There are some complex arrangements that should be neither picked apart nor examined too closely for, if disturbed, the beauty of the arrangement is broken up forever.
Touma stood for a moment just past the curve of the wall beyond the genkan, the entryway, observing his younger brother with a peculiarly tender smile curving his wide mouth; at least, Tsumaru would have thought it strange to behold. The depth of affection he held for his brother was best never overtly displayed because they were brothers, first off, and that kind of love always went unsaid. And even though recovering his brother from their strict and heartless aunt had brought a smile back to both of their hearts, functioning as Tsumaru's parent as well as brother made concealing his weakness, this affection, even more imperative.
It meant, simply put, that while Touma loved his brother a great deal, they were generally squabbling too much for him to show it. It was either argument or their other, more popular sport...
Touma had placed himself in a rather difficult situation, truth be told. Since recovering Tsumaru from Aunt Sayuri he'd never meant to corrupt the boy...well, rather Tsumaru was already corrupted...er, or at least lent himself to it... All right, so they probably should never have started sleeping together from the start. It had been entirely innocent, or so he'd managed to convince himself. But Kiryuu boys being Kiryuu boys -- being oversexed, blunt, and gay -- had wound up with something more.
Their uncle, Amano Kouji, was technically the guardian of Touma, but Sayuri had informally turned over custody of Tsumaru -- rather, dumped him back in their laps once she had no use for him. Kouji made his living in America, and so Touma found himself in the position of unofficial guardian not merely for himself, but for his younger brother as well.
It was a precarious situation and he knew he made it only more so by being involved with Tsumaru the way he was. It wasn't something anyone just asked for.
Tsumaru needed him, on so many levels.
"That you, aniki?" the boy inquired, startling him. Tsumaru looked up from the miniature Christmas tree in the living room, sitting back on his heels and brushing dark brown hair out of his eyes.
"Yeah, it's me," Touma responded easily, pushing away from the wall, limp grocery bag dangling from his wrist. It was stir-fry for dinner, and if Tsu didn't like it he could lump it.
It would be a little simpler, he thought, if Kouji were still around and acting as authority figure to them both. It turned their relationship into something intense and exclusive.
Which could be good, but it had its dangers too.
Tsumaru unleashed the force of velvety brown eyes on him. "I've been decorating the tree."
"It looks great!" Touma complimented him, frowning down on the small tree and remembering years past. Their father would go out and buy the tree, or Tsumaru would go with...just remembering dark-haired Ryuichi pushing through the door, grinning, a tree tucked under his arm made Touma's breath catch for a moment.
"I always decorate the tree," Tsumaru said, putting his head to the side, brows drawing together in a frown similar to Touma's. "It's been awhile."
"It's been too long," Touma agreed, analyzing the tree. He had a terrible sense of aesthetics, Tsumaru was wont to bemoan. If left to himself the decor would clash and he'd combine the wrong kinds of wood grains or something ridiculous like that...Tsumaru had always had a deft sense of placement and balance. He remembered Tsumaru decorating the tree every year since he was seven, sometimes with help from Kiryuu Kaede, sometimes by himself or with Uncle Kouji.
"I miss them!" Tsumaru declared, knuckling his eyes and standing with a fluid ripple of growing thighs.
Neither of them were ever shy about expressing affection, Touma reflected, which was a good thing given all the things they had to weather together. Tsumaru flung himself into Touma's arms, sniffling a little, and dinner fell by the wayside for awhile.
Later, when they returned to the tree and the distinct possibility of dinner in response to two growling stomachs, Tsumaru gave him a coy look as he picked up the white grocery bag. "So, aniki, will we get to open any presents tonight?"
Touma pretended to think that over. "Well...have you been a good little boy?" he asked, dredging up a memory of some American saying Uncle Kouji had teased him with.
"Better than you!" Tsumaru challenged, putting his hands on his hips. He had a smoldering pout which he used, frequently, to good effect. After being stunned by its initial impact, the newness had worn off and Touma developed a tolerance for it.
"Oh, really?" Touma responded, eyebrow winching up quite by itself at that remark. "Who is it that keeps getting into fights with Jei-kun at school, then?"
