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            Watching them was…painful.

            Choromatsu was happy for them. Really, he was. He could see how much happier his older brothers were now. Osomatsu in particular. He had finally returned to his old, happy self. He and Karamatsu were so much closer now. It made sense considering that Osomatsu imprinted on him. Todomatsu was the one who figured it out first, pointing out that their scents had mixed. Although that last part was a bit obvious considering how they found them that night. Sleeping there on the floor, curled up in each other’s arms. Naked. Choromatsu gave them both a rude awakening. They could have at least cleaned up after themselves before knocking out. He made sure they did after chewing them out.

            The next day, Osomatsu took Ichimatsu outside, wishing to have a chat with him. Choromatsu was a little concerned about the two have them being alone together, but Karamatsu reassured him that everything will be fine. A couple minutes later, Ichimatsu came back inside dragging Osomatsu. Osomatsu’s arms were wrapped around his waist and he was flailing his legs.

            “Onii-chan is hurt, Ichimacchan! Do you not love me?” he cried out.

            “Let go, shitty eldest,” Ichimatsu deadpanned, clearly uninterested in showing Osomatsu any affection.

            “Love me, Ichimacchan! Love me! Love me!” Osomatsu said flailing even harder. Ichimatsu suddenly stopped and looked back at Osomatsu with a malicious grin.

            “Do you want my affection so badly? Fine. But only if you ask for it properly.” Osomatsu looked at him a little concerned.

            “Eh? W-what do you mean?”

            “Beg. On your knees. Say something like, ‘Oh great Ichimatsu-sama, grant some of your benevolence to this unworthy servant’ or something similar.” Osomatsu actually looked ready to do just that, but before he could, Ichimatsu stopped him. “Just kidding,” he said, slightly smiling. Osomatsu grinned back up at him and they both shared a laugh.

            “So…are we ok?” Osomatsu asked. Ichimatsu responded with a grunt of affirmation. Karamatsu and Choromatsu smiled gently at the situation before them. Choromatsu in particular was relieved. Karamatsu was right. Everything would be fine.

Well it was fine for those two at least.

            Osomatsu was all over Karamatsu. Those two couldn’t be separated. Living together probably helped with that. They were together from morning ‘til night. Choromatsu watched them from a distance. Although he would be the first to say that his older brothers should have a bit more tact, he had to admit it was nice seeing them get along more. The way they would talk to each other, hold one another, and most importantly, how they looked at each other. Like they were each other’s whole world. In those moments, Choromatsu would find himself looking at Ichimatsu. He was jealous. He wished that he could look at him like that and be looked at like that. He wished he too could have that kind of relationship. So yea, seeing his older brothers like that was nice.

            But it was also painful.

 


 

 

            To be honest, he doesn’t even know how his little crush began. When did he start looking at his immediate younger brother as more than that? He had to admit that he did admire Ichimatsu’s independence. Not only that, but he thought it was real mature that even though Ichimatsu is an Alpha, he doesn’t fight Osomatsu for control, being content with the normal order of things. The only time those two fought was recently and that was apparently a misunderstanding and they’ve made up. If he were an Alpha, Choromatsu knows he would’ve clashed with his older brother many times over. Plus, he found his younger brother to be adorable…in his own way. His messy hair, the way he would curl into himself. Not to mention those cat ears of his. He only showed them when he was surprised or angry, but they were so fluffy and…

            Choromatsu was getting flustered. His grip grew tighter on the book he was reading as he shook his head. That’s when he noticed Ichimatsu staring at him intensely. Why? Did he do something? No, definitely not. Well he was daydreaming about him, but it’s not like Ichimatsu could read his mind…right? Either way, he hadn’t outwardly done anything. He was just sitting by the window reading a book. And it’s not like anyone else was around to…oh. Oh.

            They were alone.

            Choromatsu gulped. How did this happen without either one of them noticing? When did everyone else take off anyway? He had to think of something. Ichimatsu was looking at him expectantly. He closed his book a little harder than he intended which startled Ichimatsu. Choromatsu looked up at him and took a deep breath.

            “So Ichimatsu…it’s uh…nice weather today, isn’t it?” Great start.

            “Yea…it’s okay, I guess,” he replied shakily. Choromatsu knew they both were going to reach their limit soon. He wished desperately that they weren’t so awkward around each other and could just talk, but, at least for now, he knew that wasn’t going to happen.

            “Do you happen to know where everyone went?”

            “No idea.”

