(Licest) Together, and yet so far apart.
Komui never touched his sister until the day she turned sixteen.
He'd been very fond of her for many years, of course. When she'd been a toddler back home in China, every day he would come home from school over lunch hour and play with her in the back garden while he took his meal. His mother would come along sometimes if she had a spare moment, to help watch Linali and to chat with her beloved son. They talked about many things -- Komui's schooling, the fall harvest, which lovely young village girls Father was thinking of arranging to be Komui's future bride. And sometimes, of course, they talked about Linali. Her big sparkling eyes and cheery disposition; her distressing tendency to crawl off into the flowers where they couldn't see her and stubbornly refuse to poke her head up when her name was called.
She'll make someone a lovely wife someday, his mother had always told him, if we can just curb that independent streak.
But ah well, there's nothing wrong with a baby being headstrong. She'll grow up someday.
And grow up she did.
She was seven when he finally saw her again, three years after they'd taken her away; and it was hard to discern any trace of the headstrong stubbornness his mother had once lamented over in the small, frail girl who hid behind his legs when she could, and stared silent and terrified at the strangers around her when she couldn't. He was probably a terrible person for feeling that everything the Black Order had done to his sister had, somehow, brought purpose back to his life. He hadn't spent three desperate years getting to her just to let everyone down now -- Linali, his parents, himself -- just to give up and live with what those bastards had done and abandon the hope of ever having anything better again.
He did his best to turn all his anger on the Order, never on her. It wasn't her fault that they'd broken her. That she couldn't smile anymore. That she'd been too young and didn't remember China or their parents or her beloved garden and never would, save for the vague, despairing sense of wrongness that had kept her continually begging for home, even when she no longer understood what "home" had been anymore beyond a few meaningless names and the fleeting memory of a loving touch.
He tried to make it all okay for her again; everything he could, anyway. He hugged her all the time; took her with him whenever she didn't want to be alone, whether to his office or the bathroom or a department meeting; he gave to her, talked to her, listened to her. And because she was curious and he had always been a little selfish, he told her stories of China. Of home. Of everything he could remember about their parents, and the village, and the schoolmaster she had never met and his classmates who were all dead now and the garden that she'd played in every day. He spoke Chinese with her often, and although she never quite learned to write it, in the end she once again grew quite competent at having conversations with him. It was a relief -- not as much of a relief as the day she finally smiled, or the day she met Kanda Yuu and decided to try making a friend -- but nonetheless, at times when speaking English grew so stifling and inadequate that he simply needed to tell someone what he was really thinking, no foreign grammar or foreign logic required, he still had his sister to talk to.
She was home -- the only remnant he had left of the past, the place he had lived, the person he had once been. And if it was selfish of him to love her for that equally as much as for everything else, he was guilty as charged.
He climbed his way up the ranks as the years passed by. From Science Department grunt to Head Officer; from Head Officer to Supervisor of the whole Order. Along the way, they both changed more than a little. The slightly bookish daydreamer known to read engineering texts for fun now found himself awkwardly sharing headspace with a calculating, ruthless commander, a man who had thrown himself headfirst into the deep, dark pool of Vatican intrigue and fought desperately against the pressure, painstakingly creating his sphere of authority through idealism and sheer willpower. The girl who had cried and shied away and hidden behind her brother's jacket was now a cheerful, competent young lady, assured of her own worth and unafraid to fight for the people she cared about. Separated, they had fallen -- reunited, they lifted each other up again. Whenever he came across an obstacle that seemed insurmountable, whenever it felt like his heart hurt a little too much to go on another second with the whole terrible charade that was the war for Innocence, Komui reminded himself as he always had: Everything he did was for Linali. He owed it to her and their parents and everyone they'd lost through the years to see the whole awful business to its end -- to protect the people they'd both come to love. To earn their freedom from the hell that was war. To give her back her life again.
But he was still a selfish person, sometimes.
