off and screamed, but he didn’t and now he was stuck living like some leech, surviving only off of the beauty of others, and he saw no end in sight. Even his uncle had gotten bored.
Sister always told him that maybe going out was a bad idea, though she always ended up much more enthusiastic about the pain and pleasure than he ever was. She wanted him to feel good and be happy, but she didn’t know how to help him. Korekiyo was not sure how to do this either, much less if he even deserved it. So he didn’t listen to her.
Nineteen and off to college. One would only notice he was leaving by the suitcases in the foyer. Korekiyo stroked the supporting pillar in his room, feeling the aged wood rub off on his skin. He was going to miss this place. Sister was going to miss it as well.
His uncle visited him one last time the night (or should he say early morning?) before he left.
“You’ve grown so much since the first time. I think you’ve actually become even more beautiful as the years have gone by.”
Korekiyo wasn’t listening, but he held the fabric of his uncle’s shirt tighter than usual. Maybe he didn’t actually want to say goodbye.
A country without its dictator falls to chaos.
Sunrise came, and his uncle kissed the top of his head as he stood up to leave. Korekiyo sobbed when he closed the door behind him, not sure if it was a cry of victory or a lament. He hoped for his own sake that is was the former.
He left all of his dresses in the cabinet. Not a single one packed. They were filled with memories of men, nights of loneliness, pain, and he didn’t want their influence seeping into him. He wanted to be stronger than he knew he was.
He barely spoke to his father on his way out, except for their final goodbyes.
“You’ll do better on your own.” He said, giving Korekiyo (not so much of) a pat (as a slam) on the back.
It was funny, though. It sounded as if he never expected to see him again.
Korekiyo’s college life was a huge improvement from any life he had ever had before that. Sure, there were people who made fun of him (Kaito and his rag-tag bunch of hyper-masculine hooligans!) and people who quite obviously disliked him (the most noticeable was probably Angie, a cult-loving girl that he just didn’t mesh well with), but he was studying what he loved and was learning every day. He had left behind all his old experiences, even the ones he had enjoyed. He wanted a new palette, a fresh start. He even got a dorm room all to himself! He was surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful things and he was so happy to be where he was.
Sister was still there, however, hiding at the back of his mind. Even though he truly believed she existed, he was also self-aware enough to understand that she wasn’t something tangible. He was beginning to wonder who she was, why she existed in the first place. Was she now the only remaining memory of his life before he set foot in college, or was she more than that? Was she a living, breathing, moving remnant of all his thoughts from ages fourteen to nineteen, someone who would still save him when he needed it, but could also take control whenever she saw fit? He was scared that he might lose himself at times, forced watch her live his life like some boring, forgettable sitcom. There were other things he had to spend his time worrying about, though.
For instance, Korekiyo didn’t have any friends.
(And he desperately wanted to change that.)
This was why he was just sitting there, Sister pulling him to the back of his own head. He didn’t want this to happen (he didn’t want her to take control), not right now. It had been a great day. Nothing bad had happened.
So, Sister. Why now?
Though they had moved on from his table by now, he could still hear the static of their words buzzing like insects in his ear canal. He put his fork down, the meaningless poking had become annoying even to himself now. He couldn’t even eat the food, not with this mask on (normally, he ate in his dorm, free from all the prying eyes). He didn’t know why he had gotten his hopes up that lunch would be a social affair today, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He just listened to the static, thinking about how he’d do something different tomorrow, how he wouldn’t go to the lunchroom tomorrow. He mentally prepared himself for the walk from his table, all the way to the other end of the large hall, to the exit. A walk of shame, no doubt, but he needed to do it quick. Sister didn’t like being called names.
As he was about to stand up, something broke through the static.
“Kaito, are you a homophobe? Why the fuck would you think it’s okay to use those sorts of words?”
Korekiyo turned his head, only to find Rantarou getting up from his seat next to Kaito (who looked dumbstruck, hurt even). He did it with all the grace in the world, his calm posture not faltering once as he made his way over to where Korekiyo was sitting.