            “Right, of course. It’s not like you always keep track of everyone,” Choromatsu said, laughing nervously. He stood up and began walking toward the door. “Well I know how much you like silence, so I’ll just leave-”

            “No, you can stay…if you want,” Ichimatsu mumbled. Choromatsu looked at him surprised. Ichimatsu pulled his knees closer to his chest. “I mean, it’s whatever.” Well it’s not like Choromatsu actually wanted to leave, so he decided to stay. Neither of them spoke for what felt like hours though they would occasionally glance at the other as if wanting to say something. In a way, the silence was relaxing, but there was a slight tension that neither could ignore. Soon enough, however, they heard the sound of the door being slid open and the voices of two of their brothers. They simultaneously released a breath that neither of them realized they held.

            “Man, we didn’t win anything today! I really wanted to go drinking tonight too!”

            “Heh, fret not, buraza. We may have come home empty handed today, but surely next time Lady Luck will smile upon us and we shall bathe in her glory as we revel in our spoils.” Only one person in the house could ever speak like that. They now knew who came home. Not that it mattered, as long as someone came back. Osomatsu and Karamatsu entered the room shortly thereafter as they continued their conversation.

            “Is it that hard to just say ‘we’ll do better next time’, Karachu?” Osomatsu asked teasingly. Before Karamatsu could respond, he took notice of their younger brothers in the room.

            “Ah, Choromatsu and Ichimatsu. Have you both been home all day?”

            “Yea, just enjoying a quiet day I suppose,” Choromatsu responded. Karamatsu seemed to accept his answer as he hummed in acknowledgement and sat down on the couch. Osomatsu however, looked a bit suspicious. He glanced between Choromatsu and Ichimatsu for a moment before grinning.

            “Hey Fappy, can I talk to you alone for a sec?” Choromatsu’s brows furrowed in annoyance.

            “Who are you calling Fappy, shitty eldest?”

            “Yea yea. Just come down with me.” Choromatsu begrudgingly rose from his position and followed his older brother to the kitchen.

            “Well? What do you want?” he asked flatly. Osomatsu feigned hurt.

            “Don’t be so cold to Onii-chan! It’s a good thing I have Karappi because the rest of you are so mean!” Choromatsu pinched the bridge of his nose.

            “Get on with it.”

            “Are you mad because we interrupted something?” Osomatsu asked with a knowing smile. Choromatsu sighed.

            “Sorry to disappoint you, but no.” Osomatsu’s grin faltered.

            “Well get a move on, Cherry!”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Don’t think I forgot about what you told me before. You were in the room alone with him. You didn’t do anything?”

            “What kind of person do you think I am?!”

            “Clearly not one who would take advantage of the opportunity presented before him.”

            “So then I’m a good person. Thanks for letting me know.”

            “I’m not saying take advantage of him. I said the situation.”

            “I can’t, ok?” Choromatsu said, looking down at his feet. Osomatsu felt bad for his little brother.

            “Why?”

            “I can’t talk to him. It’s just so awkward between us. And me having a crush certainly doesn’t help. And I don’t know how he would feel about it. I can’t just force these feelings onto him. What if he hates me? Besides, he’s an Alpha. Alphas aren’t interested in Betas.”

            “Choromatsu,” Osomatsu said, his voice suddenly serious. “That has nothing to do with it. Yes, as Alphas, we are naturally drawn to Omegas. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in those of a different nature. I didn’t fall for Karamatsu because he’s an Omega. I fell for him because he’s him. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was a Beta or heck, even an Alpha. You’re overthinking things.”

            “Really? I want a relationship with my brother and I’m overthinking things?”

            “…Ok, fair point. But still-”

            “Osomatsu, there’s a reason why Betas end up with Betas. I can’t imprint nor can I be imprinted on. And-”

            “And you have no idea if that matters to him. What if it doesn’t? The whole imprinting stuff is complicated and weird, especially with heats and ruts involved. I mean, I’m sure Ichimatsu didn’t want to be with Karamatsu like that and yet he still…” Osomatsu trailed off. It occurred to him that Choromatsu didn’t know that whole story.

            “He still what?” Choromatsu asked.

            “Never mind. Look, I’m gonna tell you what you told me. Just talk to him.”

            “I can’t. It just feels like there is a divide between us and I can’t bridge the gap.” Osomatsu seemed to consider what Choromatsu said as he crossed his arms and started tapping his foot. Suddenly he got an idea.

            “Well what if I give you guys something to talk about?”

            “Like what exactly?”

