He’s traveling again. You know because he’s reminded you, several times, but even when you’re asleep he leaves a note saying “Hasta la later!” because that is just the way he is. You ignore how endearing it is in favor of closing your eyes for a little longer. You don’t fall asleep, a part of you refuses to fall asleep.
Everyone thinks you’re the smoker. When they see the packs around the room, none of them think that maybe you took a no drugs pact when you were ten or you hated the way nicotine curbed away your brother’s nightmares by filling the room with smoke. He doesn’t smoke either: all he does is gather packs from around the world and give them to you, because one time he saw you try and smoke when you were both eighteen and figured he’d give you a failsafe. That’s the reason he gives you, and like every other gift he has for you, you take it.
You’re fully awake half an hour later, you’ve never been a napper, you don’t know why you tried to make today your exception. It’s too quiet without him here, you remember when you used to like the silence more.
You check the calendar, he marked in blue ink the week he’d be in Toronto. Starting today, Sunday, you still have work at ten. There’s no use staring at a calendar, instead you look out the window. It’s 8:30 in the morning and it’s raining, you put on a leather jacket and only take the umbrella when there’s another note near the door. Your mutual friends, when seeing the way the two of you lived, have asked if you weren’t dating. You wish you knew the answer, all you know is the weather is colder in Toronto, which is why you made sure he brought his winter coat in his hastily packed bags.
You’re not ashamed of your job, you’re a station worker at the local train station. You see men in leather jackets like yours, but only when you’re in uniform. You watch people travel, just like you watch him travel. He prefers the skies, and you haven’t scratched the itch to stay grounded. It’s cold, even when you’re surrounded by brick and glass. Telling people where to go, trying to emulate the pleasantries he taught you when you first got the job a year and a half ago. You feel like you’re grieving, you don’t know why but you feel like you’re grieving.
Sometimes, at work, you see men with one arm where there aren’t. You see your brother more often, your brother, who’s over five thousand and fifty six miles away, who you can’t take a flight to visit. You don’t ask him to, either, he needs a back seat and you need to feel like you can take control. You haven’t seen your brother since you took this job. You can’t imagine going back to Tokyo, dual-citizenship was kind to you, but a part of you always fears going back.
But your brother is in Tokyo, your brother is in love and moving and you can’t be your brother. Instead, you wait for Lance to come back from Toronto, new photographs and endless stories as you work in a train station. As you said, you’re not ashamed of your job.
On Tuesday, the friends you said you’d roam the skies with visit in suits. You’re already in sweatpants and a t-shirt by the time they come over. Hunk takes off his shoes when he enters, Pidge is already halfway into a pair of shorts she keeps here. They won’t be hungry, but you ask if they are anyways.
“How does it feel--” Pidge takes a sip of tap water-- “being so lovesick?” Hunk gives her a Look to seem like the better man, but his eyes still shine with the same curiosity. You don’t even know what being in love feels like.
“I don’t know what you mean,” you say, “how does it feel being in offices?” Pidge groans, Hunk buries his face in his hands. You’d say you don’t understand why they settled, but you do, in a sense. But even they have goals at the end, you’re just desperate to stay while always wanting to run away.
“It’s bad man--” Hunk shakes his head-- “our boss calls me up today, right? Pidge looks at me and just starts praying as if she isn’t a godless fiend, and I’m absolutely terrified. Iverson approaches me, with steely eyes, and asks why I didn’t design this project according to his guidelines. So I told him, nicely of course, that his guidelines were shit, and he almost fired me on the spot until I showed him the calculations. He saw me get all queasy and asked me if I really wanted to be an engineer at this company. But I live to see another day, and hopefully don’t have to talk to Iverson till my presentation.” You nod, and pat Hunk’s shoulder. It’s awkward, but when he smiles at you you think you got your point across.
“Well,” Pidge clears her throat, “other than that, it was just annoying. Some people can’t coordinate their heads out of their asses, and I managed to be on long calls with at least twelve of them.”
“It was three people,” Hunk says.
“ Twelve, ” Pidge repeats. And you can’t help but smile at the fact they’re getting through it, somehow. You’re proud of them, and you wonder when the two of them will be able to travel the world together. For now, they’re entry level, but they’re going places, you can feel it.