Korekiyo was pulled back to reality. He began to adjust strands of hair, pushing them behind his ear before tugging them back to their original position. Did he look presentable? Was his face pale with panic? he wished he had left sooner.
“Hey, I hope you don’t mind me sitting here. Korekiyo, right?”
Korekiyo’s throat constricted. Of course, he and Rantarou didn’t share any classes and only saw each other from time to time in the dorms, so it made sense that he would ask that. They had barely ever talked.
“Yes, Korekiyo. And no, it’s really my pleasure.” He spoke with an air of confidence, as he always did. Despite his nerves, he could pull himself together easily when he needed too.
“Sorry about Kaito. He’s a good guy, really, he just doesn’t know where to draw the line.” Rantarou said, frustrated but chuckling all the same. Korekiyo felt blessed to even witness such a gorgeous human being in the flesh, all summer freckles and autumn fire. He already knew Rantarou was pretty (everyone did), but the devil’s in the details and Korekiyo was already on a one-way trip to Hell.
“Why did you sound so angry then? If you don’t think he meant it, why did you come over here? I’m not one who appreciates pity offerings, for your information.”
“Well, because I was mad? He shouldn’t say shit like that and pass it off like it’s okay just because you’re weird and antisocial.” Rantarou said, his passion somehow obvious even in his relaxed tone. Still, he didn’t pull any punches. Korekiyo appreciated that.
“Thank you, though. I do not take extreme offense at those sorts of terms, but I am glad to know that someone was willing to call him out.” Korekiyo fiddled with a napkin, unsure of how to converse with someone of such a high caliber.
“I’m glad you’re okay with it, but you really shouldn’t let them get away with that. You don’t deserve it.”
Korekiyo thought he might do something embarrassing right then and there. It was Rantarou’s own fault for saying something so uncalled for, like some sort of ignorant hero in a young adult novel who gave vaguely “wise” advice. What did he know about Korekiyo, what did he know about deserving things? More importantly, why did Korekiyo actually feel like one of those slightly-melted chocolate bars at his words, at that look of determination on his face? People never ceased to surprise him.
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
Rantarou looked bemused. He chuckled again, soft and earthy. What was wrong with him? Korekiyo was so confused that he forced a laugh, eyes wide and eyebrows unsure. Rantarou took one look at him and his laughing sparked up again like a freshly-lit match. Korekiyo hoped he didn’t look that funny, but he felt how tense and contorted his features were so he could only bring himself to be glad that his mouth was covered.
“Why wouldn’t I be? You haven’t done anything that would make me dislike you. Most people who are picked on by dummies don’t deserve it.” He said, resting his chin on his hands and quirking eyebrow at a Very Uncomfortable Korekiyo.
“Ah, so you do pity me. Very well.” Korekiyo sighed. He was disappointed, not wanting to be treated like some sort of weak and vulnerable animal. If only he had the time to consult Sister.
“No, it’s not that, not at all-“
Korekiyo got up from the table before he could hear the rest of what Rantarou had to say. If he was going to make friends, it would be on his own terms. However, he did hope that he and Rantarou would be friends at some point, once Korekiyo was less pathetic and had mastered the art of charisma. For now, he just had to walk away and pray that he hadn’t ruined a potential friendship!
Later that night, there was a knock on Korekiyo’s door. His mood, drastically different from the one he had earlier that day (much less paranoid, much more enthusiastic), led him to feeling no discomfort whatsoever in not having his mask on. Sister didn’t like being hidden all the time, she needed to get out and socialize! What a good time to have a guest!
“Please, do come in.” He chimed, adjusting himself on the edge of his bed and placing his hands neatly in his lap.
“Sorry to intrude, but I-,” Rantarou was stopped mid sentence, his eyes locked on Korekiyo, “Oh.”
“What’s the matter? Come in, I have tea.”
