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Honesty

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He doesn’t have the right to complain.

He knows he’s lived a privileged life, one of utter comfort and ease that so many would envy him for.

He shouldn’t envy the others.

From what he’s observed, they don’t seem to have any family they’re close to or anyone that they can trust outside of each other, so it would be safe to assume that whatever lives they’ve lived up to this point have not been…ideal.

He’s glad they have each other.

Because even if all they can afford to do is offer each other comfort, it’s still something.

Because for them, it’s honest.

Something he wouldn’t know about.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“So,” Jyugo says after a companionable silence, “You ever have to have sex with someone doin’ a movie?”

Sitting up straight from shock, face red as a tomato, Tsukumo starts, “Wh-Wh-What?!”

Without any trace of emotion besides apathy, the younger starts, “Nico was asking Uno earlier if the actors actually doing it makes a movie a porn; I tuned out halfway through so I don’t know what the answer was. Got me curious about you, though.”

Awed by the utter lack of shame, Tsukumo gathers his wits and manages to get out, “No! I would never have done something like that, some things should never be stripped of their sanctity no matter how it’s demanded!”

“…Sex is sacred?” The boy asks, thoroughly confused.

“Of course it is! It’s the union between two or more people made physical!”

“…”

“Romantically! It is not something for you to do with your friends or in general, you’re an underage minor!”

“…Okay,” Jyugo eventually says, “That’s kinda, like, the opposite of what Uno told me,” he responds before shrugging, “But whatever floats your boat I guess.” And with that, he plops his head right into Tsukumo’s lap.

It takes every skill he’s ever learned as an actor to not show any reaction to the jolt of lightning that goes through him.

“Is…” Jyugo says after a beat, oddly nervous, “Is this okay?”

Blinking, returning to reality, Tsukumo eventually manages to catch himself and say, “Oh! Yes, of course.”

“Good,” Jyugo hums before he shuts his eyes, content.

And it’s quiet in that comfortable way that Jyugo provides while he drifts to sleep, head a warm weight on Tsukumo’s legs. After a while, he starts to run his fingers through the dark strands, soft enough to keep from waking the younger inmate.

It’s nice.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The…“braid train” as Nico puts it, is a strange position to pass the time in. With him in front, Nico behind him and Uno “generously” (not taking any chance at having his hair messed with) taking the position of the… “caboose,” it’s not how he’d usually spend his afternoon.

“Hmm…” Nico mumbles as he threads his fingers through Tsukumo’s hair, “Needs more glitter.” He remarks, focused. “I need another clip, Gucci Caboose!”

“Choo-choo,” Uno responds playfully, most likely handing Nico the requested accessory.

“Yay!”

“Um…” Tsukumo eventually tries to say, turning his head back slightly, “What exactly are you-”

“No!” Nico squeals, turning Tsukumo’s head to face forward, “You need to face straight ahead and help us avoid obstacles, In Vogue-omotive!” Leaning in to whisper, Nico adds, “If we’re not careful, we’ll get caught by some robbers in a stick up.”

“From…who?”

Leaning forward, Uno says in stage fear, “Frumpy Cassidy and the Tasteless Kid.” He clarifies, pointing at Rock and Jyugo who are laid out on the floor across from them.

To that, Jyugo rolls his eyes then gets back to flopping over Rock’s chest while Rock flips them off.

“I…see…”

“Done!” Nico chirps.

Handing Tsukumo a mirror, the boy beams at his work.

The braid itself is nicely done, clearly Nico’s been practicing…but there’s at least twenty kilograms worth of hair accessories styled into it that are definitely going to weigh him down.

“Do you love it?” Nico asks, eye sparkling in anticipation.

Smiling fondly at the child, Tsukumo tentatively places a hand on Nico’s head.

“Yes, thank you, Nico.”

Releasing a delighted squeal, Nico barrels into his chest and traps the older man’s waist between his arms. Tsukumo tries to remember how to breathe amidst the fuzziness surrounding his mind.

Chuckling softly at the display, Uno moves over and collects the two into his arms.

“Umm…”

“Sorry Mr. Ninja,” Uno cheerfully informs him, “But the Braid Train has just pulled into Grand Snuggle Station! And this is the last stop of the day!”

This is…strange.

These people are strange.

He feels strange.

He thinks he likes it.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Great hustle out there!” Rock congratulates once they finish jogging, slapping him on the back.

Stumbling, half due to the strength behind Rock’s hand and half from his body’s confusion towards the foreign warmth, he manages to regain his bearings.

“Thank you…” He replies sheepishly, “I’ve…been working much harder lately.”

“And it shows!” Rock praises, wrapping an arm around him, “I’m proud of you, man!”

Putting every ounce of self-control he has into keeping himself still, he currently doesn’t have the mental capacity to give a response.

Strong…

“Dude?”

Warm…

“Bro?”

Safe…

“FUNKY NINJA MAN!”

Jolting back to consciousness, he flinches away from Rock.

Raising an eyebrow, the taller asks, “You okay, bud?”

“…Of course,” he answers, “I’m quite alright.”

Fixing his posture, he gives a quick bow before excusing himself, “We’ll talk later,” and hurrying off.

He’s had a comfortable life. He has no reason to ask for anything else.

“…Hmm…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Chin up, no.99-kun!”

Jolting at the call of the assistant supervisor who’s making his way across the training field to where he’s sitting, Tsukumo’s pulled out of his daze and locks eyes with Yamato.

“Sir!” He calls back, “Is there something you need?”

“Hmmm.”

“Si-”

Pat.

Looking at the hand placed on his shoulder, Tsukumo does everything in his power to keep from flinching.

“I see,” Yamato starts, “You really don’t understand, do you?”

Blinking, he begins, “Sir? What are you talking about?”

“Considering the way you were raised, it’s not that much of a surprise,” Yamato says with an oddly sad smile. “It seems that quite a few of you inmates don’t seem to.” Sighing, he says ruefully, “That seems to be the way the world is these days, one where children aren’t given the most basic lesson of them all.”

“A lesson?” Something else he doesn’t know? Something else that was kept from him? Something else he was lied to about?

What does he need to know?

“Yes,” Yamato says again, “Something that could have kept so many of you from ever entering these walls. Something that could have saved so many lives.”

“Sir,” Tsukumo interrupts, breathless, “Please, what don’t I know?”

Pat.

And now there’s a hand on his head to match the one on his shoulder.

“What you don’t know,” the man starts with a kind smile, “Is that everyone is entitled to be loved. A child should never have to earn the love of their family, and I’m sorry that you feel as though it was something you didn’t deserve at birth.”

But…I already had…I have so much…I don’t have the right to…It would be ungrateful…

It feels wonderful.

Taking the handkerchief offered to him, he just now realizes that he’s crying.

Giving one last pat on the head, Yamto tells him, “Good man,” before getting up. “Now dry those tears, we have training to do! We will get strong enough to build a world where children are given the love they need to become fine young Japanese men!”

Watching the man head off to the track, Tsukumo takes one more deep breath before he goes to join him.

Because now, he can take what he’s been offered, and he knows that it’s straight from their hearts.

He knows that he deserves it.