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             It was a normal, peaceful day at the Morinomiya daycare center.

 

         The toddlers played happily as Usaida laid down on the floor, propping himself up on one arm. The usually sleepy babysitter watched the scene in front of him in amusement, a lazy smile found on his lips. Kirin was 'setting the table and preparing food', Midori was sleeping beside him, while Takuma and Kazuma were running around the room, the latter chasing his twin with teary eyes. Taka, on the other hand, tugged Kotarou to play monsters with him, Ryuuichi acting as the enemy while he watched over them. Usaida felt his eyes drooping close as their noises and chattering filled his ears. It was another normal day at the Morinomiya daycare room, and so he lets himself fall asleep.

 

A fist came in contact with his head before he can even do so. Kamitani Hayato stood in front of him, as Usaida opened his eyes, the sleep consuming him earlier slowly dissipating. "Do not sleep, idiot."

 

"Ah sorry. Felt a little sleepy," he apologized, though it wasn't anything sincere. He can see Ryuuichi just looking at him awkwardly. "Hm, isn't the baseball club supposed to have practice today? What are you doing here?"

 

"Practice was canceled. The coach had to attend something," the boy replied, taking Takuma who was trying to climb on his leg. Hayato sat beside Ryuuichi, and for some reason it made Usaida want to grin a little more.

 

"Nii-ja cawwyy me too!" Taka whined continuously, trying to get his brother to lift him as well. It only earned him a punch on the head.

 

"Shut up, idiot."

 

          He didn't even need to count to one before he heard what he was anticipating.

 

"UWAAAH! I hate chu Nii-ja!"

 

"Kamitani…" Ryuuichi sighed.

 

          The young boy ran to the brunet who carried him in his arms and consoled him. Hayato told Ryuuichi to stop spoiling his brother, while the latter told him to stop hitting Taka. The raven-haired male ignored it and looked after the twins instead, while the other heaved out a sigh once again, trying to calm the wailing kid. Kotarou then offered to play with him, to which the crying boy immediately agreed to, effectively stopping his sobbing. And soon enough, all of them were attacking Usaida, even Midori who just woke up after Taka's nonstop crying earlier.

 

          Ryuuichi just smiled while Hayato remained straight-faced. It made his lips twitch into a smile.

 

          As he lied down in 'defeat', the kids whined about him being weak. Little hands hit him more, while Taka poked him with his toy sword and Midori pulled his hair. Kotarou just stood nearby while his brother asked the others to stop their 'attack'. When they didn't relent, Hayato stepped in and told them that he'll hit them if they didn't do so, which caused the kids to get frightened and cry to Ryuuichi. As the brunet told him once again to stop threatening children, the pink-haired male grinned knowingly, finding the sight in front of him entertaining.

 

           It had been so long since the Kashima brothers arrived at the Morinomiya Academy. Usaida can't remember when they did, but he can still remember how it went. Even back then, the older Kashima had been so considerate, letting him go home instead of asking him to stay to help him. Ever since his arrival, the adult babysitter's load of work has lightened a lot, that sometimes it feels like Ryuuichi is doing all the work he was supposed to do. Kotarou, on the other hand, brought another member to the club. Kamitani Hayato might appear to be not fond of kids, but ever since joining the club, he has become a little more attached to them. The children looked up to him, especially his brother and the Mamizuka twins, and while he is the type to hit them when they are getting too rowdy, Usaida knows better than that. Hayato's presence helped him and Ryuuichi a lot of times. The lad may be rough with his ways sometimes, but the time he spent with them at the daycare room revealed a side of him that no one would expect he had.

 

          And this time, the pink-haired babysitter couldn't stop the smile forming on his lips.

 

          The two friends played with the toddlers while Midori remained clinging on his back. The same fond smile that Ryuuichi had earlier was still on his face as he watched Hayato put up with the children's antics, and it didn't go unnoticed by him. Usaida found it interesting, how Kashima Ryuuichi and Kamitani Hayato had personalities far different from each other, yet they ended up being friends. Best friends even-- or possibly even more than that, but only those two know. The brunet was gentle, while the other was blunt. The raven-haired boy can be a little rough, while Ryuu is tender. Yet, despite the contrast between them, despite the gap in their traits, they complement each other well. The presence of one another stirred changes in them, no matter how little they are. And their shared burden of being the eldest child connected them, leading to a natural and genuine friendship.

 

"Oi, stop grinning. You look like a creep." Hayato's voice snapped him out of his trance, and beside him, Ryuuichi smiled awkwardly.