At what point his life had started being entirely about Linali he wasn't really sure -- sometime during the three years he'd searched for her perhaps; sometime during his days as a lowly Science Department researcher, rocking her to sleep at night and watching for every minute change in her mood over each day -- but once it started being about her, it never really stopped. The older she grew, the more often she was away on missions; he got more work done when she wasn't around, purely because monotonous report-reading and form-filling distracted him from feeling vaguely depressed that he didn't have her to talk to. When she was at home, he kept an eye on her all day long, just as he had tried to ever since she was little; there were a series of cameras and security golems installed throughout the castle for the express purpose of keeping tabs on Linali wherever she might happen to go. (There was exactly one camera inside her bedroom as well, but after quietly installing it, he'd never gone back to turn it on -- somehow it felt like crossing a line.) Some part of him was still unable to shake the fear that at any moment, he might lose her again. Something terrible might happen; there might be an accident, or a sudden ambush. There was nothing he could do about the way she risked her life every time she stepped outside the castle doors, so at least inside them, he could make sure she was always safe.
He liked to watch her chatting with her friends, sometimes. Laughing with Allen and Rabi, asking advice from Mari, squealing over pretty dresses with Gwen, teasing Kanda with Deisha. It reminded him of being young; having classmates instead of co-workers, friends and family instead of cordial acquaintances. It felt like home, just a little bit.
She felt like home.
And when he bent to peck her on the lips in his quiet office one day, and his kiss lingered a little longer than a brother's was really supposed to, he told himself it was just because she was that important to him. It didn't mean anything else, of course. Would never mean anything else.
But he knew he was a selfish person, because that didn't stop him from doing it again. From hugging her a little tighter, a little more often. From reaching out to ruffle her hair just so he could run his fingers through it. It didn't stop him from inviting her for tea in his room at night, cuddling and talking of everything and nothing together until she drifted off ever-so-trustingly atop his bed; after which he would stretch out beside her, watching her peacefully sleeping face with a strange mixture of love and guilt and depthless gratefulness. She was beautiful in every way. Her quiet strength, her courage even in the face of things that terrified her; her gentleness and loyalty, her sense of justice, her sense of mercy. Her graceful movements. Her soft shining hair, her deceptively delicate face. The curves of her body.
He knew he was selfish for thinking that perhaps no one else in the world would ever see it all as clearly as he could.
Still, he held himself back. Brothers weren't supposed to have such thoughts about their sisters, after all. He could never ruin his precious Linali's hard-earned happiness by forcing her into perversion -- and anyway, they each had their stations to think of. There was still so much he had left to accomplish, and everything he'd worked so hard for would come to nothing if the Vatican declared him an incestuous deviant and expelled him from the Order.
That was what he told himself, until the day she turned sixteen.
The outlandishly extravagant surprise birthday party had gone off without a hitch, and he was sitting in his office at close to midnight that night, finishing up some of the work that had come in during the day. Most everyone else was still down in the cafeteria, carousing and having a good time; the halls of the Science Department outside his closed door were quiet and empty.
Then a single knock broke the silence. He glanced up confusedly, but before he could say a word--
Her muffled voice reached him through the doorway, soft and uncertain.
He stared surprisedly for a second, then cleared his throat a little, assuming a smiling expression as he set down the report he'd been glancing over.
"Linali, come in~~! Did you have a good time at the party?"
"It was nice," she murmured, smiling quietly at him as she slipped inside, leaning against the closed door for a moment. "Thanks, ge ge. I couldn't've asked for a better birthday."
Something about her seemed a little restless, somehow.
"Glad you liked it!" He clapped his hands together cheerfully as he rose from his seat, circling around to the front of his desk to beam at her. "It was purely my genius idea, you know~ Well. Maybe about ninety-five percent my idea and five percent Jerry's idea. And I guess maaaaybe zero point zero five percent Allen and Rabi's idea. Oh, and Kanda contributed one dirty look and a frosting recipe which... I'm guessing was General Theodore's..."
