It struck her sometimes how little she knew her own brother.
Though she could remember him being a lot happier when they had been younger, way, way before that accident, where only the two of them survived and had to suffer countless months of being shipped off from one relative to another, like gifts being refused and handed over to the one next in line if they happened to be interested. She supposed that made her brother close himself off; and that was how she knew him for most of their lives – this quiet, always phasing out kind of guy, with an ambiguous expression and blank pale eyes, so blank that even she, his own sister, could not know what he was thinking. Hence that memory of a happier him - that smiling face, was so faint that she wasn't sure if it was reality or a dream.
She was happy with what remained of him, however. She enjoyed the little things – with her brother it was always the little things that mattered, the only clues as to what he might be thinking, what he might be feeling.
She enjoyed their little pigging out sessions, wherein he would cook a ton of food and they would finish it off by themselves, often dueling with their chopsticks as to who would get the last piece of sushi. The loser would inevitably wash the dishes, though neither of them complained about that.
She loved their sound-tripping moments, wherein the two of them would sit beside each other on the couch, listening to their mp3 players while reading a magazine (as was in her case), or dozing off (as was in his case). Sometimes they'd share an mp3 player and headphones; she always liked the left one, and she leant her head on his shoulder when they did this, and the two of them would doze off together, or she would force him – more like bully – into reading her girly magazines with her.
When they transferred to Gekkoukan High, she had hoped that she could get her brother to show more smiles.
She liked to think of the events as a whirlwind that overtook their quiet lives.
She had no problem making immediate friends because of her natural charm and cheer, though she never forgot her goal; she dragged her brother around with her and made him interact with others, and he, as always, accepted her 'bullying' graciously. He knew that it was futile to resist her in these sorts of things anyway, and he worked best going with the flow most of the time.
She was happy and relieved when he started to have close friends again, and was forever thankful for Iori Junpei and Takeba Yukari for helping her brother around. Ah, but then again, he had always been capable of looking after himself even if he could get as quiet as the dead, and most of the time he also looked after her as well.
They spent moments together working out how best to work in combat with their unique ability; though they each had their own Orpheus, the other Personas they could summon could only be called forth by who did the summoning first, and they had to build on this. It was her brother who suggested they form a combo duo, a simple solution really, but the training to form an effortless sync with each other was the hard part. They had to work out what to do in half a second once a Persona they summoned turned out to be called by either of them, especially if they went in separate teams.
It was one of the rare instances that her brother started a conversation with her.
Bebe seems to like you.
She was surprised; she turned to him blinking.
What made you say that?
He always waits for you doesn't he? And always seems to want to…
What do you want for dinner?
It was just like her brother to suddenly change topic in the middle of a conversation; it was his turn to cook dinner tonight – the two of them rarely relied on cafeteria food. It was unusual for him to notice things like that; and anyway, she could point out that their friend Yukari-san was also taking interest in him, and she didn't like it one bit.
Still, that kind of conversation didn't repeat itself for the following days, and the both of them enjoyed school, their part time jobs and hanging out with their newfound friends. She eventually joined the volleyball club, while her brother went for the kendo team; she was confident he'd make it to varsity by the time they reach senior year.
Her brother took to Junpei's jealousy with admirable calmness.
In her thoughts, she could laugh because she could almost say her brother really wasn't interested in being the leader; he simply accepted whatever was assigned to him, without really doing some serious thinking – well, not that serious. She could understand why their seniors often asked him or her to lead team missions; her brother for the most part remained calm and pokerfaced even when faced with a powerful Shadow; and she had gotten some of that inherent calmness too, and always sought to keep her wits about her. It was something they both learned while young, after they lost their parents.
She knew her brother disapproved of griping and whining and needless talking; it was better to adapt to circumstances, think about the options and just do what had to be done and save everyone trouble. That was what kept them alive and together in the midst of being shipped off from relative to relative. That was what her brother kept her safe with, all those years.
And now he was using that same wit and quiet to keep everyone together, and she was proud of him for it.
