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Natsuya was pleased to find his brother at home alone, sitting at the kitchen table eating some simple leftovers. He looked calm and relaxed, enjoying his meal on his own with a plain face. Natsuya smiled, put down his bag and sat across from him.

“Didn’t wait for me?” he asked. Ikuya shook his head and continued to eat the food their mother had prepared for them the other day.

“You were swimming,” he said, munching. A cute smile was on his face, it was so obvious Ikuya couldn’t hide how happy he was that Natsuya came home early.

“I thought you were too,” Natsuya said, chuckling at Ikuya’s cuteness. He picked the unused spoon from him and started to eat along, leaving his brother sputtering.

“H-hey! Get your own!” he whined, and Natsuya laughed. 

“Why, you got the chopsticks~” These days he was sure to forget things had ever been awkward between them. He loved his brother, and wanted him to be his cheerful old self. Things definitely seemed better lately, making him a happy and proud older brother.

“Are you okay though? You’ve been hanging with your friends a lot. I didn’t expect you to be home so early,” Natsuya said - which was a total lie. When asking at the pool, he was told his little brother and his friends hadn’t shown up today, which was totally the reason he wanted to go home as well, especially knowing that mom would be home late tonight and he didn't want Ikuya to be alone. 

“Haru’s not feeling well, so we are all not going I guess,” Ikuya said, not minding at this point that Natsuya made him share his food.

Natsuya raised his eyebrows while scooping some more from Ikuya’s meal. “Ah, such a nice bond you guys have. You like Haru a lot, don’t you?” 

It was literally as if Natsuya had said something really shocking out of this world. Ikuya gasped loudly, choked on his food, first coughed a few times and even patted his own chest, and a perplexed Natsuya had to shove Ikuya’s glass of water towards him which he gulped down greedily.

PAHhh!” Ikuya gasped, finally recovering. “Like?! What do you mean, like? We’re friends,” he said. Natsuya blinked in surprise at the extreme response.

“....That’s what I meant? Are you blushing? Come on, friends like each other don’t they?” he continued, and despite choking on his food just now, Ikuya picked up his bowl and started to stuff himself, his cheeks getting this cute red color.

“SHOFihogih!” Natsuya didn’t quite catch that. 

Since he couldn’t reach the food anymore he put down his spoon and rested his head in his hands, smirking. “Come on now. I asked you a normal question. What’s wrong with the word ‘like’? You like me too, don’t you? I’m your brother,” Natsuya said, but it didn’t restore the damage.

“I’m done,” Ikuya said, mouth still full, and he walked to the kitchen to clean up. Natsuya followed him, mischievous and curious. Even Ikuya’s ears were a little bit red. This was the cutest thing ever. 

“And you like swimming, yes? We both do. We also both like to eat ice cream. And we like to watch movies,” Natsuya continued. 

Ikuya didn’t seem convinced, but Natsuya couldn’t stop smirking. It had been a while since he had seen him this flustered. He remembered another way to make him flustered - something he hadn’t done to him in the past years. He wondered if it still worked like magic.

“I know another thing we both like,” he started, casually leaning against the kitchen counter. Ikuya still didn’t reply, so he said:

“We like to laugh,” he said at first. No suspicions yet, Ikuya continued to do the dishes. Of course, it had been years. 

“Hmmm?” Natsuya probed his side with his elbow, but Ikuya shrugged him off.

“Laugh? There’s no reason to laugh though,” he said. Natsuya chuckled.

“Are you suuure?” Upon hearing the teasy tone in his voice, Ikuya looked up, his hands still under the streaming water. Slowly Natsuya could see the realization sink in as Ikuya’s eyes widened - and Natsuya wasn’t even wiggling his fingers yet or anything. He was just looking at him with this evil predator look.

“You wouldn’t.”

“Would you like to find out?” 

Ikuya’s eyes grew even wider and he spun around very quickly, leaving Natsuya to turn off the water for him before giving chase.

“What’d ya think? That the tickle monster retired? Dieeed?” Natsuya sang teasingly as he followed Ikuya into the bedroom. Ikuya couldn’t even make it to the bed, whatever he wanted to do there, and Natsuya wrapped his arms around his middle and dragged him to the floor where he started his long-awaited attack. The room was immediately filled with Ikuya's bright sounding laughter. Ah, the nostalgia.

“GAHaha-no wahahay!” he squealed, hugging his own torso and squirming adorably as Natsuya attacked him with playful pokes. 

“Why not?” Natsuya asked casually, and the moment he could grab a hold of both his brother’s sides he squeezed a few times and also wiggled his fingers, making him bounce off the floor and howl hysterically.

“WEHEhe’re too hoho-ohhold!” Ikuya managed to say through his uncontrollable laughs and giggles. Natsuya was relieved to see he was still as ticklish as he was in the past.

“How are we too old? I can still be the tickle monster, and you are still ticklish. No big deal if you ask me,” he said, moving his fingers a little higher when Ikuya’s arms really started to block the most convenient spots like his sides and tummy. 

“AHAHAh- it hihiis-ihiihis!” Ikuya cried, squeaking when Natsuya’s fingers found their way to his ribs despite Ikuya’s arms that desperately tried to fight him off again.

