AN: I don't own Loveless, nor any of the characters, they're Yun Kouga's creations.
Ritsuka rolled over, blankets rustling around his curled figure. Someone had made sure he was sufficiently bundled in his sleep, which made it quite difficult to move around. When he had finally won his wrestling match with the blankets, he glanced up at the wavering numbers on his alarm clock. 11:14. If his body had not already been slick with sweat, he surely would have broken out into one right then. He made to jump out of bed, but his body still weak from the night before, only managed to bring him so far as a meeting with the hardwood floor. He grumbled, sitting up. He was sick with the flu, or at least that's what Seimei had said. He sighed, rubbing his temple. His arm ached dully too, but rather than investigate the pain he dismissed it as a nightmare. A lone icicle crashing against the window brought him back to more positive thoughts. It was a terrible day to be sick.
Not only because it was the end of winter—which was a beautiful time of the year--but because today was a holiday. Valentine's Day. While it wasn't a holiday in so many ways that you got off for it, it was in the fact that barely any work would be done at school today. And there would be presents: chocolates, cards, and even homemade pudding which was his favorite because he didn't need to chew it. But here he was, in a pile of blankets on the floor, feeling like he had been hit by the monorail. His sour mood might have continued as he walked into the kitchen to fill his belly, but it was halted by what he saw on the counter. Honey with Toast. Next to it, was a note: "Ritsuka, I hope you feel better. I made some honeyed-toast for you, to soothe your stomach.-- Seimei"
Somehow, Seimei could always make everything better. He thought back to everything Seimei did for him, which was everything his mother couldn't do. Seimei woke him up every day for school, helped him with his homework, played videogames with him, and tucked him in at night. Ritsuka couldn't have asked for a better older brother, nor did he want one. He didn't really understand either, when his friends told him they fought with their siblings. He never fought with Seimei. He loved him. Spirit slightly lifted by the sweet toast, Ritsuka settled on the couch, eyelids already growing heavy.
The sound of the wrapping paper and cards brushing up against one another made a distinctive crinkle. It was a glaring interruption in the cool silence of the winter afternoon, these disgusting things. Every few steps he took he could hear it, like a bee in his ear. Seimei couldn't stand the noise. But he had to bear with it, at least until he was safely around the corner. Into the alleyway tucked by the side of his house. Only there could he free himself from that abominable noise.
Pink, red, white, sparkling, glittering -- the valentines were all too garish. Much too hideous and dirty for his hands, he touched them now with gloves on even, which meant that they were entirely too dirty for Ritsuka. Sixth graders, what did they know about love? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Only he knew what love really was. He loved Ritsuka so much.
The valentines made a sick, satisfying, crunching sound in his hands as he tore them to shreds. The ground became littered with torn hearts and crushed confectionaries. Seimei didn't even bother to keep the chocolate from smearing on his gloves as he destroyed it, quite enjoying the way it spread and smeared his hands.
He would make Ritsuka better chocolates, a perfect valentine, just for him.
Warm. The feeling was so warm and—Ritsuka opened his eyes, to see their mirror staring back at him. Ritsuka's older brother's eyes were the same color as his own, just a deeper shade of brown.
"Ritsuka, are you feeling better?" Seimei pressed his palm up against his forehead, with a slight smile. "Your fever's broke. That's good." He laid a kiss on Ritsuka's forehead, straightening up.
"Ne, when did you get home?" Seimei had his jacket off already.
"About half an hour ago. I didn't want to wake you up." Ritsuka frowned, he hadn't meant to fall asleep for so long.
"Now, now, don't make that face. You're sick, you're allowed to sleep as much as you like."
"But I don't want to be sick, I wanted to go to school today. Today's Valentine's Day, so we were supposed to have a class party and exchange gifts." Ritsuka's eyes suddenly lit up.
"Did anyone…did anyone give you anything to give me?" He was hopeful that even though he wasn't able to go to school, the day wouldn't be a total loss.
"Well, yes they did." Seimei's hands were empty though, and a quick scan of the room didn't reveal any bags.
"I threw them away." Ritsuka's eyes widened, shock and confusion vivid in them. Before he could even mouth the word 'why', Seimei was speaking again.