“Yeah, sorry, it’s just... I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your mask on.” He said, shutting the door behind him and making his way over to the easy chair across from Korekiyo.
“Ah, yes, I guess you haven’t. Sister wanted to meet you, though, so it seems like a good opportunity.” Korekiyo spoke, his smooth voice no longer muffled by any fabric. He got up, walking over to the counter with grace, to heat the kettle and prepare some tea, hoping it would force Rantarou to stay longer than he had planned.
“Sister? Your sister?” Rantarou asked. There was something fiery in his eyes, though quite unlike the fear he usually saw in people who knew absolutely nothing about what was ahead of them. It was curiosity, the true spirit of an adventurer. Korekiyo was absolutely enamored.
“Yes, Sister. The love of my life. My protector.”
“Where is she?”
“Well, her spirit is here, inside me. But Sister is gone.” Korekiyo said, setting the kettle on its stand and starting it. He knew Rantarou would think he was crazy, but it didn’t matter. If he truly wanted to be Korekiyo’s friend, he would have to accept him along with Sister.
“Were you two close?”
Korekiyo had just stated that they were in love, so obviously Rantarou was simply prying for more information.
“We’re lovers, in a sense.” Korekiyo wasn’t lying. All of their sexual experiences had been with each other (and a third party, of course), and Korekiyo thought of her that way. Rantarou’s eyes lit up, the same way someone’s might when they find a book that sounds incredibly interesting as well as incredibly fucked up.
So, they talked over tea, and Rantarou could tell that Korekiyo definitely had some sort of mental illness and most of the stories he told about his sister were most likely not true at all, but he listened all the same. After that night, they became better and better friends, and Korekiyo began to grow comfortable around him. Rantarou never failed to enjoy his stories, be they about his delusional, incestuous past, or his anthropology classes, and Rantarou always shared his own stories about his travels from continent to continent during his gap years. They, oddly enough, became quite a dynamic duo. However, Rantarou’s other friends were still not to keen on his new friend.
Months passed, and Korekiyo missed dresses. He had become attached to them in his formative years, and now he had gone cold turkey in attempt to forget said years, said years that he could barely even remember anyways.
He had opened up to Rantarou about a few very personal things. Definitely not his uncle, definitely not about the bar he spent his time at. But he told him about his dad and how he used to wear dresses, and how it wasn’t like he wanted to be a girl but he didn’t feel like a boy and his dad hated him for it and there was this one thing he read about called two-spirited and sometimes he didn’t even know who he was and all of this came out at once and he didn’t even know he felt that way so he kept babbling and babbling to hide the fact that he meant every word he had said because he didn’t want to mean it and-
Rantarou grabbed his hand. Korekiyo didn’t understand why he was saying those sorts of things. Had they just been hiding there, in his head? Sister told him to run away, to never talk to him again, to never even think about the stuff he just said. He knew that Sister always had his best interests in mind, but he couldn’t bring himself to listen to her, so he held onto the hand he was offered. Actually, he grabbed onto Rantarou and clung to him like cellophane. He could only hope that Rantarou couldn’t tell how heavily he was sobbing into his shoulder, but all the fluids were seeping into his shirt and there was actually no way he wouldn’t notice. Yet still he held onto Korekiyo, who couldn’t be more grateful for the affection.
Korekiyo, having come to terms with issues he didn’t even know he had, decided to add a few items to his wardrobe. He got a job at an antique store, a few blocks from campus, to help him achieve this goal. So, a few weeks later and with a newfound income of somewhat-disposable cash, he went shopping.
The store was lit with bright LEDs, like a hospital. He felt the uncomfortable stares of girls as he browsed through the dresses. He looked feminine enough to not be considered some sort of perverted man, but he was still vaguely male. Feeling self-conscious, he grabbed a few dresses that he thought may fit and made his way to the changing room. He was 6’2” and willowy, not a typical female shape. Dresses were usually either too short for his long legs or too wide for his thin frame.
