The courage to voice it out loud sometimes feels like the only sort of courage Kinzo doesn't have-- "it," of course, being the unadulterated, unwavering, indestructible love for Shishimaru that envelopes every aspect of his day-to-day life. He doesn't know what it means, really, whether it makes him a coward or somehow stronger still, to hold all of this in when every day, it threatens to explode out of him, burns beneath his skin with white-hot intensity and bubbles in his chest so fervently that sometimes, it's hard to breathe, but it doesn't really matter, because somehow, it can't, it won't manifest itself in words. He can do practically anything when it comes to Shishimaru, he has the courage to face any enemy, the endurance to face any hardship, the strength to give up anything and everything for himself in order to give Shishimaru whatever he needs, but somehow, despite the fact that the words scream inside his head from the moment they wake up in the morning, tangled in one another in their tiny futon in their tiny apartment until the moment Kinzo falls asleep, after watching Shishimaru breathe peacefully in his arms for a few minutes, despite the fact that even in his own mind, there is no other word for these feelings than "love," he still can't find a way, a time to voice them.
Not that it really matters, not when they have day-to-day lives to worry about, not when they live paycheck to paycheck and can barely afford enough to eat on top of their rent and school tuition fees. Kinzo would drop out of high school at the drop of a hat, if he had the chance; it would free up a lot more time to be able to take on a full-time position at his construction job, and he hates being stuck listening to asshole adults telling him what to do every day, anyway, but he wants Shishimaru to go, wants him to finish high school so that he can go on to have a better job than Kinzo will ever be able to hold down, so that he doesn't have to do hard labor for the rest of his life. He knows Shishimaru won't go if he doesn't go, and so he goes. He'll do anything for Shishimaru, give anything and everything he has to give-- and so when there's not really enough money at the end of the month to feed two teenage boys, Kinzo passes on meat and on breakfast and sometimes on most of dinner too, tries to subsist on white rice so that Shishimaru can eat his fill, and when that Kamen fucker ruins their arrangement with Bon, deprives them of the good fifty-thousand yen a month that he used to pay to stay in M4, he cuts back on everything he can, showering exclusively in the school locker rooms to decrease their water bill and filching things like tissues and soap from school whenever he can. He knows Shishimaru doesn't like it when he gives things up, knows from the way he gives Kinzo a sidelong look, eyes wide and sad the way they have been ever since Kinzo made the mistake of letting him go back in junior high school, but as much as it makes his heart twist in his chest, his determination doesn't waver. It doesn't matter if Kinzo is tired or sick or hungry. So long as Shishimaru is healthy and safe, Kinzo doesn't even feel the pain.
And it's funny, because that doesn't even feel like strength, just like defending Shishimaru in a fight doesn't really feel like courage. Shishimaru can hold his own, of course, Kinzo knows, Shishimaru is strong, but when he sees a bunch of assholes teaming up against the most important person in his whole world, the only person in his whole world, he can't exactly stand by. It doesn't matter the enemy, it doesn't matter if he has to go up against thirty guys with lead pipes and knives; for Shishimaru, it isn't intimidating, and he doesn't give it a second thought. Shishimaru is everything to him, the be all and end all of his very existence, and even if Shishimaru ends up shedding a few tears for him when he ends up bruised and bloodied afterwards, all Kinzo can feel is happiness and relief to know that nothing bad has happened to Shishimaru. His wounds will heal; even if they leave a few scars in their wake, it only shows that he's protected Shishimaru, that he's done what needs to be done for the person who means everything to him, and what matters is that he can go home and pull Shishimaru close and know that no harm will come to him, not again.
But somehow, despite the fact that no matter what he needs to do, no matter what daily necessities he has to give up or what jobs he needs to do or what enemies he needs to face… none of it really matters. Going without food doesn't feel like endurance when it's for Shishimaru, working long hours every day doesn't feel like a struggle when it's for Shishimaru, fighting off guys twice his size doesn't feel like strength when it's for Shishimaru. He'll do anything for Shishimaru, go to any lengths, push himself to any extreme, give up his life if need be for Shishimaru, and it wouldn't feel anything but right, because he loves Shishimaru, loves him more than anything else in the world, loves him with a stronger, hotter intensity than he ever thought possible.
…but somehow, despite all the endurance and the struggle and the strength he puts up every day for Shishimaru, even laying beside him in the dark of night, protected by the thin walls of the run-down apartment and the drafty warmth of their worn-out futon and the steady, comfortable assurance of their mutual embrace, words fail him as he tries to find the courage to express just how important Shishimaru is to him. It's different than all the other things; he doesn't know why, but somehow, facing other challenges for Shishimaru's sake is so completely different than facing Shishimaru himself, and even years later, Kinzo has never quite been able to look Shishimaru in the eye without being choked with guilt for letting him be hurt the way he was back in junior high school. He knows Shishimaru doesn't blame him, knows Shishimaru has never, ever been anything but loving and forgiving towards him even since the incident, but, Kinzo thinks as Shishimaru rests his head against Kinzo's chest for the night, what right does he have to even be here, to be allowed to be the one to protect Shishimaru after what he let happen, not to mention to indulge in pretty words like love? It hurts to think about, really, and more than anything else he ever has to face, the memory of what he allowed to occur is the scariest thing to Kinzo, scary enough to force his voice into silence.
Still, it's a struggle, especially when Shishimaru turns those big eyes on him, or else times like now, when he curls close into Kinzo's arms and murmurs "Good night, Kin-chan," the way he always has since they were both only children, the way Kinzo was terrified he'd never be able to hear again, the way Kinzo has treasured every day since they began their new life together. All the protection in the world can't express that to Shishimaru, after all, can't say to him how desperately Kinzo needs him in his life, and so despite the guilt and the fear, at the end of each day, Kinzo gathers the little courage he can muster.
"Good night," he whispers hoarsely past the lump in his throat, angling his face just a little to press a kiss to the top of Shishimaru's head, and while he knows it's not enough, not nearly enough to show just how much Shishimaru means to him, he feels Shishimaru curl into his arms just a little bit more, a smile on his lips as he relaxes against Kinzo's body, and Kinzo thinks, until he finds it in himself to say what he's been feeling for the vast majority of his life, it'll do.