“It’s what?” Natsuya said, tearing his gaze from Ikuya’s cute blushy face so he could see where he could tickle him next without too much effort. 

“A big deal,” Ikuya wheezed when Natsuya let him up for a good second.

“Why? Because you always liked being tickled like this?” he asked. It might’ve been the word ‘like’ again or probably in this case just the confrontation that a young Ikuya loved their playful tickle monster games, and he blushed like mad.

“You’re awful,” Ikuya said, but he was giggling. His arms still clung to his torso defensively, and when Natsuya couldn’t see an easy-to-go tickle spot he eyed his feet. 

“I can be a little more awful. Wanna try me?” He was faster than Ikuya - he dove at his feet and caught them in a steady arm lock. Like this, he scribbled his fingers all over his socked feet with the enthusiasm of the true tickle monster from when they were younger kids, but just a little upgraded.

“EEHEhehe!” Ikuya threw his head back, squirming and writhing at the sensation of his older brother’s fingers raking up and down his soles viciously.

“NAhah-Natsuyahaha!” Natsuya smiled at the sound of his cute giggles. He couldn’t remember the last time he had heard these happy sounds. It made him feel like nothing had ever changed.

“Yes?” he sang, lazily peeling at one sock and circling and scritching at the bare skin of Ikuya's twitching foot with one finger. 

“It tihihiicklehehes!” Natsuya’s smile only grew.

“Does it now? How about this?” He squeezed one of Ikuya’s ankles between his knees so he could make it a little bit easier - one hand holding back his toes and the other tracing its fingers along the cute polka dots on his sock before he slowly inched closer to the sensitive spot under his toes.

“Eyahaahaha! Nohoho not thehehere!” Ikuya started to struggle some more, and Natsuya studied his reactions carefully. He was older than back then, meaning he could give him a bit of a harder treatment, but he still saw him as the cute delicate kid. He shouldn’t overdo it.

In the end, Ikuya was totally still the same like years ago, when he was the cute and happy kid inviting the tickle monster for a chase. It took a little at first to break the ice and find that cheerful giggly boy again, but right now he was writhing and laughing and not even telling him to stop. He simply giggled and squealed, tears of laughter visible on his happy face.

“P-pleehheheease!” Ikuya finally cried out after a good portion of more feet tickles. Satisfied, Natsuya released his ankles and plopped down on the floor next to his exhausted brother.

“Heh. Liked that?” he asked, watching Ikuya wheeze for his life.

Ikuya nodded tiredly. “Y-yeah,” he panted. It was a few wheezes later that he realized what he had said, despite being tired, he immediately sat up straight.

“I mean no! I mean agh. I don’t hate it, ‘kay?” So cute and flustered. Natsuya ruffled his hair and chuckled.

“You don’t hate it. If that’s your way of expressing ‘like’, let’s go with it,” he told his blushing brother. Ikuya didn’t reply but simply crossed his arms, still looking a little bit embarrassed.

“So I’m guessing you don’t hate Haru?” Natsuya asked curiously. When Ikuya turned his head rapidly, looking at him with this shocked expression again, Natsuya quickly said: “and the others. You don’t hate Haru and the others.”

Ikuya seemed to relax again. “I guess I don’t. They’re cool.” 

Natsuya smiled. “Good. You keep hanging out with the cool kids, got it? And you my little brother, are also cool,” Natsuya said, patting his head again. "You are the coolest."

Ikuya pouted a little. “I’m not though...” he mumbled shyly.

“What was that?” Natsuya leaned down to see his expression, but Ikuya turned away.

“Did you say you’re not cool? Why?” Natsuya asked, but Ikuya continued to turn away and eventually tried to get up and leave, avoiding his questioning eyes, but Natsuya grabbed his arm and pulled him back down.

“Here you!” he said playfully, and he pulled up Ikuya’s shirt and blew a huge raspberry. Ikuya’s laughter was instant.

“AHAHAhha! WHahhaa - no whahahat!? Eeehehehe!” 

Natsuya had really refrained from doing it earlier because he was afraid Ikuya would absolutely think he was too old for this treatment, but right now he was glad he did. No matter how old, Ikuya was always gonna be his little brother.

“OKAhhaay! I’m coohoohool!” Ikuya roared breathlessly.

“You’re what?! PFFfft.” Another raspberry, two, three more before Ikuya’s voice started to sound even pitchier.

“AHhaa-I’m the cooolehehest!” Natsuya grinned and finally released him again. 

“That’s more like it!” He helped Ikuya up and ruffled his messy hair. 

“Well, if you don’t hate it. We can definitely do this again sometime. You need it, laughing is good for you,” Natsuya said, poking his stomach and making him giggle. Ikuya didn’t reply to that but he only smiled and looked away shyly, which told Natsuya he really didn’t mind.

Today’s little quality time with Ikuya really did him good. Not only did it bring laughter and joy back into their brotherly bond, but Natsuya also thought he had discovered he really had a soft spot for Haru. Which was very cute.

if Natsuya wanted to tease him, he could bring up Haru, or tickle him. Heh. He preferred the second one though!