"That's Jei-kun's fault entirely," Tsumaru said with a great deal of scorn. He held a particular classmate of his in contempt for the constant harrassment he underwent...mostly, Touma was sure, because Tsumaru was so popular with the girls of his class. His look lightened and shifted to something more innocent. "I'm a perfect student!"
"Ha! You're a perfect something," Touma teased, easing the sting of that statement by reaching to tousle Tsumaru's glossy dark hair. He thought he might understand, somewhat, where Jei-kun was coming from; it was how he'd felt about Koganei Kaoru when the boy had first entered his class. He reached at the same time for their dinner.
Tsumaru deftly avoided his hand. "Let's eat, I'm starved," he announced, abandoning his attempts to seduce Touma into concessions. He pranced toward the kitchen, casting one more demure look over his shoulder.
"Maybe just one present," Touma allowed, feeling reasonably indulgent. He had warm memories of sitting round the tree on Christmas Eve, Tsumaru darting around to pass out gifts, everyone enjoying a warm drink as they opened a single present.
They would sit round the tree together this evening, just he and Tsumaru. And if the tree was smaller than it had been in those days, then it was only fitting, for their family was smaller too.
Sometimes Tsumaru suspected that his older brother was far more sentimental than he was; he just hid it really, really well.
Of course, this would have to be a real feat on Kiryuu Touma's part, because generally he acted as much like their father Ryuuichi as was possible for the son he'd produced who had completely the opposite bent. Touma hid it really well, though. One almost wouldn't know he was gay.
A present each, he had said, and then they'd unwrapped them. Silver and gold. Touma had gone and wrapped his for Tsu in the American tradition of red and green, thick shiny paper sent from the States by their uncle. If his brother were a little more gay, maybe, Tsumaru would have said it was wrapping paper stored up from the year before, too beautiful to toss, just nice enough to use again.
At one point, Tsumaru thought, his brother had turned aside and knuckled his eyes. But maybe the air was dry with winter and a moment's wink could be overlooked.
He had opened the smallest present and been surprised with a new game. "Dark Cloud." It wasn't so much the game that startled him; they were always gaming, tossing bits and pieces of gameplay between the two of them, one or the other playing while the other did homework or read beside him. It was a Playstation 2 game, and suddenly his brother was a magic, wonderful person, because that was an expensive new system and he knew how tightly they were budgeted.
Touma, on his part, had gone for a medium-sized present after making a play for a big one and grinning at Tsumaru's indignant squawk. The new watch was what had given his brother a moment of pause; it was a fine watch, men's jewelry, heavy weight of silver-linked metal and a sharp quartz casing and two slender spines of time-hands swimming on a black face. The inscription had been, simply, "With Love, T."
Of course Uncle Kouji had financed a great deal of it. But Tsumaru had the exquisite taste and sense of timing to choose the right gift. (And he hadn't sabotaged his brother's watch...it had just been...misplaced.)
Tsumaru roused from swimmy dreams of Christmas and rolled over, feeling blurry. Touma had shared a little sake with him in the spirit of Christmas eve and he wasn't sure he liked the biting, almost sweetish taste. It had been very smooth but he was sure it was powerful. It certainly made his stomach whirl.
Touma's face was very close to his as he was rolled onto his side as well, mouth slack, heavy-lidded eyes folded shut-tight in a deep sleep. One arm was flung over Tsumaru's waist, making him feel heavy. Tsumaru struggled with the arm for a moment before giving up. His aniki had a heat-seeking way about him that could find him and draw him in securely no matter how he burrowed.
He bit his lips inward and thought.
It had been over a year since he'd come to live with his brother again. He felt like he was starting to live all over again, because a life with Kiryuu Sayuri was none at all; he knew Amano Kouji had initiated the procedure for takeover of custody when he had gone to live with his aunt, but unfortunately their maternal uncle had not been equipped for a lengthy legal battle. Shiro-sensei had been a great comfort to him during that time.
And now he was back with his brother, and had found for himself what he'd suspected for a long time...Touma was the same as he, but concealed it better.
