Suddenly the fall before him felt bigger than he was sure it actually was. Karamatsu gulped nervously and gripped the railing behind him, taking deep breaths to try and keep his composure. He had already decided he was going to do it, there was no backing out on the last second.
But God did he want to be stopped so badly.
“I’m going to do it.” Karamatsu murmured out loud, as if trying to convince himself. “I’m really going to do it.”
Someone sighed impatiently.
“Then do it already!”
Karamatsu quickly looked behind him and clutched harder against the railing, his legs shaking in both fear and anxiety.
He felt his body go completely cold.
They were all there, looking at him with judging eyes. Not a glint of guilt, sorrow, desperation or terror in their faces, they were all just waiting.
“Karamatsu-niisan just don’t take too long okay? I don’t have a lot of battery left and I want to record it.” Todomatsu pouted mildly annoyed, holding his cellphone up in Karamatsu’s direction.
“Woah so Karamatsu-niisan finally decided to do it?” Jyushimatsu said in awe. “I thought he’d never be brave enough!”
“Tch, about goddamn time Shittymatsu.” Ichimatsu murmured under his breath.
“Seriously,” Choromatsu sighed while shaking his head in disapproval. “Do you really need to make such a big deal about it? We don’t have all day you know.”
“Is this like… going to take much longer? The horse races are starting in a bit.” Osomatsu crossed his arms over his chest impatiently, looking away from Karamatsu uninterested.
Why wasn’t anyone trying to stop him?
Why didn’t they care that he was about to jump right in front of their eyes?
Karamatsu’s hands trembled and his grip on the railing weakened.
“I really am going to do it.” Karamatsu warned them one more time, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.
“Yeah, we heard you the first time.” Todomatsu rolled his eyes.
“And we’re still waiting.” Choromatsu said matter-of-factly.
How could they be so cruel?
They never really cared about him did they?
The sudden realization hit Karamatsu so abruptly tears finally rolled down his cheeks. Despite wanting a good reason to stop, to find something to keep going, to find someone that wouldn’t want him gone… all this time he had been right.
No one would care if he died.
Not even his brothers he loved so much.
Not one of them.
Why did he have to find out this way?
“What’s wrong nii-san?” Jyushimatsu tilted his head curiously. “Could it be you’re scared? Do you need any help?”
“Help…?” Karamatsu repeated confused.
Yes, he needed help.
He was desperate for help.
He wanted someone to help him. Anyone.
Someone to gently bring him away from the edge and hold him in their arms, murmuring reassuringly that he was loved and that everything would be alright. That he’d never feel alone again, and that things would only get better from here on out.
But that’s not what Jyushimatsu meant.
“The one thing you could not fuck up you can’t even do by yourself.” Ichimatsu snarled bitterly. “What a fucking waste of space you are Shittymatsu.”
“How much longer are you going to keep us waiting?” Todomatsu whined frustrated.
“You shouldn’t waste other people’s time like this Karamatsu-niisan.” Choromatsu sighed annoyed.
“Now, now guys go easy on him.” Osomatsu stepped up to calm down his brothers, standing between them and Karamatsu. “I’m sure he just needs a little push.”
Osomatsu turned around to face Karamatsu, looking at him with that friendly relaxed smile of his. Any other day that smile would have soothed his nerves, but right then it felt devious and cold.
Osomatsu’s smile widened.
“Let onii-chan help you.”
Karamatsu felt the soft touch of Osomatsu’s hand against his back as he pushed him off.
He tried to reach out. His arms and legs flailed desperately in air trying to reach for his only older brother. But Osomatsu didn’t even look at him, he was too busy smiling and celebrating with the others.
Tears clouded his vision.
Karamatsu woke up with a startled gasp, sitting upright and struggling to recover his breath. His body was shaking against his will and his heart hammered loudly inside his ears.
He looked around him desperately trying to take in his surroundings, his senses still disoriented. It was dark both inside and out, but Karamatsu finally recognized the room. Once his eyes settled in the darkness his ears finally picked up the gentle snoring of his brothers.
But despite fully realizing that it was all a dream and the reassuring sound of his sleeping brothers around him he couldn’t calm down.
He felt so cold.
He could barely breath.
His head was still spinning.
What was that? Why had that felt so real?
“Karamatsu-niisan?” Someone yawned groggily next to him.
Karamatsu followed the voice with his eyes to find he had woken up Todomatsu. His younger brother was rubbing the sleep out of his eyes to try and see what was happening, and bore a mild frown of annoyance.
“What is it? It’s too early.” Todomatsu whispered, but immediately furrowed his eyebrows concerned when he saw his older brother’s face.
Karamatsu was pale, cold sweat was visibly running down his forehead and his arms were shaking. From a simple glance it would have been an easy guess to think he was sick, but Todomatsu didn’t miss the genuine look of terror in his eyes.
“Are you okay?” Todomatsu frowned preoccupied. “You’re… crying.”