Bebe ended up recruiting them both into the Fashion Club, and she was amused that her brother actually consented with everything. Bebe was surprised that her brother should know a handy thing or two about fashion, and she laughed pleasantly when she confessed about making him read through issues of Cosmopolitan with her, and other such magazines.
By now their social circle had extended beyond just the members of S.E.E.S, and she was sure that they would finally remain here in the city, well until they reached college. For the most part she had no problem with boys, and was aware that she was starting to attract even their senior Akihiko, and she avoided the topic when other girls would insinuate things, or at least smile and giggle it away.
Her brother remained resolutely single, and many a classmate and senior expressed that he was too quiet for his own good sometimes, just sitting serenely at a corner of the dorm lounge with a can of Coke and nodding to whatever was up on his playlist, or dozing off.
Many a girl had asked her what food her brother liked best, or how to read that blank expression he always seemed to wear. The little questions, harmless in truth, somehow irked her in the little ways – well, her brother ate almost anything edible (which was true for her as well), and as for trying to read his thoughts, she was always tempted to laugh and say that that was impossible; even she was still learning and she had been with him forever.
Sometimes a girl would ask her to give her brother some cookies or a lunch box, and though she couldn't refuse, she had this very strange desire to throw the things in the nearest bin. Having no choice she would go to him, and she would hand him the little gifts, say who it was from, and watch him intently for any reaction.
He would almost always refuse the things and dispose of them himself, without letting the sender know of course. But sometimes he would eat the cookies, and at some point it annoyed her so much she had snapped at him and said she made better cookies than anyone anyway, and he stared at her as if she had grown an extra head, and agreed.
Minato never accepted any food or trinket from any other girl after that.
She always liked going to karaoke with him.
They would sometimes spend an entire day just hanging out, pigging out, looking at records store, comparing headphone models or belting their heart out at karaoke. During afternoons they would head to the shrine and its adjacent play park, and they would sit on the bench, and he would share his headphones with her, and she would lean on his shoulder and listen to the song, and they would chat softly – about school, about his horrible grade in mathematics, about their training, their personas, their classmates…and sometimes, their parents.
The topic of their parents never failed to make tears rise to her eyes, and would cup her face and wipe her tears away and say sorry for talking about sad things. She would try to regain her composure and smile at him, and pinch his cheek and hug his arm, and then they would both be quiet.
And then after a while she felt herself regain her stillness, and she would ask him if he wanted to go home, and then they went back together still sharing the headphones and the music.
It was a harmless invitation from Akihiko, or at least as harmless as she could say, and she agreed to spend a day in town with him.
She let her senior treat her to some strawberry parfait in the newly-opened café, and there they chatted about their hobbies and little whatnots, and truth be told, she quite enjoyed Akihiko's company. After lunch she proceeded to drag him around to her favorite record's store, and exclaiming that one of the bands she watched out for had a new album out, she asked him to listen to the CD with her. After fifteen tracks she asked him what he thought, and Akihiko managed a small smile and said it was 'mostly okay, but had more noise than tune'. She supposed he didn't like her genre.
They passed by the arcade and she saw her brother there with Junpei and Ryoji, and she waved at him and smiled, and he only blinked at her, then blinked at her companion, and then returned to his arcade game. Akihiko tried calling her brother's name, and he answered with a wave and didn't look at them again.
While she was used to neutrality from her brother, this was something she hadn't expected, and she stood there staring after him until Akihiko suggested they go look at a sports store.
She supposed it was only normal to send them both to separate teams during Dark Hour, but there this discomfited thought about her that her brother was avoiding her. She inwardly cursed his lack of expression; she couldn't know what he was thinking – and this wasn't the first time Minato agreed that they be split, if it served the mission better. After the Dark Hour her brother went off to his dorm and refused to talk anymore, claiming sleepiness as an excuse. These things by themselves were normal from him, but still, there was this nagging thought in her that didn't rest.
All the while Akihiko seemed to be inviting her out more often, and when he gave her the first small gift, she took it, unsure, but then pushed it back into his hands.
While the matsuri would have been enough to cheer her up and make her giddy, she looked around at the stalls and the lights, the masks and the goldfishes with little interest; her eyes scanned for her brother, and she found him lagging behind everyone else, eating takoyaki and looking at the stalls with his usual neutral expression.