This kind of holiday season only thickened their ties that were bound up in so much more than blood. Cleaving to one another was one way of staving off the terrible loneliness of mother and father gone, and the uncle who loved and looked after them lived across the gulf of an ocean for the larger share of his time.
Touma's lips moved, giving him a spasm of fright.
"Uncle Kouji was supposed to make it for Christmas...told me not to tell you."
"I didn't think you were awake!" Tsumaru said in a thready, startled whisper.
Touma's arm tightened around him; absently, almost, he caressed Tsumaru's bottom through the thickness of fleece comforter. "Wasn't."
Tsumaru stifled a mirthful noise. Just past midnight and aniki sounded ready for his morning coffee. He leaned forward. "Merry Christmas."
"Oh!" A wash of warm breath broke over him. "Merry Christmas," Touma replied, and kissed him.
His brother's mouth was hot and wet and slightly sour from the sake he had drunk earlier. The kiss was everything to be expected of someone still half-wrapped in sleep but blanketed as well in loving intent. Tsumaru held on tight and closed his eyes unnecessarily in the dark and cradled himself in brotherlove as well as the feel of comfort and joy.
"Love you, aniki," Tsumaru said in small voice. If he ventured anything louder than a peep, he was sure, he would choke up on his own feelings if nothing else.
"Love you, too," Touma responded, voice fading into sleep and, as the weight of his head settled on their shared pillow Tsumaru wondered if he had ever been fully awake at all.
That didn't matter. Tsumaru wriggled, pleased. Whatever he got out of his brother while he was sleeping was far more honest than anything he'd get during waking hours. It was an extra kind of Christmas bonus.
But oh, what he'd give for the most brilliant Christmas gift of Uncle Kouji's return!
In the past year-plus, he had only seen the uncle now responsible for his custody during a handful of times. The first had been a most ecstatic reunion. Now, during this holiday time when it seemed every family unit drew itself together tightly, they were missing the last piece of their broken -- but still good -- family.
"Aniki..." He poked his brother in the side. He had a half-formulated question on his lips but the question fogged away on drifts of sensuality that rolled over him instead, as Touma half-roused and pressed against him, hands flexing on Tsumaru's body, seeking his responsive points with familiarity's good aim.
"Whatcha want?" Touma muttered without opening his eyes.
"Want sex," Tsumaru asserted, with a slight pout that his brother couldn't see but would surely be able to hear. He was ready to insist.
"Have you been...a good little boy?" Touma murmured, and now there was less of the slurred way of sleep in his speech. "Otherwise Santa won't bring you nice presents." A hint of licentiousness lurked in his rousing tone.
Tsumaru poked his brother in the side, hard. "Santa's got nothing to do with what I want from you now," he replied.
Touma rolled like a hungry shark trapping its prey. He was suddenly awake, Tsumaru noted with something akin to glee, then there was no room left for observation as Touma claimed his mouth...as well as his undivided attention.
There was something beautiful in the way they moved together. Their love, these blood ties, this feeling, was something that could not be taken away from people outside of it...no matter what anyone else might think.
The front door of the loft apartment opened and shut quietly, despite the wreath hung from the doorknob at a jaunty angle. That would be a touch of Tsumaru; Touma was far too pragmatic to mess around with holiday décor, the tall man thought to himself with an amused smile.
Amano Kouji pushed the rest of his luggage through the door with one foot and a sigh of exertion. Home at last, and just in time for Christmas. He had missed his nephews deeply and couldn't wait to spend a few weeks of well-deserved vacation reacquainting himself with their quirks.
The apartment was dark and silent and he rounded the curve of the wall beyond the genkan, walking cat-footed in slipper feet, and came to a halt beside the tree. Its softly sparkling white lights cheered him up.
He wanted to warm his hands, his whole body, maybe, but a string of plastic lights was hardly conducive to warmth and then there was the prospect of his nephews cocooned in warmth and sleep and Christmas dreams, luring him further into the house. Kouji smiled, shoved his hands in his pockets, and left the tree with a smile.
This, he knew, would be the loveliest Christmas surprise of all.