            “That’s for me to know and for you to find out. Besides, if this works out, we’ll all get something we want,” Osomatsu said confidently. Choromatsu gave him a worried look.

            “What are you planning?”

            “Just trust Onii-chan for once. Now come on, let’s get back upstairs before one of them come looking for us.” With that, they returned upstairs, Choromatsu still unsure of what Osomatsu was going to do. When they entered the room, Osomatsu sat beside Karamatsu while Choromatsu resumed his position by the window. He opened back up his book, though he had no intention of reading. Instead, he kept glancing over it to look at Osomatsu, waiting for him to do something.

            For a few minutes, nothing happened. Choromatsu was getting anxious. Whatever Osomatsu was planning, he wanted him to hurry up and do it. He looked up at Osomatsu and saw him staring back at him, smiling. Suddenly, he threw himself across Karamatsu’s lap.

            “Kaaraa,” he whined. Karamatsu looked unfazed, as if expecting it.

            “Yes, dear brother? How may I be of serv-”

            “I’m horny.” That caught everyone’s attention. Even Ichimatsu looked up. Choromatsu facepalmed himself. He should’ve figured. Of course this was his plan. Karamatsu visibly stiffened. He looked slightly uncomfortable. Choromatsu figured he would be used to Osomatsu’s…forwardness by now.

            “Yes, well…if that’s how you feel, then perhaps we can leave so you can have your privacy. Maybe you could borrow a magazine from Choromatsu.” Choromatsu looked at him horrified and offended.

            “No way in hell is he using any of my collection,” he said indignantly.

            “Besides that, I’m perfectly comfortable right here, Shittymatsu. If he wants to do that, he can leave,” chimed in Ichimatsu. Osomatsu frowned. His younger brothers weren’t willing to do anything for him. How rude.

            “Why would I need a magazine if I have you, Karacchan?” he asked. Karamatsu looked at him suspiciously.

            “Surely you’re not suggesting we do anything in front of out younger brothers, are you?”

            “Ooh, that’s not a bad idea!”

            “You’re shameless,” Choromatsu said rather stoically.

            “Obviously,” Osomatsu retorted. “But no. I was thinking we spend the night out.”

            “I thought you two lost all your money at pachinko,” Ichimatsu said.

            “Karappi wouldn’t let me go to pachinko so we went to the races instead. And he didn’t let me place any big bets so we didn’t blow all our money.”

            “Well at least someone can control you. Now you both can leave us in peace.”

            “You heard him, Karamatsu. Now get your butt movin’. And later tonight I’ll show you how you can be of service to me,” he said with a wink. Karamatsu was absolutely flustered and could not hide the red the came over his face. Unable to cover up his embarrassment with any poetic lines or dramatic poses, he simply got up and left the room. Osomatsu smiled. “He’s so cute when he’s bashful,” he said to no one in particular. With that, he got up to follow him out the room. As he did, he gave Choromatsu a thumbs up behind his back, letting him know that the rest is up to him.

            As soon as they left, Ichimatsu clicked his tongue. “What was that about? If they were going to do that, then why come home? Stupid, shitty older brothers.” Choromatsu knew that Ichimatsu wasn’t talking to him specifically, but he couldn’t let this opportunity pass.

            “So I’ve been meaning to ask, what do you think? Of them I mean?”

            “Eh? Oh, it doesn’t matter to me. I mean, we’re all trash. At least this way we’re not infecting other people.”

            “So you don’t think it’s…weird or anything?”

            “Not really. I mean, as long as their happy, what does it matter what anyone else thinks?” A short pause. “Do you?”

            “No, I was just curious.” It got silent after that. Choromatsu felt discouraged. All of their conversations ended so quickly. He needed to figure out a way to keep the conversation going. Before he could however, Ichimatsu stood up and made for the door.

            “Where are you going?” he asked.

            “I don’t know. Feed the cats or something.” He reached out for the door. Choromatsu was not about to let this pass. He knew that if Ichimatsu walked out the door, he would never get this chance again. They would not let themselves be alone together. He quickly got up and grabbed Ichimatsu’s wrist.

            “Wait. I want to talk to you about something.”

            “We were just talking.”

            “Yea, but not really.”

            “Why do you think I’m leaving?” Choromatsu couldn’t really blame him for that answer. He took in a deep breath.

            “Please, Ichimatsu. Don’t leave. Just come and sit down with me.” Ichimatsu made a noncommittal sound, but proceeded to follow him into the middle of the room. They both sat down, neither saying anything for a few moments. Choromatsu remembered Osomatsu’s – which was really his own – advice: just talk to him. He looked up at his younger brother.