 

"Heh, sorry," he said with a chuckle. It made Hayato scowl at him but the boy decided to just ignore it and went back to looking after the toddlers.

 

          Usaida kept his gaze at them, the lazy smile on his lips not fading. By this time, the kids had gathered around Ryuuichi as he started to tell them another story, upon Kotarou's silent request. The only adult in the room didn't miss how the children's eyes gleamed at the story of a hero embarking on an adventure to save a princess, and he definitely didn't miss how the eyes of the other lad in the room remained focused on the storyteller beside him.

 

          Heh, those two do make an interesting pair.

 

          The pink-haired man just smiled at baby Midori, who happily clutched his apron in her tiny hands.

 


 

          The whole class was silent as Hebihara-sensei wrote something on the board. Ushimaru Yuki kept her eyes trained at the chemical formula, determined to focus on studying over anything else. Or at least, that's what she wants to do, if not for the itching feeling of wanting to look at the boy beside her. The short-haired girl willed herself to listen instead of getting distracted by him, but all of that went out of the window when she chose to take one sneak peek at him.

 

          And as if something set them on fire, her cheeks burned brightly at the sight.

 

          Yuki was furiously blushing. It was chemistry time, and she knew that she couldn't get distracted, or else she'll have to pass a reflection paper to Hebihara-sensei later, but she couldn't help it. Not when she can hear the quiet breathing of the lad beside her. Not when she can see the subtle rise and fall of his chest, not when she can see how Kashima Ryuuichi's eyes are shutting close in each passing second. She didn't mean to stare, but Kashima-kun looked so cute in his sleepy state. She shook her head thoroughly as she realized where her thoughts went. She cannot think of him right now. She definitely can't.

 

          Ryuuichi dropped his head out of sleepiness. He shook his head immediately when he realized it.

 

Aah, Yuki felt her heartbeat speed up at the sight. Kashima-kun is so cute.

 

          Drowsiness took over the brunet once again as his eyes slowly shut close, while the lass debated whether to wake him up or not. She knew that he's tired of trying to balance studies and his duty as a brother and a babysitter at the daycare, but the teacher will surely punish him if he catches him sleeping during his class. Yuki felt so conflicted seeing how peaceful the young male looked like in his sleep, but Sensei is walking over to their side, and he'll be caught if she doesn't wake him up right now. Her heart thumped in nervousness as the thought of tapping him awake crossed her mind. It doesn't mean anything. She just needs to wake him up because he will be seen by Hebihara-sensei. She's definitely not betraying Maria-chan. She should stop overthinking. She can do it!

 

           A crumpled paper hit Ryuuichi's head and awakened him.

 

           The boy took the paper and opened it, a gentle smile finding its way on his lips as he read what was written on it. He glanced at the boy a row behind him, and there, Kamitani was looking straight at him as if trying to tell him something. Ryuuichi smiled a little more and mouthed him a 'thank you' before focusing on the lesson, this time fully awake. Yuki felt a little jealous of Kamitani-kun for it, but more than that, she felt curious. She knows that the two of them are close friends, but sometimes she is unsure of that fact. Because if they're just that, then Kamitani-kun would not redden a little bit and glance away when Kashima-kun thanked him. Because if they're just friends, the  Kashima-kun would not be blushing and smiling the way he's doing right now.

 

Is it possible that… Yuki gasped at the sudden realization. Are they possibly…

 

            Her cheeks crimsoned as a particular idea crossed her mind. It wasn't an impossible thought; maybe it was even more possible than the thought of Kashima-kun dating someone else. The two of them are always together, after all. The short-haired brunette couldn't erase the thought in her head after that, and she spent the whole time remaining in chemistry class just thinking about it. Aah, she shouldn't be prying in their lives, but she can't help it. Are Kashima-kun and Kamitani-kun really…? She wants to know the answer so badly.

 

"Oi Kashima," Kamitani called out to her seatmate who was arranging his stuff. That made Yuki realize that class had already ended and it was finally lunchtime. "Let's go."

 

"Ah wait, Kamitani!"

 

          The shorter boy ran to catch up to his friend who was already in the hallway, right after he finished packing his things up. The girl's eyes remained at the doorway as the two went somewhere, probably the daycare room. The brunette kept on musing about them, and come to think of it. Kamitani-kun was never the type to socialize so much with others, but he's fine if it's Kashima-kun. And Kashima-kun, even if he is always nice to everyone, he's still the most comfortable around Kamitani-kun. People usually feel like that when they're with someone really special to them, right? Does that mean… Yuki's face completely turned into an apple. Aah, it's not right to feel this way, but she's really envious of Kamitani-kun right now. Kashima-kun and he look cute together, though.