Karamatsu brought one of his hands to his eyes to find tears running down his cheeks. When did that happen? He hadn’t noticed at all.
He was a mess.
The air felt suffocating. He needed to get out of there. If he stayed any longer he would definitely throw up.
With clumsy and wobbly movements Karamatsu managed to get out of the futon on his own without saying a word to Todomatsu. He dragged his feet weakly across the floor and left the room as quietly as possible, desperate to be anywhere else but there.
Todomatsu sat up and looked worriedly in the direction of the shoji. Even he could tell something was bothering his brother, but he didn’t feel suitable enough to try and comfort him.
Turning to his left Todomatsu gently shook Osomatsu’s shoulder.
“Osomatsu-niisan.” Todomatsu whispered. “Wake up.”
Osomatsu groaned and tried to push Todomatsu’s hand away, but the younger sibling continued trying to shake him awake. With a huff of defeat Osomatsu forced his eyes open.
“Totty what’s gotten into you?” He moaned annoyed.
Todomatsu fidgeted nervously, and upon noticing his genuine look of distress Osomatsu’s big brother instincts woke him up completely.
“I think something’s wrong with Karamatsu-niisan.”
Karamatsu only managed to reach the bottom of the stairs before his legs collapsed beneath him. He huddled against the closest wall and held his head between his hands, still struggling to calm his breathing. No matter how much oxygen he tried to take in his lungs just wouldn’t be satisfied.
It was a dream.
It was just a dream.
It hadn’t been real.
None of that was real.
Karamatsu tried to wipe away his tears with the back of his hand, quietly sobbing to himself. They wouldn’t stop. Why wouldn’t they stop?
It was just a dream.
His brothers would never do something like that.
They’d never do that to him.
Karamatsu held onto his head tighter, ruffling his hair in the process. Why wasn’t he sure? It was too fucked up to even consider his brothers would do that to him. That wasn’t normal between siblings. Siblings usually cared for each other, but Karamatsu wasn’t sure anymore.
He wasn’t sure at all if they actually cared for him. Would they notice if he disappeared? Would they be happier without him?
He was too scared to find out.
Karamatsu flinched and jerked his head up in surprise to see Osomatsu walking down the stairs towards him.
He didn’t want to be seen by anyone, especially him. Not when he was a mess. Not when he was curled up into a ball crying and shaking so helplessly like a small child. He already put so much effort to try and seem cool to his brothers, it all felt like a waste to be seen in that state.
In an attempt to not look at his older brother Karamatsu turned away and hid his face between his knees. What did Osomatsu want anyway? Was he going to tease him? To mock him for crying because of a nightmare? Karamatsu didn’t feel strong at all to put up with that.
Osomatsu sighed concerned. Todomatsu had not been exaggerating at all, Karamatsu really looked messed up. Whatever it was that startled him so much must have been really bad.
“That was quite the nasty nightmare you had eh Karamatsu?” Osomatsu asked softly as he sat down next to his brother.
Karamatsu said nothing, still sobbing and hiccupping.
Osomatsu placed a hand on Karamatsu’s back and noticed how his brother flinched at his touch. He waited, thinking that maybe Karamatsu would tell him to go away and leave him alone, but when it never came Osomatsu began rubbing his back in circles.
“Why don’t you try breathing slowly? That’ll help you calm down.”
Again Karamatsu gave no answer, but if it wasn’t a rejection it was still good enough for Osomatsu.
“Ready? I’ll count. Breathe in, one… two… three… breathe out. Easy right?”
Osomatsu continued counting, and slowly Karamatsu’s ragged sobs and hiccups simmered down to just the occasional sniffle.
Grateful that his older brother had actually helped him relax Karamatsu finally looked up. His eyes were red and puffy, but at least the tears had finally stopped.
“Feeling better?” Osomatsu smiled hopeful.
“Yeah… thank you.”
Osomatsu chuckled relieved before his smile faltered into a concerned frown.
“So what was that? What happened?”
Karamatsu felt Osomatsu grab his shoulders to bring him closer. Feeling the warmth of Osomatsu’s body so close to him was comforting, and it encouraged Karamatsu to rest his head against his shoulder.
“I had a nightmare.”
“Ah, yeah that I figured. But what was it about?”
Karamatsu hesitated for a moment. Would it really be okay to tell him? What would Osomatsu even think? He’d freak out for sure. Either that or he’d find a way to tease him about it.
Karamatsu shook his head, causing Osomatsu to sigh in frustration.
“You can’t honestly expect me to be okay not knowing. You didn’t see the look on your face Karamatsu, of course I’m going to worry!”
He might be a jerk very often, he might also get into fights constantly and tease his brothers, but he was the eldest! Of course he’d be concerned over his little brothers, especially if he found them in the middle of the night crying their hearts out. It was a part of him that he couldn’t shake off, almost like instinct to want to keep them safe.
Karamatsu still couldn’t find the proper words to reply to Osomatsu, and chose to remain quiet.