He pulled on a fern green shirt dress, one designed to be long and wide in the first place. He buttoned up the top and tied the belt around his waist tight, into a little bow. He turned to face himself in the mirror, when something seemed to dawn on him. Even though it had happened a few weeks ago, he was still raw from that conversation with Rantarou, so maybe it was just the after-effects of that. Shaky hands undid the lace of his mask, and he pulled it off, coming face to face with something familiar in the mirror.
Korekiyo was not completely insane, and he was most definitely not stupid. He understood that there was something wrong with him, that Sister was unnatural and a product of trauma and mental illness. However, this didn’t mean that she was unimportant. She was Korekiyo’s protector, the only person who had ever truly loved him, and it made sense that she played the part that she did. When Korekiyo looked in the mirror, his first thought fled to her image- but his second thought was of that night that his uncle first came into his room. See, when Korekiyo had looked at himself in the mirror that night, it wasn’t an image that belonged to someone else. No, he saw himself in that mirror, but he saw himself as his dad could never see him. So shouldn’t Korekiyo be seeing himself right now? And that was his revelation- like snapping out of a dream, like realizing the reason you hadn’t been able to solve a math problem was because you had made a simple mistake early on. Sister wasn’t a protective spirit that lived inside of him, she was him. She was a forgotten part of himself that he separated in order to prevent himself from feeling everything his uncle had done to him. She was a piece of him that he had removed in order to be a man that his father wanted. He didn’t go out as Sister all those nights when he was just becoming an adult, he was just Korekiyo hiding from all the parts of himself he desperately wanted to destroy.
And Korekiyo realized he might have just lived most of his life as only half of himself, as a sliver that he hoped his close relations would deem acceptable. He had forced himself to fantasize something romantic to keep himself sheltered from the brutality of reality, and he was realizing this all in a forgettable changing room in a forgettable store in a forgettable mall and it all felt incredibly silly.
Korekiyo still had many things to figure out, but he left the store with a shopping bag with clothes he knew he would wear (whether it was in front of people or not), and a new sense of who he was and why he was.
Sister still felt real to him, but the barrier between them was eroded and close to breaking down, and soon he’d be able to embrace her as just another aspect of himself. He smiled with a sense of hope.
Korekiyo only wore those parts of his wardrobe to his job, because it was a very calm and laid-back workplace and his boss (a man in his early 50s with all the charm and charisma of a college student with a dream and motivation) was supportive of his confusion. He had come to work in that same shirt dress, with black sheer tights and green flats. He felt pretty, and he hadn’t even come to work with his mask on. His boss gave him a big thumbs up and a wink, and Korekiyo’s mouth twitched at the corners. He was both embarrassed and so happy that he thought he might start laughing at even the slightest prompt. Unfortunately, his happy laugh just made him seem psychotic, so he had to force his good mood to shut the fuck up.
His job was fun. Sure, it was antiques mainly from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, but he still learned about each item they had so he could give customers the run-down and intrigue them into buying things. His boss was proud to have someone so enthusiastic as an employee.
Today, things were slow. He sat at the front table, waiting patiently to hear the ring of the bell that hung above the door. He waited and waited, until right as he was about to leave for his lunch break, he heard that familiar tinkle of the bell.
Korekiyo’s heart started pounding and his brain shut down when he saw Rantarou in all his baggy clothes and bleach-turned-green hair glory. He kept himself calm and composed as his one and only friend came over to the counter.
“Hey,” Rantarou leaned onto the tabletop, his smile relaxed and content, ”I didn’t know you worked here.”
“Well, you know now. So, what brought you here?” Korekiyo said, getting out his boxed lunch. He was hesitant to eat, though, as he didn’t want to have any unnecessary pauses. He was just desperate to have something to do with his hands.
“I just like going to antique stores sometimes. They always have the coolest stuff.” Rantarou said, practically begging Korekiyo to show him all the most interesting things in the store. He could see that fire in Rantarou’s eyes again.