 

"Kamitani-kun is so cool," she heard one of her friends say dreamily. It alarmed her a little. "He acts so cold and intimidating, but that's what makes him really cool. I wish the other boys in our were like him."

 

"Well, I like Kashima-kun the best. He's just so cute and warm," another one replied in admiration. That startled her a little more. "Ah, but I think he's going out with Inomata from the gifted class?"

 

"Maria-chan isn't going out with Kashima-kun!" Yuki immediately interjected upon hearing that, and the moment she said that was the moment she realized she made a big mistake. Her friends looked at her knowingly. "I-I mean, M-Maria-chan is really busy with h-her studies, and K-Kashima-kun is…"

 

"Hm, Kashima-kun is what, Yuki-chan?"

 

"E-Eh?" she can't really say that Kashima-kun and Kamitani-kun are going out, right? She's not even sure if they are. But if they are not, then what are they, then? As soon as she saw their grins widening, she flushed even redder. "H-he has to take care of his brother, s-so um… h-he wouldn't d-date anyone t the moment."

 

They sent her a teasing look, before proceeding to eat their lunch. "Well, if you say so, Yuki-chan."

 

          The hue on her cheeks didn't wane even a little bit after that, but even with the giggles coming from them, she felt more bothered by one thing.

 

Are Kashima-kun and Kamitani-kun actually more than friends?

 


 

          He didn't mean to pass by. He definitely didn't. He was on his way home and he just decided to take this way because he didn't want to see his annoying sister yet. Inui Hiroyuki definitely didn't want to come and see those annoying kids and their irritatingly cute babysitter. It's just a mere coincidence that the daycare center was along the route he was taking. But really, the brown-haired boy looked cute especially with a smile painted on his face as the little girl in pigtails approached him with a piece of paper in her tiny hands. The redhead shook his head when he realized where his thoughts are leading. No, he shouldn't be thinking about it. He is not thinking about him.

 

"Senpai?" the imaginary 'Inomata' called out to him in a gentle, sweet voice.

 

Stop! He mentally screamed at the image. He's definitely over her. She's just in his imagination.

 

"Eh, senpai?" all of a sudden, the image of Kashima appeared in his mind, his doe-like eyes staring at him inquisitively.

 

Fuck! Don't appear, don't appear, he cursed in his mind, frustrated over having thoughts about the boy. I ain't thinking about you. I ain't!

 

          He shut his eyes tightly and slapped his face before deciding that he should go home. This isn't good for him. If he didn't go, thoughts like this will keep on plaguing him. He took one more glance at the daycare room, and all his will to go home went out of the window. It's not like he wanted to watch them. It's certainly not like that. But for real, the boy does resemble the Inomata in his mind. And even without the wig and the get-up, he still is cute, even cuter than other girls out there. Inui's cheeks turned red and he felt so flustered. Aaaagh, he shouldn't be feeling this way. He's a boy, no matter how cute he is. He's a freaking boy!

 

          The second-year student remained standing on his spot, eyes fixated on the kind babysitter he has been crushing on ever since (Wait, what? No, he doesn't have a crush on him. He obviously doesn't). He had the kids gathering around him as each of them held a sheet of paper in their tiny hands, trying to show him something. Kashima smiled fondly at them as the straight-faced guy beside him just watched them. Inui's brain registered him as 'mind Inomata's fake boyfriend' and the guy that his sister has a ridiculous crush on. Kamitani, he soon remembered. At the sight of him, he recalled a particular scene from before ("This is my woman. You better give up.") and it made him want to hit himself with something hard. Aagh, he knows he's embarrassing and pathetic, but does the world really have to remind him right now?

 

Stop! He clutched his hair in his palms as he closed his eyes tightly and shook his head. I feel so ashamed, ugh.

 

          He sulked for a while before he slowly opened his eyes and took a peek inside again. The two teenagers inside the club watched over the toddlers as they grouped and tried writing something on the sheets of paper they were showing to the pair earlier. It's as if they were parents watching their kids have fun together, Kashima being the doting one and Kamitani the stricter. Now that he thought of it, those two already look like a couple even without the crossdressing and that scripted-sounding line. The way they act around each other told him that there's something more going on in between them, just like how the brunet gazed softly at his raven-haired friend when he was approached by the twins and his noisy little brother, and how Kamitani gave Kashima a meaningful side glance when the latter smiled charmingly at the kids attempting to show off whatever they wrote to him. It became even more obvious how much they cared about each other the more he thought about it. At that, Kamitani's words to him back then echoed in his mind.

