A little brother may live to be a hundred, but he will always be a little brother.

She doesn't realize it. Not at first.

This is stupid of her really, because even Haruka had noticed that her siblings were being unnaturally protective of her and had mentioned it once when the whole Mekakushi Dan were lounging around the apartment. Shuuya had immediately changed the topic, with Kousuke chiming about the new recipe Tsubomi was planning, so everything was forgotten.

That should have clued her in, but nooooo, it just happened that Ayano Tateyama is clueless and a little bit of an airhead – okay, make that a lot – and even though she has her sister and brothers' best interest at heart, she still needs a little help on the awareness department.

In Ayano's defence, it happens in small amounts that people like her tend to gloss it over.

Shuuya had deemed it a habit to wake her up during the morning every day, knocking boisterously on the door of her bedroom in the apartment before charging in after hearing her sleepily mumble a reply. He would then proceed to sit on the foot of her bed, chattering happily about his dream involving Tsubomi and haunted houses or Kousuke doing something silly while waiting for her brain to reboot properly until it's time for breakfast, and she has to practically kick the blonde out of her bedroom so that she could get decent.

After breakfast, Kousuke would drag her outside the apartment and show her what changed in their city during her two year stint in the daze before letting her observe him in his part-time jobs. They would spend the whole day talking about the flowers Kousuke was tending to, or the new members of the group she founded, and how fun it was. She'd look as customers would come in and her brother would attend to them, not even bothering to think about the way her brother's eyes would scan the place frantically for a few seconds when she's gone out of his line of sight until they would finally land on her.

When she and Kousuke returns, the sun is about to set and Tsubomi is in the living room and waiting for them. Normally the other members are there to accompany her, but more often than not it is her sister that greets them. She'd help her make dinner, with her marveling at Tsubomi's cooking while the younger girl would shyly duck her head and blush. By the time bedtime comes, you'd find her in Tsubomi's room, because on the first night she came back her sister had asked her to brush her green hair the way they did back when they were kids, and Ayano had happily agreed.

She practically spends her every waking second with either one of her siblings or all of them, not that she's complaining. Like what she said before, she is clueless to her siblings' wordless pact, and she loves to spend time with them. She has two years to make up for. Ayano has no right to not enjoy it, after all she had them go through.

There were times when she spends a few minutes with the other members though, before one of her siblings would claim her attention back. Marry is delightful to talk with, Momo is perpetually cheerful, Takane would normally join efforts with her to bully Haruka, Hibiya is adorably grumpy most of the time, Hiyori would ask her about her mother, and Shintaro – well, Shintaro is Shintaro.

It is also him who clues her in on everything.

"You're spending all your time with those three, I know, sheesh."

They were walking just behind the whole Dan, with her wearing the sundress she had forgotten she owned, the summer sun blearing over them. Ayano was talking cheerfully to Shintaro about Shuuya's funny anecdotes of his dreams, Kousuke's knowledge about the meaning of flowers, and Tsubomi's long hair; Shintaro was humming along and she had slapped him on the arm, indignant.

"Wah! You were actually listening!"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "It's hard not to hear your loud voice; you'd have to be deaf not to hear it."

"Shintaro, you meanie!"

"I'm not – hey, where's everyone?"

Ayano blinked, before looking in front and realizing that they were alone. The other's must have left them and hadn't noticed since they were lagging behind. With a start, Ayano realized it's actually the first time that her siblings weren't a shouting distance away.


She blinked, realizing that she said it aloud. "I – yeah. But it's really great! I have two years to make up to, so I don't really mind. Sometimes I wonder when those three have grown up so much. Hey, what are you looking at?"

Shintaro was looking disbelievingly at her.


"I can't believe you didn't realize." He rolled his eyes.

Ayano was hopelessly lost. Sue her if she didn't have a 168 IQ. "Realize what?"

Shintaro sighed, scratching the back of his head. "You know, it's not really my place to say this, but this is getting out of hand."

"Shintaro! Tell me!"

"Ayano, you just told me that Kano wakes you up in the morning, Seto occupies your time after that, and Kido lets you help make dinner. Haven't you noticed your siblings are practically monopolizing you?"

It took her a moment to process his words - it would be a long time until she got used to the fact that the Dan called her siblings by their last names. "But that's not a bad thing –"

"That's not the point." Shintaro sighed. He looked at the skies, and then huffed, before looking squarely at Ayano so that she'd understand the gravity of the situation.

"Look, the reason why they do that is because they don't want to let you out of their sight. Not for a single second. Kano wakes you up every day to check if you're still in your bed, safe and sound. Seto brings you along so that he can keep an eye on you and at the same time he'll know what you're up to. Kido lets you brush her hair because in that way, you can't go anywhere at night with her not knowing. They're terrified you're going to disappear again, Ayano. They have it in their minds that if they take their eyes off you even for just a moment, their older sister would be gone and they can't go through that again. They've already lost your mother and father – they can't lose you too."

He doesn't quite say these in one breath, but Shintaro's been psychoanalyzing Ayano's siblings ever since the day she came back from the daze that it's almost easy to list everything down. What he didn't account on his spiel, though, that Ayano was a deeply emotional girl who felt too much.

For a moment she was so still and white Shintaro was actually scared, the last time he was legitimately frightened still a fresh memory in his mind. She looked too fragile, too easily broken and dismantled, and for a little moment it was clear that for all her strength and beauty she was only human: that she had bones that broke and skin that tore and a heart that could give up.

"Oi, Ayano."