"They were dirty; they were spoiled. You're sick already, I don't want you to get even sicker." Ritsuka would have questioned him, but he continued onward without so much as a pause.
"But I did make some chocolate for you, Ritsuka, so you'll still have mine. The others don't have to know that yours was bad." There was a smile on Seimei's face.
"Really?" There was a smile on Ritsuka's face too, though of a different nature. "But…"
"Seimei, today is Valentine's Day, not White Day! Girls are supposed to give boy's chocolates! You're a boy. Boys give chocolate on White Day. And besides, I'm not a girl." He stated all this like it wasn't already apparent.
Seimei chuckled. "It's a day to show your love for someone else, isn't it?"
"And I love you."
Seimei gazed fondly at his younger brother as he slept. His smile grew as he took in his younger brother's features, which were similar to his except for a few minor differences. Their body type was the same, lithe and lean, their hair color dark brown nearly black, except his own was wavy, and Ritsuka's was straight. Well, Ritsuka was a lot shorter than he was, but as nearly six years his elder, it wasn't much of a surprise. He was so cute. Seimei continued to watch him for a while as he slept, occasionally running his hands down Ritsuka's back as he shivered, the poor baby. It wasn't until Ritsuka rolled over in response to one of his pets that he noticed it, an angry red line down his beloved brother's left arm. Still fresh and pink, the wound couldn't have been more than a few hours old. He knew why. He had left earlier than usual this morning.
She. She had done this. Seimei gazed down at his sleeping brother, doing his best to calm the emotion welling up inside of him. No matter how angry he was, he wouldn't let himself become the beast she was. He was more civilized then that. Still, his thoughts began to stray, becoming more and more muddled. The sound of a closing door, along with footsteps in the genkan brought him back to his senses.
"Ritsuka, Ritsuka, tadaima! I bought the ingredients for your favorite meal, noodles with mushrooms, just like you like them."
He moved immediately to stand in the hallway, before she did anything more foolish.
"Ah, Seimei you're home now too!" His mother moved to hug him, and he allowed her to do so, tensing up just the slightest at her touch. He didn't return the gesture.
"I brought your favorite food too, stewed tomatoes. Tonight I'll cook a special meal for my two sons."
"Be quiet. Don't wake up Ritsuka." It was nothing short of an order.
Her eyes were clouded for a moment.
"A-ah, well I suppose..." she rummaged through the bag rather than look at him, years of conditioning winning over inside of her. I suppose Seimei is right. You are my eldest son after all." She offered him a smile, as if that would make up for every wrong thing she had done in her life. "I'll go start dinner, then."
On any other day, he might have left it at that. Left her to be the insane woman she was, and nurture Ritsuka himself, but not today. Today Ritsuka was ill, and she had hurt him again.
"Ritsuka has a cut on his arm."
She was cutting up the noodles and placing them in cold water to soak, knife in hand.
"It wasn't there last night."
Her pace quickened as he continued to speak and she began to cut the mushrooms, leaving only the tops—Ritsuka didn't like the stems of mushrooms.
Seimei fought the urge in every cell in his body to plunge that knife where it belonged.
"…it was an accident." She began in a voice just slightly above a whisper, more of a monologue to herself than an explanation to her eldest son. The words came out of her in a gush, frantic, spilling out of her.
"Ritsuka wanted usagi ringo with the toast you made him when he woke up this morning. We said we would make them together. But you know how Ritsuka is, so clumsy sometimes, the knife slipped." The knife went down on the chopping board, cutting the scallion she then tossed into the pot.
It was partially true. Ritsuka had woken up this morning, determined to go to school. But to Misaki Aoyagi there could be no worse alternative. What if he got sick again at school? What if the students bullied him? What if he got into an accident on the way to school? She had decided that the best course would be to keep Ritsuka home. The pain in both her son's arm and eyes as she had grabbed onto him fervently and sliced him open was justified if it would keep her Ritsuka safe.
What Seimei would have said next, what he would have done next, was interrupted by the sound of socked feet padding into the kitchen.
"Mmnn, that smells good." Ritsuka, still sleepy-eyed, had woken up.
"What are you two talking about?" The two people Ritsuka loved the most looked so serious.