“Anyways,” Pidge says, “Lance is in Canada for some shoot, right? Can’t believe out of all of us, he’s the one who gets to live fast.” You can believe it, Lance alway said he wanted to be the first, the best. You’ll never admit he got there to anyone but yourself.
You end up ordering takeout for the three of you, Hunk answers the door and adds a tip, and Pidge sets the table. You’re stagnant from after the phone call to when you start eating. You’re usually not like this, you don’t get what’s making you like this. Halfway through dinner, Hunk holds eye contact. You know what’s going to happen.
“Keith,” he says, “are you okay?”
You pause, “I don’t see why I wouldn’t be?” Because you don’t. This whole overbearing numbing stuff only came recently, you’re usually fine in your own small world. But that thought forces you to acknowledge that you’re not fine in your own small world right now.
Hunk nods, “Okay. But we’re gonna stick around so we can skype Lance, right?” Pidge nods, mouth full. Hunk sets up your laptop, which has never had a password, and you watch. You had Lance added, have messaged on there a bit, but usually used it with your brother. Unlike your brother, you think you and Lance are in the same timezone, but Hunk types a message to be safe. You hear the ping! before anyone else, but Pidge is the one that crawls over to press the video call button.
“Shit!” is the first thing you hear Lance say, there’s rustling, you look to see the gray through the windows. Must be cold there.
“Hey,” Lance leans over, you see he’s halfway dressed, “clients just called me up need to do some extra work. Can we call like, I dunno, tomorrow or something?”
“Of course man,” Hunk says, “we’re all just at your place eating. I’ll send pics.”
“Go get bank!” Pidge nearly yells it, but it probably comes off quieter to Lance. You’re still not sure how skype works. You don’t say a word, even when Lance shouts a bye before going back into the pace of his evening. No one mentions it, they might think you two had a fight, which isn’t true. You’re just bad when it comes to the in between spaces between distances and familiarity. That’s what your brother said, you’re inclined to take his word for it.
You, Hunk, and Pidge are together until it winds down to around nine. You don’t need much sleep, but they do so you call a cab and make sure neither of them can pay. It’s the least you can do. They used to stay over till one, or pass out on makeshift beds, but that’s ended. You don’t know if that part of your lives is permanently over, so you eat more takeout and stare at the sky for answers. All you can think about is how the weather must be in Toronto.
On Wednesday, you get the phone call. You didn’t know that your brother had your number until you remember giving it to him, hastily before he went away. You haven’t changed it since. You couldn’t go with him, pre or post trauma, you couldn’t.
“Shiro?” you ask, you hear the bubbling of tea and know he’s getting better. In a sense, in your hopes.
“Keith,” Shiro says, “how are you?” His voice reminds you of lullabies you two used to share, when you were much younger and thought you could conquer the world: Tokyo first, of course. It was a strange family, where you were the only Japanese citizen and your parents and brother were from two places at once. He’d joke about it on a scooter, then he’d try and ban you from getting a bike. Things didn’t quite work out.
“I’m okay, I guess, how are you?” You feel the stretch in your words. Hear Shiro writing something down, he could never write quietly. You almost want to ask what it is, but that would require something you didn’t have yet.
“Good,” Shiro sighs, “I’m glad. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I hoped you didn’t think it was because I hated you. You’re still my little brother.” You don’t think he hates you, you just think he doesn’t need you. He wouldn’t be wrong to think so.
“I don’t think you hate me,” you say, “I don’t think you hate me.” Again. You think you’re reassuring both him and you, and hope it’s working.
“I just wanted to say that...is it okay for me to come?” he seems hesitant. You don’t get why, where would he want to come?
“Come where? There’s nothing happ--oh.” Oh. That makes sense. You haven’t seen him in so long, you want it to work. You want this to happen.
“Yeah…” Shiro trails off, “I know it’s last minute and I understand why you wouldn’t want to but I wanted to buy tickets for--”
“Come,” you say, “I’d like that a lot. If you don’t mind the bike, I can pick you up from the airport.”
“You still have that thing? You need to get a proper car before Friday, or I swear to all things holy…” Shiro’s voice gets low, but you’re too used to his threats for any fear. Anything he says has to be proved with action.