She's staring blankly at him, blinks, and then Shintaro full on panics when without warning, fat droplets of tears started to run down her face.

"What the – Ayano why are you – holy crap what do I do -"

"I didn't know." Ayano whispers, voice distraught. "All these time and I didn't know."

Shintaro knew the girl - knew that she lived for other people and would gladly trade her life for theirs. She never lived for herself. Not once. Everyone else came first, her siblings most of all; this girl who breathes responsibility, always doing her best to make up for the childhood Kido, Seto and Kano haven't had the opportunity to fully enjoy.

It was ridiculous how someone could be so selfless and kind, and Shintaro could also not comprehend how Ayano wasn't perceptive enough to notice what those three were doing.

"Man, for someone who's always smiling around, you sure are dense aren't you?"

On second thought, that wasn't probably a nice thing to say to a girl who was crying, but Ayano isn't quite normal and she snorts/sobs, half-heartedly punching him in the arm.

"Meanie." Ayano repeats, eyes puffy. Thankfully the tears have stopped, so Shintaro let the abuse of his arm slide. "But thank you for telling me."

Shintaro shrugs. "No problem. Takane's been complaining incessantly about not being able to talk to you for three minutes without one of those three stealing you away, it had to be stopped."

His companion giggled, wiping her tears away with her arm, and for a moment Shintaro thinks that had it been two years earlier, he wouldn't have given Ayano the time of the day, much less help her in figuring things out. Maybe those red eyes were good for something, after all.


Shintaro jumped almost a mile in the air, he was so surprised, but he couldn't have the heart to be angry because when he looked at the direction of the voice, Seto was full on running towards them, expression absolutely terrified.

Beside him, Ayano was getting teary again, finally seeing for herself just how much her siblings were afraid of her disappearing again. He knew that haunted look of guilt well. He'd seen it in his own complexion enough to have its aesthetics memorized. "Oh, Kousuke."

When Seto had reached them, he wasted no time on pulling his older sister in a desperate hug, one arm wrapped around her waist and the other on the back of her head. He was so tall he had to bend down to bury his face on top of Ayano's head, and Shintaro could see the tears running down Seto's eyes. Silently, he left the siblings alone, taking his phone so he could call Kido and Kano and tell them their older sister was found.

"We thought – we thought-"Seto choked, and Ayano, whose face was buried on his chest, shook her head.

"It's okay, Kousuke, I understand." Ayano said, arms tight around her little brother's waist. "I'm sorry. So so sorry for what I put you three through."

"It's just – you were suddenly gone, you weren't behind us so everyone split up and I was so scared-"

Ayano drew back from the hug, which took a few seconds because Kousuke wouldn't let her loose, sending another pang through her heart. She stared up at his brown eyes, tears still flowing, and was suddenly reminded of the small boy in front of a red brick house, calling himself a monster, all those years ago.

A fresh memory flashed in her mind, the day she came back, after the time loop have finally stopped. After getting back from the daze, of a split second of stunned disbelief before she was suddenly crushed between three bodies, her three little siblings who have grown so much were saying her name again and again. Ayano remembered going home, how the three wouldn't let her go out of their sight, how they would hold her hand or lean against her shoulder or play with her hair, and she felt her heart break, just a little bit.

She framed his face with both hands, wiping his tears, and smiled through hers, and it was that brilliant smile that he knew so well, had missed, had spent the last two years without. "I'm sorry Kousuke. I wish I can take away the hurt I've caused you three, but if Marry had rewinded the time I would still have made that decision. I couldn't let you three die. I loved you too much for that."

Kousuke sniffled, leaning his face on Ayano's right hand. "I know that. We know that. It's just – I just wished you didn't have to leave."

"I don't have to. Not now." Ayano reassured him, wishing that he would believe. "Not ever. Everything's finished, Kousuke. I'm here. I'm never going anywhere again. I promise – I promise – so please stop crying. I can't stand seeing you cry."

Ayano never wanted to make her siblings cry, not on purpose or by accident. They've cried enough to last this lifetime. She had never forgiven herself, that time with Kano and her father's snake. She never wanted to experience it again.

"Do you mean it?" Kousuke asked, and there was a fragile note in his voice. Ayano put her arms around him again, leaning against his warmth.

"I mean it."

When Tsubomi and Shuuya came running towards them and joined the hug not a few minutes after, the four of them nothing but a pile of limbs and tears and sobs, Ayano swears to herself.

Never again.

Mekakucity Actors is done and I have nothing to look forward to in Saturday anymore. What am I gonna do with my life?

Kidding aside, I hope everyone enjoyed my first story on this category! I adore Ayano to bits, because that girl is so perfect oh my god. She deserves everything in life - you guys have no idea how hysterical I was when episode twelve aired and it turns out Ayano was actually alive and OH MY GOD THAT SHINAYA SCENE. MY OTP IS BEAUTIFUL.

Yes, I ship it. But the backbone of this story is actually about the relationship of Ayano and her adopted siblings. And before anyone remarks about Seto being featured more prominently than Kido and Kano, it's just that one of the things I hated about the anime (aside from episode eight op jfc) was Seto's exposure, or lack thereof. Both his two siblings got to talk about Ayano, and the viewers had gotten a peek on how those two loved their older sister, but Seto barely said anything about her. And I've also wondered how Kano, Kido and Seto handled Ayano's sudden resurrection from the dead, so I made this.

I hope you guys like it, and if you have time, review! And sorry in advance for the grammar, I don't have a beta reader, and I'm sure I switched tenses a lot in the story.