She backtracked and came to step beside him, and said nothing. He blinked at her, took in how she looked in the kimono, and offered her a stick of grilled squid without saying anything else. She took the food, but didn't bite into it.
Is something wrong?
I can't catch a goldfish. Junpei's still at it.
That's not what I meant.
He refused to say anything else, and asked her if she wanted to go home early. She clutched his arm and agreed, and excused the both of them from their friends, and together they headed back to the dorms.
It was Career Experience Day and they had both worked in the same restaurant, as cashiers. It was their break hour and they sat at the back door by an alley, eating the food he'd cooked earlier. She removed her cap and fanned herself with it, and turned to him to ask for a drink, and was surprised to find his pale eyes so near, their foreheads touching.
Huh? What's up?
I love you. More than anything else in the world.
It was probably the most he had said in a sentence lately, and she was unsure how to react; if she could react at all. She blinked rapidly at him, and then he drew back without saying anything else, and resumed eating his lunch. She wanted to ask him badly what he meant, but something stopped her, and his silence saddened her – why did he have to be hard to reach, to understand? What was she supposed to do?
Hurry and finish up.
She watched him return into the restaurant, feeling more confused than ever.
He flunked his midterms in Trigonometry, and thus had to ask her to help him with her cram sessions, and she decided it would be the best opportunity to talk to him. While he was mostly calm and collected, he did have a penchant for staying silent, and sometimes, running discreetly away from the problem. She supposed she liked to keep things to himself because he didn't want to burden anyone with them, but she decided that had to stop, especially between the two of them. They were each other's last remaining family, and if the two of them couldn't rely on each other, they would be alone, and that idea scared her the most.
So she brought her books and notes to his dorm room, and they weren't going to the Tartarus tonight; they would study well until two in the morning, until she was sure he could take-on the make-up exam and pass it, or he wouldn't advance to senior year and make it to the varsity of the Kendo team.
She prepared coffee and sandwiches, and at exactly seven in the evening they started working. She explained the theorems and corollaries patiently, asking him to do some exercises for her. He slogged through with great effort – he wasn't very good in numbers; they were his only academic flaw. At some point he was starting to get drowsy, his eyelids fluttering, and she would smile and poke him awake with her pencil, gave him an encouraging nod, and he would rouse himself and continue working.
She decided to give him a break at around ten in the evening, and she watched him rest his head on the open book. She reached out a hand and touched the locks of his azure hair, and gave him a pat.
You'll do well, brother.
She held a handful of his hair momentarily and mulled over her words.
You don't need to hide, you know.
He replied with a sleepy grunt, but she knew he was awake.
I really like you a lot too…
She let her lips rest on his cheek, and he stayed stock still. She closed her eyes as she sensed him shift, and she drew back a little, and their lips touched, tentatively, hesitating, unsure. With her hands she pulled him close, and hoped nobody would come bursting through the door, and she kissed him earnestly, and she felt him kiss back, and she pulled him closer to her again and all her inhibitions disappeared.
They sat beside each other in the bullet train that headed for Kyoto, and around them the other students were busy being noisy and taking pictures. She had her earphones on, and she nodded to the music in her playlist, while he was being his usual self – dozing off, his head resting on her shoulder. She smiled and watched him sleep, and she reached up a hand and patted his cheek, then rest her chin on his head.
Ryoji sat down on the seat across theirs and took a picture of her brother asleep, and she laughed and said he'd get him for that, and playful Ryoji stuck his tongue out and went off to take more pictures of girls, laughing. She shook her head just as he shifted and blinked sleepily awake, and asked if they were in Kyoto yet. She told him they still had two more hours, and he mumbled about excruciating train rides, and straightened up to rub his eyes.
She poked his cheek and offered him a bento box, and glanced carefully around before kissing her, and she smiled against his lips and also took a little risk, and kissed him sweetly back. Then he drew back and she watched him eat with a warm smile, and she knew in herself that she would follow him to whatever end, in whatever corner of the world that end might be.