 

"If you ever dare hit that person when you talk to them, I'll send you flying to the sky."

 

Even back then, he was protective like a boyfriend, he felt his heart clenching as the sudden remembrance. But then, something clicked inside his head. Wait, what if even back then they're actually…? But hadn't he said that he's not his 'girlfriend'? But maybe…

 

          That realization made his heart constrict even tighter in his chest. No, he's definitely not upset over that. He doesn't like him that way. The one he liked was the cute girl. Inui does not care if he's dating the guy his sister likes. He does not care if the two of them looked like the perfect match, and he certainly does not care if they look like a cute couple when they are together. His heartache is not caused by this. He must've eaten something earlier that made him feel this way, so it's not really because of what he just realized, okay?

 

Inomata-chan… tears pricked the corners of his eyes as he thought of the cute bo-- girl that constantly haunted him even in his dreams at night.

 

And then all of a sudden, the door slid open. A pink-haired man stepped outside and looked at him amusingly. "Oh, if it isn't Inui-senpai. Ryuu-chan, you have a visitor."

 

"O-Oi!"

 

          The redhead became nervous at that. He instantly panicked when he heard the brunet's voice asking Usaida who could his visitor be. As soon as Kashima reached the doorway, Inui fled the scene in a flash.

 

"Inui… senpai?" the young babysitter confusedly muttered out, as he watched his senior dash away somewhere far from the daycare room.

 


 

"Bye-bye, Ryuu-nii, Kami-nii!" Kirin waved the two of them goodbye. Her mother thanked them both once again before finally going home.

 

          He waved back at the girl before letting a sigh of exhaustion escape his lips. The two of them went back inside the daycare room and arranged the toys scattered all over the place. After the job was done, he woke up Kotarou and Taka and told them it was time to go home. He lifted his brother while Kamitani did the same to Taka. After checking everything one last time, he came out of the room and locked it.

 

"Let's go," Kamitani told him.

 

"O-Okay."

 

          The sun had already gone down the time they finally went home. The streets were quiet and all Ryuuichi can hear were their footsteps and the soft snores coming from the sleeping Kotarou on his shoulder. His brother looked peaceful in his state, and it made him smile a little. Beside him, Kamitani walked silently, carrying his sleeping little brother in his arms. The sight of his friend warmed his cheeks as he got reminded of what happened this afternoon and what Usaida-san had said earlier. He tried not to think so much about it but to no avail. He knew that maybe it's just one of the pink-haired guy's jokes and that he didn't mean anything serious with it, yet his heart won't stop beating loudly because of that.

 

"Let's pway haus! Kiwin be the big sis."

 

"Then who will be the mommy and daddy?"

 

"Mommy and daddy!"

 

"M-Mommy and d-daddy…"

 

"Hm, why don't you play the mom, Ryuu-chan? Then let Hayato play the dad."

 

"E-Eh?"

 

"Okay kids, Ryuu-chan will play your mom and Hayato-kun as your dad."

 

"R-Really?"

 

"U-Usaida-san!"

 

"I dun wan nii-ja as daddy!"

 

"It's not like I wanna play your dad, too, idiot."

 

"Mommy needs to get cwoser chu daddy!"

 

"Alright, I'm gonna call this one HayaRyuu."

 

"Ung!"

 

"D-Don't just say 'ung', Kotarou!"

 

          Ryuuichi can't stop blushing the whole time that they were playing. He knew it was just a kids' play, but his heart was pounding every time the children ask them to get closer. He kept on getting flustered at Usaida's subtle remarks about them even if he knew that he's just making fun of them. He knew it shouldn't be so much of a big deal to him since they're friends, but his confusing feelings made it to be like that. Kamitani is the person he's most comfortable to be with (aside from Kotarou), but recently he feels nervous and jittery whenever the boy is near. The brunet tried to shrug it off, to ignore the feelings that were so new and foreign to him, but it becomes harder each passing day. The things that he doesn't notice about him before, now he catches even the littlest one of them. Even though he had conditioned himself to prioritize Kotarou over his feelings, there are times that he just wonders.

 

          But just like how he normally does, he brushed those thoughts aside.