“You’ll what? Brother me to death?” you chuckle, and you can practically feel Shiro’s glare through your phone. Not like that’s stopped you before.
“You little shit,” Shiro says.
“Wonder who I got that from,” you respond, and when Shiro gives him a noise between a growl and a squawk, you roll over in laughter. On Friday, you’ll see your brother for the first time in a long time. And you’ll make fun of him, and you’ll love him. You know you remember how, you know you want to.
You show up to work, watch those with multicolored hair and scars and smiles that remind you of home. They are few and far between, but you know one is coming to you soon. On your break, you text Lance, who responds with a string of emojis and a selfie just so you can see how happy he is for you. You want to sink into your seat, so you stand for the rest of your break. Your feet are sore when you get to your bike home, but you substitute that with taking off your helmet (the one Lance insisted on your buying) to feel the wind on your face.
That night, you look up a weather report for Toronto before going to bed. It’s raining, and you’re glad Lance has a coat that will keep him warm. You want to ask where he is right now, what he’s doing, but you force yourself to sleep instead.
Thursday morning, you get a text from Lance. He’s in New York, another layover, another job, another something. He’s not going to be here. He might not meet Shiro, something you didn’t even know you were betting on. You don’t want to go to work, but you do. You see the people: all with destinations, places to go, and you wish you were one of them. You wish you were one of them.
It’s in the evening, you’re replying to texts from Shiro about what he’s packing. You see a box in the corner of the picture. Your brother wants to marry someone, and he wants to share it with you before anyone else. You knew, to an extent, that he had feelings for someone he met when he was lost. You wanted to sign in relief that it worked out, that the woman with the British accent who lost her home managed to help his brother make a new one. It’s a shame you weren’t in it, but you push those thoughts back.
You decide, in a way to make small talk that you’ve never had or wanted to, to ask Lance about the weather. Is it cold in New York ? To which you see the snow, Lance’s wearing the wrong type of shoes but the right coat, the one you insisted on packing. Then he asks you what’s wrong, and you respond with nothing before deciding to take a jog. Without your phone.
You wonder what the weather’s like in Tokyo, in the places you and Shiro used to wander, in the places you got into fights. You remember the pictures he sent you of where he’s staying, you still haven’t asked if it’s a hotel or an apartment, even though you should probably know the difference.
You come home to check the weather in Tokyo, your mind converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius. It’s cold, but so, so beautiful. You hope Shiro brings some of that with him, and you think of a home you feel a need to return to. For a trip, just like Lance goes on. What are the prices of plane tickets these days, you’re not quite sure. You haven’t been on one for a long, long time.
Shiro told you his flight got off around 7 in the morning, always an early riser. You’re waiting, making loops around the terminal with your bike. You’re pretty sure you’re not supposed to be doing this, but you do. Shiro comes with a bag and eyeliner you know he did during landing. No other way it would look that fresh otherwise.
He forces the helmet on you when he gives you a noogie, and you go over speed limit just to scare him a bit. The prosthetic is in the bag, so you don’t actually go that fast, but it’s the thought that counts. You open the door first, you only have leftovers and a few snacks, Lance is the only one who can cook. You and Shiro both share it, so you pull yourselves together and go get burritos from the place down the block. The line’s already long even when it just opened, so the two of you stand next to each other, silent only for a moment.
“Is it the British woman?” you ask.
“Her name is Allura,” he says, “and she isn’t actually British.”
“Details,” you say before pausing, “but what is she like?” And Shiro goes on. He tells you she’s from a small coastal nation that was absorbed into the U.K., and you actually recognize the name Altea because the news plays while you’re at the station. He tells you how she likes her tea, that she’s been raised vegan her entire life but when she first had meat she started crying. Shiro is still a shitty cook, but he says he wants to learn with her and you believe he will.
“I want to marry her,” Shiro says, “I really do want to spend the rest of my life with her.”
“I’d like to meet her,” you say in response, and when he talks about eternity you think of New York and fuzzy brown coats. By the time you’re back at your place, you’ve made plans for him to stay until Saturday. He says he’ll have a ceremony here, so you can come, and you wonder how trauma outweighs itself again. Shiro takes Lance’s room, even when he asks if it’s okay, you know it will be. Shiro is neater than you will ever be. You call in sick for work when Shiro can’t hear you, and you get the day off easily. You’ve never taken one off before after all.