"Ritsuka, you're awake." Although the expression on Seimei's face softened, his eyes were still hardened. "It's nothing, Ritsuka. Are you sure you're feeling okay? You can go lay down, I'll wake you up when dinner's ready." Seimei tussled Ritsuka's hair, as a sign of assurance.
"No, I feel better now. " Ritsuka mostly ignored the affectionate gesture, looking over to his mother for confirmation.
"We were just talking about dinner." Misaki gave him a carefree smile as she indicated the now simmering pot.
"Oh." Curious, Ritsuka walked over to the pot, wrinkling his nose as he peered down into it.
"…but it looks kind of gross. Why are the noodles black? They should be white."
"Don't you like either kind of noodles, Ritsuka?" It was a stupid question, and Seimei's glare towards his mother, if only for a second, spoke for the stupidity of it.
"No. Soba noodles are gross. I don't want to eat black food."
"I'll get you Mc Donald's after if you're still hungry." Seimei as always would make amends for his mother's failure.
Ritsuka's face lit up. "Okay! They have that new burger out now too, that I want to try."
"It's a date, then. Now go relax until dinner, hm? I can't very well take you out if you run a fever, again."
"Alright…" Ritsuka ran back into the living room.
"Ritsuka doesn't like soba noodles?"
"No, he hates soba noodles. He's hated them since he was six. He'll only eat udon, and Inaniwa udon, at that." The disgust was evident in his voice, overflowing for the pathetic woman he had to call mother.
After a dinner of mushrooms and Mc Donalds, he had wound up still being hungry after all, Ritsuka laid in bed, groggy yet not asleep. He tossed around his bed, trying to find a comfortable position. After sleeping periodically through the day, sleep wasn't coming as easily to him now. Maybe if he buried his face into his pillow…
"Ritsuka, you're not asleep yet? You're waiting for me to tuck you in, right? Don't worry, I'm here now. " His mother's voice was so loud and jarring that it caused him to bang his head on the headboard.
"Owww… you don't need to. I'm okay, Mom."
"No, no, no, I need to tuck my Ritsuka in so he can sleep properly at night. And to protect him from the monsters."
Ritsuka flinched as she touched his face, instinctively. Even if his mind was willing to forgo the pain she caused, his body wouldn't as easily follow suit.
"What is it? Are my hands cold? I'm so sorry Ritsuka!"
"No Mom, it's not that—your hands are fine."
"Ah, good." She tucked him in quite snuggly. "Goodnight then, baby."
It was no use. He couldn't sleep. Ritsuka wanted to get up and walk around the house, find a place to sleep that didn't make him feel uneasy. As his thoughts tumbled from one thought to the next, his door cracked open. He tensed up; he hoped it wasn't his mother checking in on him again. She had come to check up on him four times tonight, each time more paranoid than the last. But the footsteps were too soft to be hers.
Ritsuka could feel his brother's hands check his forehead for any remnants of a fever.
"Ritsuka, why are you still awake? I tucked you in a few hours ago."
"I know, Mom came to tuck me in too."
"Yeah I can't… I can't sleep." Ritsuka looked away as he answered.
"But Mom keeps checking up on me, and telling me that if I don't sleep now, she'll punish me."
"It's not your fault though, Ritsuka." As if in response to his answer, Ritsuka's hand strayed to his injured arm.
"It's not your fault." Seimei reached over to Ritsuka, running his fingers alongside the vibrant cut. He leaned over, whispering in his brother's ear.
"She's sick. It's not your fault."
There was a moment of silence.
"Do you want to sleep in my bed? Come on." Seimei took Ritsuka's hand, leading him into his room.
As Ritsuka climbed into his older brother's bed, he couldn't help but notice how neat and orderly Seimei's room was. He only really had four things in his room, a bed, a bookcase, and a desk with a computer. Maybe because Seimei was so neat on his own, that's why his Mom never came in here. That's also probably why Ritsuka suddenly felt so comfortable, as he knew in the back of his mind that his mother wouldn't come to check up on him now. He didn't have much time to linger on these thoughts though, as his eyes were growing heavy with every passing moment.
"Night…" He murmured out, as he drifted into sleep. Ritsuka wasn't even sure if Seimei heard him over the clicking of computer keys.
" Goodnight, my Valentine."