 

          He glanced back at the lad beside him. Kamitani was quiet, but it wasn't his usual silence. He looked deep in thoughts, and Ryuuichi wondered if something was troubling him. There was a small frown seen on his face, different from the deadpan expression he's used seeing on him. The boy would only look like this whenever Taka or the other kids are being troublesome, but right now, his brother is sleeping quietly on his shoulder and the toddlers have gone home already. It was a little strange to see him like this, and it made the brunet want to know what's going on inside the other's mind. He then wondered if Kamitani was also thinking about this afternoon. Maybe it did bother him, too. He might have appeared indifferent about it earlier, but he must be disturbed by it.

 

          Ryuuichi better explain things to him.

 

"A-Are you thinking about earlier?" he asked, breaking the silence. The taller boy turned his head to his direction, and it made him blush instantly. He tried to push his thoughts away and continued speaking. "I-I don't think we should take it seriously. Usaida-san was probably joking, haha. We shouldn't let it bother us so--"

 

"Why don't we give it a shot?" the raven-haired shot a question at him, stopping him in his tracks. It floored the shorter lad.

 

          He stared at his friend, dumbfounded. His cheeks flared up while his heart fluttered inside his chest. Ryuuichi's mind tried to absorb what he had just heard from the guy. Is Kamitani actually thinking of trying it? But Usaida-san was probably just playing with them, and for sure Kamitani fully understands that they didn't have to take it seriously. The adult babysitter probably didn't mean anything with what he said. If Kamitani was asking him because of what the guy said earlier, then Ryuuichi should really clear things up.

 

"Y-You don't have to take it seriously, Kamitani," he reiterated, still surprised and flustered. "Usaida-san didn't mean anything by that, and it's just a game. So it's fine if we--"

 

"I'm not asking you because of what he said, idiot," the other cut him off. "I just didn't think it would hurt to try. But never mind."

 

          Kamitani then walked ahead of him, as silence engulfed the atmosphere. He paced up faster when he realized he was still standing on the same spot, his heartbeat quickening each time he took a step. The other looked so perplexed, embarrassed even, with cheeks flushed. His words rang in Ryuuichi's mind nonstop. He felt disconcerted, but he gave the question a thought. Will it be selfish of him if he agreed? He knew he said Kotarou will always be his first priority, and that will never change, but it wouldn't hurt to try, right? It's not like he would abandon his brother if he said yes. He would never ever do that, especially at this point in his life. And Kamitani was different from the others. He knew Ryuuichi well. He knew that he had to look after Kotraou as they do not have their parents anymore, and he understood that Kotarou comes first before anything else. He understands the burden he's carrying because he's going through a similar one as well. So maybe it would be just fine. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to have someone beside him.

 

          And maybe it wouldn't hurt for that someone to be the guy he liked.

 

          He just needs to explain things to Kotarou later.

 

"I-I guess you're right. It wouldn't hurt to try," Ryuuichi smiled at the boy. "We just have to explain it properly to Kotarou and Taka-kun later."

 

           Kamitani glanced at him, surprise evident on his features. He smiled a little more at that, and it made the taller look away, face turning even redder.

 

"Y-Yeah," he mumbled quietly, as Ryuuichi's smile remained on his lips.

 

"Nii-cha like Kami-cha?"

 

          Kotarou stared at him, waiting for an answer. It surprised him to see the little boy awake, as he was just sleeping soundly earlier. It made his face heat up when it dawned on him that his brother was watching the two of them just now, but he proceeds to answer the question.

 

"Mm. Nii-chan likes Kami-nii," he smiled gently at the young boy in his arms, hoping that he wouldn't get upset. "But Nii-chan still loves Kotarou the most, don't worry."

 

          Sleepy-looking eyes just stared at him, and it made Ryuuichi worry. It must've been shocking for the little guy, and he must've gotten him upset. The longer the silence became, the more anxious he felt. Maybe he should've chosen a better time to tell him. Maybe--

 

"Kota wuvs Nii-cha chu! And Kami-chan, Ba-cha, Sa-cha, Taka-cha, Ki-cha, Ta-cha, Ka-cha, Mi-cha, Usa-cha, Ino-cha, Yu-cha, Mas-cha…" Kotarou smiled at him brightly, and Ryuuichi never felt this relieved and touched in his life.

 

          Kotarou wrapped his short arms around him, as he mumbled a soft 'thank you' to his brother. Ryuuichi glanced at Kamitani and smiled at him. It was unexpected, but it went well. He hopes that it goes well with Taka-kun, too. He smiled a little bit more and intertwined his fingers with Kamitani's.

 

          Yeah, maybe it really wouldn't hurt to try.