"That's more than a hundred percent, isn't it?" Linali laughed, seeming to relax a little as she slowly drew closer. "It really was great... even better than last year. You keep outdoing yourself, ge ge. I'll have to make sure your birthday is even more awesome this year to pay you back." She reached out to slip her hand into one of his own, then pressed her other on top of it, smiling downward almost shyly.
Komui was still grinning as he blinked at her. "Aww, you really don't have to--"
"There's just one thing that's missing."
He paused at that, staring down at her with a faint, nonplussed frown. She wouldn't look at him. Why wasn't she looking at him?
"W... what is it, Linali...? You don't have to feel embarrassed. Whatever it is, you know I'd do anything for you," he said after a moment, trying to smile again.
".....yeah," Linali murmured, still smiling ruefully downward at their joined hands. "I do know."
Then, after another second's hesitation, she looked him in the eye again.
She swallowed, paused, and started over, pursing her lips a little.
"...Komui. You forgot to give me my birthday kiss."
For a moment, all he could do was stare at her.
He'd never been shy about showering affection on his beloved sister, but when she'd been little, every birthday she had gotten one special kiss in particular. Traditionally delivered after presents and before cake, accompanied by his sincere wishes that she would continue growing up strong and beautiful, and hopefully survive another year with mind, body, and soul intact. When she'd gotten old enough that he'd had to start (admittedly enthusiastically) warding off boys, he'd decided it was time to put the custom to rest, because he didn't want any busybodies watching from the sidelines to get confused about his motives.
She was staring back at him, with her heart in her eyes.
This was all a misunderstanding on his part, he was sure. Just because it sounded like-- That was just his personal perversion talking. He'd spent too many years staring at her, fixated on every little wonderful nuance of her, not-/quite/-thinking thoughts that he couldn't afford to examine too closely. Practically everyone in the Science Department had said it to his face at least once before, after all -- he was more than a little crazy. More than a little wrong. It was nothing but his own deviant thoughts leading him to stand here hesitating, staring as if he didn't know how to deliver a simple kiss--
She stood up on tiptoe to press her lips against his.
It was not the sort of kiss a sister normally gives her brother. Her lips strained against his insistently and he leaned over wide-eyed to close the gap between their heights, wrapping his arms around her slender waist slowly, hesitantly. She seemed encouraged by the gesture, and moved in a little closer, embracing him back in kind. He could just feel her breasts brushing across the front of his shirt.
They kissed and came up for air; then again, then a third time. Despite every last ounce of his better judgement, Komui found his hand slipping underneath the hem of her shirt.
Then after a few minutes, or perhaps an eternity, their lips parted one last time and she slowly pulled back. She glanced down, adjusted her rumpled blouse; then she paused a moment before slipping her hand into his again, squeezing it briefly as she took a deep breath.
When she dared to meet his gaze again, her smile was terribly, impossibly bright.
"....Thanks, ge ge. I'm sure I've got enough birthday magic to last me all year now."
He didn't want to think about why his throat felt tight all of a sudden.
"You're-- You're welcome, Linali." From somewhere, he found his gentle big brother smile, pausing for a moment before he reached up to ruffle her hair.
"You know your big brother loves you more than anything else in the world, don't you~?"
She smiled a bland little sister smile back at him, her eyes gleaming, and nodded.
"...Of course, ge ge. I love you too." She swallowed.
"More-- than anything else."
For a little while after that, they simply stood there, alone together amidst the mess of papers in Komui's quiet office, staring at each other. Nothing broke their silence save the distant tower bells chiming midnight.
".....good night, ge ge," Linali murmured at long last. "I'll see you tomorrow."
And she turned to walk away.
"Good night," said Komui softly back.
He watched her walk away until the door closed behind her, and when the quiet echo of footsteps had faded entirely from the hallway outside, he sat down to collapse quietly over his desk and convince himself there was nothing to cry about.
Everything was fine, wasn't it?
Exactly the way it was supposed to be.
Home, after all, was really nothing more than a place you laid your head.