The next day, you don’t know what you’re going to do. It’s Saturday, you have a text saying Lance is going to be back tomorrow and know Shiro’s leaving in the evening. You’re still disappointed even when you expect it. Even when it’s three in the afternoon, you both have bubble tea even though it’s cold.
He steals sips from yours, even though he insists jasmine is the best flavor, and you’ve recently started to pick honeydew. When he asks why, all you can think about is how Lance forced you to have a sip and you share the same drink when you’re low on funds. Or when you have separate ones, Lance still takes more out of yours just to get on your nerves.
“A friend got me into it,” you say. Shiro looks at your red face and shakes his head as if he knows better.
“It sounds like you’re in love,” he says, drawing out the last part. He’s trying not to laugh, you’re trying not to strangle the laughter out of him. You don’t know what being in love feels like, you think. You don’t know.
“How do you know?” you ask.
“When I left to see you,” Shiro says, “Allura said she’d wait for me, but she wouldn’t be happy about it. You’ve been awfully grouchy when mentioning your roommate here, haven’t you?”
You bury your head between your knees, “I hate you.”
“Love you too little bro,” he laughs. You wind into the almost sunset for a moment, with your older brother and thoughts of home and Lance. But in the end you take him to the airport, and he says he’ll give you her answer. You know she’ll say yes, even if he doesn’t. You ride back, and feel a desperate need for your feet to stay above the ground.
You’re alone for five and a half hours after you fall asleep. You check weather reports, open a few tabs, and wait for Lance to ask you to pick him up. You don’t get why you couldn’t have asked him earlier, but you didn’t. You hear the door open, turn so quickly you could get vertigo, and see him.
“Did you miss me?” Lance smiles, all playful as he puts his stuff down and locks the door. He’s rain soaked, probably with jet lag from hell, but he takes off his coat and walks towards you. He leans on your shoulder.
“How was seeing your brother?” he asks. His hair dampens your shirt, you don’t point it out.
“Good,” you say, “he said I was in love, probably because he is.”
Lance’s body tenses, and you make sure all the windows are closed before turning back to him, “In love, huh?”
“Yeah,” you say, “he said I was in love with you, and he didn’t even have to know your name.”
“Are you messing with me because I....” Lance goes quiet, and wow you really didn’t think this through at all.
“I said I didn’t know what being in love felt like, I didn’t know because this whole time I thought it was just how things were when I was with you,” you say. You hear a gasp, see Lance, expression twisted between shock and happiness. You don’t understand why he’d be so happy about knowing you love him, but you don’t have to. Instead you kiss his temple, and impulse decision. His breath hitches under your touch.
“That was out of the blue buddy,” Lance sighs, but he doesn’t seem too upset about it.
“I just realized and admitted I was in love with you, I think I can be quick about it,” you say.
“I’m not complaining,” Lance gives you a kiss on the cheek before you can think, and you find yourself staring at your open tabs to avoid his gaze.
“You’re on an airline site,” Lance says. He’s worried, and you understand to an extent. But now you have places to go too, now you think you can make a dream into reality.
“I am,” you say, “do you want to go to Tokyo with me?”
“When are you thinking?” he asks.
“Tomorrow?” you say, because you could go tomorrow. You can feel Lance shake his head on your shoulder.
“Always so hasty, aren’tcha Keith? Let’s try Tuesday instead.” Lance’s hand covers yours near the mousepad. Always your impulse control, even when he doesn’t need to be.
“Why Tuesday?” you ask, even though you know it’s because he hates Tuesdays.
“I hate Tuesdays,” he says, “and I can schedule some shoots there if I have a day. Unless you want it to be just the two of us…” You don’t have to look at him to know his eyebrows are waggling.
“I want you to meet them, my brother and his soon to be fiance. And maybe the two of us can come later,” you’re blushing at the thought. You still can’t believe this is happening. Lance could easily make fun of you for it, but he doesn’t, he never will when it’s this important.
“Let’s buy the plane tickets?” he asks, sitting up to get a better view of the site.
“Yeah,” you say, “and let’s check the weather first.”