“Do you want to look around with me?” Korekiyo asked, though his eyes refused to meet the green ones in front of him. Too close.
“Obviously.” Rantarou said, a playful grin pulling at his lips. Korekiyo got up, smoothing down the front of his dress and making his way out from behind the front desk. Rantarou’s eyes immediately met his outfit, from the collar to the shoes. Korekiyo forgot that Rantarou wouldn’t have been able to tell it was a dress from behind the counter. Suddenly he wanted to run back behind the counter but this feeling was all good and normal so he might as well embrace it.
“Wow- you really did it, Kiyo. And you look gorgeous.”
Korekiyo knew that Rantarou was just a friend, and hey, maybe it was a friendship originally born out of pity. But it felt good to hear him say that. Korekiyo couldn’t help the blood that was rushing to his face (gross and hot and blotchy and eugh). Luckily, Rantarou didn’t seem to notice and they just looked around the store while Korekiyo told him the stories of all the books and postcards and art pieces in the store. He spent forever in that moment, with the rays of sun and all the dust that caught the light and just having someone by his side. It felt warm.
Rantarou was a free spirit. Korekiyo was not. They made a good pair all the same.
Korekiyo realized that once you start to open up about your problems, even if it’s only to one person, even if it’s only to yourself, you end up crying a lot. You cry and cry and cry because you’ve broken the dam you used to think protected you. But Korekiyo doesn’t mind crying anymore.
He hasn’t told Rantarou about his uncle, but it’ll come up if he ever needs to tell someone. He knows Rantarou will listen, he just doesn’t want to be pitied again. He wants Rantarou to like him for him, and not out of obligation.
They kissed once. Actually, Korekiyo kissed him. It was a Friday night, and Rantarou had come to his dorm room just to hang out for a bit, talk about school and watch dumb shows. Sitting with someone on a couch, in the complete darkness except for the glow of the television, really gave a person courage that was extremely unwanted. He was just so pretty and nice and amazing and Korekiyo wanted to thank him for everything he had done but he didn’t know how to even begin. So, his foggy brain told him it would be a super duper amazing and flawless idea to just kiss him. Unfortunately, Korekiyo was not very well-versed in kisses that were meant to be soft and loving. He was too worried about how sweaty his palms were to actually turn Rantarou’s head, so instead he opted to scoot closer to him and turn to face him (his legs curled under himself at such an awkward angle but he didn’t have time to readjust because if he didn’t do this now, he would never do it). He leaned in, giving Rantarou a window of escape just in case he really didn’t want this. Rantarou just smiled his gorgeous smile and Korekiyo pressed his lips against his.
It was embarrassing.
Rantarou laughed, for some reason that Korekiyo couldn’t quite figure out. Rantarou assured him that it wasn’t directed towards his skill or anything. He said it was just because he was cute. He said it was because he wasn’t expecting something so tentative and gentle coming from such an extreme personality like him. Korekiyo felt pink in the face and sat back down at the edge of the couch. They never talked about it again.
Korekiyo felt comfortable enough to wear dresses around him, and Rantarou always sat with him at lunch and visited him at the antique store.
Kaito keeps quiet around him now, because he respects Rantarou and doesn’t want to look bad in front of him. Korekiyo was glad to have that part of his college life gone.
Sister was nowhere to be found. Actually, she wasn’t gone, she was just part of Korekiyo and he needed to get used to it. His mask rarely ever seemed necessary, almost a symbolic show of her disappearance, though he still wore a sick mask on occasion. Rantarou always pulled it down anyways. Korekiyo used to mind, but now he sees that Rantarou just feels like he shouldn’t have to hide anymore. He wanted Korekiyo to not feel like an outsider looking in. So they went to the movies with Rantarou’s friends and they went grocery shopping together and they did all of these normal sorts of things and and and
and Korekiyo realized that he didn’t have to hide from his old memories, he just had to replace them with better ones. He had to make all the bad worth it for all the good.
Korekiyo was alright, and he was still getting better.