A/N: Kind of back after another really long hiatus. I've just been through a lot this past year, and I decided to pick up writing again. I put a lot of what I was feeling into this chapter. I might regret it...I don't know, but I hope you enjoy this one.
"So that's it?" a voice asked calmly from behind Arashi just as he had shut the door. Startled, he looked behind him to see Leo sitting at the base of the stairs. Leo simply looked at him, tapping his fingers together musingly as he awaited his reply. A long sigh flowed from Arashi's lips almost painfully as he walked over to the stairs and took a seat next to him.
"Yeah, I guess," Arashi sighed again.
"Heh, you're pretty amazing, onii-san," Leo laughed dryly.
"I'm not," he spitefully denied. The whole ordeal felt like dream—as if he could just wake up any moment from this horrible nightmare and go on living life as he pleased, but he could not. Reality would not let him. He could still hear his words floating in his head; they forced their way down his narrowed throat and dropped into the pit of his stomach. It sickened him, and the thought of all the repercussions of his words caused his stomach turn into painful knots.
Leo looked up at him, watching his dismal expression. Arashi stared down unblinkingly at the floor, and from time to time, his mouth would contort and the muscles in his neck would tighten and relax and tighten again. "Don't tell me you're having second thoughts…especially after you just gave up everything you have for a girl."
There was a long pause as Arashi tried to stomach Leo's words, but he could take in no more. Exasperated, he slapped his hands over his face and shook his head apologetically. "I…I don't know. I don't know what I've just done," he finally replied, letting his hands slip lifelessly into his lap. "And, I don't know what I'm going to do. It's not like I have some kind of Plan B, and it's not like mom has money to pay for my tuition for the next couple of years. Scholarships are hard to come by, and it's not like I have some special talent that's worthy of a scholarship. And, in this economy, it'll be even harder to find a job, so I don't know…I don't know what I'm gonna do about any of this. I feel like I was wrong. Like I should apologize, but I did it all for Nanette, right? It's the right decision, right?" Arashi looked to Leo miserably, hoping for some type of consolation—some kind type of confirmation that what he did was in fact the right thing.
A frowned appeared on Leo's face as he looked at Arashi, looking most pitiful about the whole situation. What could he say to him? Not once had he been in a situation like this before. There was nothing he could offer his older brother. No words of comfort. No words of wisdom. He simply bit his lower lip agonizing over the words he could possibly say to him. "I'm sorry…" he finally said, extending out his arm to him. Arashi stared at his hand, puzzled by his sudden gesture. Leo's eyebrows furrowed, and he sighed heavily. "Look, this is all I can offer you, man."
Arashi's gaze met Leo's pair of amber eyes, and a weak smile formed at the corners of his mouth. "Thank you," he said quietly, falling limply onto Leo's thin shoulder, which seemed like it could hardly support much of anything. Arashi let his hands fall to the ground, and Leo put his arm around his back, patting it with his hand comfortingly. "Sometimes…I get the feeling…like you're a brother to me," Arashi said suddenly, though he did not know why. For some reason, he had always had that vibe from Leo, as if he was a little brother. He did not know it was because perhaps they had been living together so long or if it was because they had grown somewhat closer over all these days. Leo merely quirked an eyebrow and gazed up quietly at the dim ceiling.
The ceiling seemed so much more hypnotic than it had before. It swirled, and the small shadows on the popcorn ceiling moved about with each flicker of light from the window. The people on the magazine clippings were dancing along the wall, and cosmetics scattered on the desk across the room were shimmering like stars. Her imagination was drifting off into the night just as her eyes began to grow as heavy as the darkness around her. Her eyes had barely closed when her phone rang, piercing through the night irritatingly. Nanette's eyes flickered open immediately, and with a moan she grasped for the phone, lost among the silhouetted trinkets sprinkled on the nightstand. She found the phone and answered with a tired hello.
"It's me," a familiar voice announced in a low tone.
"Who's me?" Nanette moaned in irritation, as she rolled over on her side.
"Oh, hey…" Nanette replied, her voice finding more enthusiasm. "What's up?"
"Nothing," Arashi sighed. "I just wanted to talk to you for a bit. I hope I didn't wake you up…"
"Hey, it's okay. I was hardly asleep, but you know you can call me any time," Nanette reassured him. It grew quiet on the other end of the line, and Nanette repeated herself again in a more concerned tone. "So…what's up?"
"I just wanted to tell you that I…" Arashi trailed off, muttering a few unintelligible words that jumbled together like static. She could only make out her name at the end."
"What? I can't hear you. You're mumbling."
"I said…" Arashi began hesitantly. "That I love you so much, Nanette."
A warm smile spread across Nanette's face, though she knew Arashi could not see it. Her heart picked up its pace as she let his words permeate through her body. "I love you, too," she chimed.
"Anything that happens, I'll still love you."
"It's the same here."
"No matter what, I mean that," he declared.
"I know you do," Nanette replied knowingly, but somehow she could sense a hint of anxiety in his voice. He sounded so different compared to when she had last spoke with him. "Is something wrong, though? Something bothering you?"
"Nothing you should worry about. Just be happy, alright?"
"Okay…but…you sound so…" she paused and shook her head softly as she flipped onto her back to look back up at the shadows. "Nevermind."
"So sad…I guess? I don't know."
"You have nothing to worry about, Nanette." She could feel him smile as he said it, yet his words seemed as though he was trying to convince himself. She knew something was there, but she could not put her finger on exactly what it was.
"I guess so," she said finally with a disappointed sigh, seeing that she would not be able to get any more information out of him. "Well, was that it?"
"Yeah…and I guess I should let you sleep then."
"Mhmm, or we can stay up and talk a bit more…" Nanette hummed. "Just until I fall asleep…?"
"I wouldn't mind at all."