“Let onii-chan help you.”
Karamatsu immediately stiffened at those words. He was dangerously close to pushing Osomatsu off him but fought against it, and his body started trembling instead. He could feel tears starting to well up again.
“Hey, hey what’s the matter?” Osomatsu asked hastily noticing Karamatsu’s reaction. “It’s okay it’s just me.”
Karamatsu pulled away from Osomatsu and aggressively wiped away the tears that had only formed at the corner of his eyes. His shoulders sank as his eyes fell to the floor in front of him.
He couldn't stand it anymore.
He wouldn’t be able to continue living peacefully with himself if he didn’t know. As much as he didn’t want to know Karamatsu knew he had to. It was better than staying in the dark forever. If his brothers hated him and would be happier with him dead then he had to know. At least that way the uncertainty wouldn’t eat him away from the inside.
“S-Say… Osomatsu.” Karamatsu murmured timidly, still avoiding his brother’s eyes. “Do you think everyone would be happier if I was gone?”
Osomatsu couldn’t help shrieking in surprise at the sudden heavy question. Where did that even come from? That was a little too somber for his taste.
Karamatsu quickly moved his finger to his lips to urge Osomatsu to quiet down, the look in his eyes pleading and serious.
Looking at Karamatsu’s eyes Osomatsu sighed preoccupied and calmed down, frowning concerned as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Seriously Karamatsu what kind of question is that? That’s absolutely ridiculous… what makes you think we’d be happier without you?”
Karamatsu looked away in shame, and suddenly it all clicked for Osomatsu.
That’s what it had been about?
Osomatsu’s eyes softened and he opened his arms for his little brother. Sniffing bashfully Karamatsu accepted the offer and let himself be enveloped into a gentle embrace, hiding his face in Osomatsu’s chest as he continued quietly shedding tears.
“Is that what we made you think Karamachuu? Ah we sure are terrible brothers aren’t we?” Osomatsu chuckled bitterly, gently moving back and forth to rock Karamatsu.
Osomatsu made a mental note to tell the others to tone it down with the teasing. Sure it wasn’t unusual to mess with each other, but even he had noticed Karamatsu was the subject to most of it and it had gone too far more times than he would like to admit.
“Of course we’d miss you.” Osomatsu continued softly. “We’re sextuplets after all, we’re not supposed to be kept apart. Wouldn’t you be sad if one of our little brothers wasn’t with us anymore?”
“Right?” Osomatsu nodded in agreement. “It’s the same for us. We may be shitty but we care about you Karamatsu. And it's not just me, I know the others feel the same.”
Karamatsu simply nodded against Osomatsu’s chest, slowly growing calmer by the second. Hearing those words spoken directly from his older brother with so much honesty were definitely reassuring. There was no way Osomatsu could be lying, not when he was being held in his arms with so much care.
“So no more thinking about that gone stuff alright? You’ll only worry your onii-chan.”
“Gone? Is someone leaving?”
Osomatsu and Karamatsu looked up to find Todomatsu shyly walking down the stairs, almost as if he was hesitant of interrupting the moment. Karamatsu had completely forgotten that the young sibling had seen him right when he woke up, so it was to be expected he’d be worried.
“No one’s leaving Totty.” Osomatsu reassured with a relaxed smile.
Todomatsu looked between the two eldest brothers still seeming concerned. He frowned quizzically at Karamatsu, and Karamatsu mustered a weak smile in return almost as if trying to apologize for worrying him.
“Are you feeling better Karamatsu-niisan?”
“Yes… thank you my sweet Todomatsu.”
Todomatsu couldn’t help smiling. Leave it to Karamatsu to speak with so much flair even after being startled awake by a nasty nightmare.
“We’ll go upstairs in a few minutes. Go back to sleep before any of the others wake up Todomatsu.” Osomatsu instructed in a whisper, still holding Karamatsu against him.
Todomatsu chuckled nervously and brought both his arms behind his back to seem as innocent as possible.
“Oh... well, the others actually-”
“Todomatsu what’s taking so long? You were supposed to tell us if they were fine.” Choromatsu groaned as he peeked down the stairs.
“You guys done? We really shouldn’t be staying up this late.” Ichimatsu grumbled groggily.
“Karamatsu-niisan we heard you had a nightmare are you okay?” Jyushimatsu asked concerned in his usual loud volume voice, prompting everyone to shush him. Jyushimatsu covered his mouth with both hands before laughing apologetically.
All eyes fell on Karamatsu, and he couldn’t help feeling suddenly overwhelmed with relief.
Here they all were genuinely concerned for him, waking up in the middle of the night to make sure he was fine just because of a nightmare.
They really cared.
They actually cared about him.
Osomatsu gently nudged Karamatsu, looking at him with a knowing smile that spoke for itself.
A small laugh of acknowledgement escaped Karamatsu, allowing himself to be helped up to his feet by Osomatsu. He smiled at his still expectant younger brothers as he nodded weakly.
“I am now.”