            “Ichimatsu. Why do we have such a hard time talking to each other?” Ichimatsu initially looked at him with disinterest. They had tried before, but it didn’t work out. Maybe that’s just how things are between them. But when he saw the look on Choromatsu’s face, he reconsidered. He looked so serious, like he really wanted to figure things out. Ichimatsu racked his brain trying to come up with an honest answer, but he didn’t have one. Not a satisfactory one, anyway.

            “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we just haven’t hung out much. I mean, we did as kids, but as we grew up, we didn’t spend as much time together. I thought you hated me.”

            “What?! Why would I hate you?”

            “We kinda stopped talking for a while after we all presented. I thought you hated that I was an Alpha and you weren’t.” Choromatsu paused. Of course, how he could forget. When they all presented their natures, he was disappointed that he wasn’t an Alpha. He wanted to be like Osomatsu. Standing side by side with him as the leaders of the house. But that dream came crashing down when he failed to present a nature, meaning he would remain a Beta. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was jealous of the fact that Ichimatsu presented as an Alpha. In his anger, he must have subconsciously distanced himself from Ichimatsu. It was years before he would come to accept his position. After all, not much changed. But it seems like he created a rift between himself and his younger brother. To know that he thought he hated him is just…devastating.

            “Ichimatsu, I was jealous. Back then, I really wanted to be an Alpha. It meant everything to me. But as we grew up, I got more comfortable with being a Beta. And seeing what Alphas and Omegas go through, I’m honestly kind of happy I avoided all that. I’m sorry I made you feel that way. I could never hate you. Although, is that all? It feels like there’s more than that.”

            “Maybe because you’re older?” Ichimatsu suggested.

            “Really? But Todomatsu hangs out with Jyushimatsu and Karamatsu nii-san and Osomatsu nii-san-”

            “But you feel farther away.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Todomatsu and Jyushimatsu are the two youngest. Kusomatsu and Osomatsu nii-san are the two oldest. Even though we’re the middle brothers, you’ve always felt closer to those two than the rest of us.” Choromatsu had to consider what Ichimatsu said. When it came to the six of them, there was one division that could not be ignored: the elder and the younger. Choromatsu was part of the three oldest, while Ichimatsu was part of the three youngest. Ichimatsu also didn’t interact as much with them as he did with Todomatsu or especially Jyushimatsu. For the others, it didn’t feel like there was a line dividing them because it was accepted and not as apparent as it was with the two of them. Coupled with the fact that Ichimatsu thought he hated him, it made the divide all the more apparent. When that realization dawned on Choromatsu, he felt guilty. His body felt like it was acting on its own accord as he moved to embrace the fourth born. He felt as Ichimatsu initially stiffened at the gesture, obviously not expecting it. His cat ears even popped out. Before long though, he leaned into the contact.

            “I understand now. I’m sorry. It’s my fault we ended up this way. I should’ve reached out to you more.”

            “It’s okay. It’s not your fault you have to be more responsible because our older brothers are worthless.” Somewhere out there, Osomatsu felt a chill go up his spine. Choromatsu laughed as he released him from the hug.

            “True, true. At least they have each other.”

            “Which is more than I can say. I’ll be a lifelong virgin. Not like anyone could love unburnable trash.” Choromatsu frowned.

            “I don’t think you’re trash, Ichimatsu. Not at all,” he said softly. He could feel his face heating up and hoped Ichimatsu didn’t notice.

            But he did.

            “…Choromatsu nii-san, do you-”

            “I’M HOME!!! MUSCLE MUSCLE! HUSTLE HUSTLE!” Their conversation was cut short from the sound of the fifth born entering the house from doing…whatever a Jyushimatsu does. Choromatsu took the chance to get up and make for the door.

            “I should make sure he isn’t covered in mud or something. Wouldn’t want to clean that up,” he said as he laughed nervously.

            “Choromatsu nii-san.” Choromatsu froze. He said too much, didn’t he? He didn’t know what to expect. He couldn’t discern anything from Ichimatsu’s voice. He slowly turned around and was surprised to see him smiling gently at him.

            “Thanks. For what you said.” Choromatsu could hear nothing but pure sincerity in his words. He smiled back.

            “Of course. Any time,” he said as he turned back to head downstairs. He didn’t know what the future held for the two of them, but he was glad he could close the gap between them.