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It had all started as a mere joke said by Alvin in order to tease Jude. Ludger had noticed for a while now that those two had something different going on between them, yet he had never really mentioned it as he didn’t know if it would be appropriate or not. Now, nevertheless, he had confirmed his suspicions, and he was happy for them, really; in all honesty. But that and this were two different things. If the joke Alvin had said was meant to provoke Jude, why did that same joke end up affecting Ludger himself as well?

“So… Why aren’t you saying anything Ludger?” Alvin asked grinning and observing Ludger curiously. Jude too looked at Ludger expectantly. It seemed like his embarrassment had vanished completely. Of course, that stupid joke had been directed at Ludger himself, so why wouldn’t his embarrassment disappear?

Shy, Ludger looked away from his two friends; his usually pale cheeks redder than the tomatoes his brother loved so much. His heart jumped in his chest as he got conscious of such a thought. Ah seriously, why did Alvin have to bring something like that up?

“Oh look at the time! I bet that you’re starving, right Lulu? Right. Then let’s give you food!”

“Meow~”

“I’ll be right back you guys. Feel free to go sleep first, I might take a while.” Trying to escape from his current situation and their unnecessary curiosity, Ludger dragged his poor sleepy cat out of the room. He felt bad for Lulu, but this was his only way out of that place. Ludger had never minded sharing rooms with anyone else before, but he might have started disliking it a tiny bit now.

 


 

 

“Meow… Meoooww… Meow…~”

Ludger looked at Lulu and instantly saw how displeased his cat was. He made an apologetic face, bending down in order to caress the soft fur of Lulu’s head.

“Sorry Lulu. I’ll make sure to compensate you later. For now, can we stay here for a bit?”

“Meow~” Approving his master’s proposal, Lulu lied down on the floor at Ludger’s feet. His owner smiled softly at the gesture.

“Thank you.” He said sitting on the bench outside the inn.

Taking his GHS out of his small bag, Ludger thought of distracting his mind with pointless things on the internet, yet no matter what he did Alvin’s question along with his memories of that time, tormented him mercilessly. Until this day Ludger had never forgotten such a thing, it had been important─very, if he may admit it─but he had also tried his best to save that moment deep down in his heart; it was wrong thinking of it after all. However, Alvin had completely screwed it up to him. If he ever remembered that again, Ludger knew that he would be unable to forget it. What would he do then? What should he do?

“Damn it!” Ludger cursed unable to avoid the memories invading him.

 


 

 

Ludger woke up from his short nap at the feeling of a familiar warmth caressing his cheek. Lazily, he opened his eyes, yet unable to focus on anything in particular due to his sleepiness. At the same time his hand unconsciously tried to grasp that cozy warmth. His fingers nonetheless, grabbed another hand, larger than his and yet it felt so gentle against his face…

Unable to resist such gentleness, Ludger leaned in to the warmth, his cheek languidly rubbing against the hand. His lips curled into a satisfying smile as he almost fell in a deep sleep yet again. However, all of a sudden, a small chuckle and a familiar tone of voice calling out his name, brought Ludger back to reality.

“Really you… You’re hopeless, but that’s one of the things I love about you, Ludger.”

Before that hand could escape from his grasp yet again Ludger tightened his grip on it, opening his eyes. He looked fiercely at that hand’s owner, now fully awake.

“Nii-san, where have you been? You never told me your job would take a full week to complete! Can you at least imagine how─”

The multiple wounds and scratches on Julius’s face made Ludger stop his heated speech. His scolding eyes now looked at Julius completely alarmed and in utter concern. His brother was probably severely hurt, although the wounds on his face didn’t look extremely serious, Ludger was sure that his brother’s clothes hid the worst of the wounds. If he didn’t hurry helping him…

“Nii-san!! S-Sit down while I’ll go get the first aid kit.”

“Hey…” Unable to make his brother listen to him, Julius did as he was told and sat down at the sofa his brother had been sleeping in. Meanwhile Ludger rushed to the bathroom in search of disinfectants and anything else that might help healing him. Julius laughed bitterly; he had worried his little brother yet again when all he wanted was to ease his concerns. He was a terrible brother.

“Here, I brought everything." Ludger said kneeling down in front of Julius. "Take off your clothes.”

Unable to restrain himself, Julius bursted into laughter, yet soon enough forced to stop due to the sharp pain the wounds on his body were causing him.

Ludger looked at his brother in amazement and alarmed at the same time.

“Does it hurt? Where does it hurt?” Ludger rubbed Julius's back soothingly. Nevertheless, although worried, he couldn’t stop himself from scolding his brother. “Geez, seriously nii-san, if it hurts, you shouldn’t just start laughing like that. Why were you laughing anyways? Here, let me help undressing you.” Without hesitation, Ludger’s fingers quickly undid the first button of his brother’s shirt. Once again Julius was unable to hold his laughter.

“N-Nii-san? Why are you laughing again? Don’t tell me that you like pain?”

Softly, Julius’s fist bumped against Ludger’s head. His mouth still laughing amusingly despite the pain he felt.

“Dummy… Of course it’s not that. If I’m laughing like this, you’ve only got yourself to blame.”

Hands still on his brother’s shirt, Ludger looked at him surprised.

“Me? Why?”

“Ludger──” Exchanging his laughter by a serious expression, Julius said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you this much. I didn’t know that my job would take so long to finish, and I didn’t have a way to contact you, my GHS didn’t work.” His hands gently found his brother’s, squeezing them apologetically. “I’m really sorry.”

“Nii-san…” Ludger too regarded his brother seriously, paying close attention at his sincere words. Truth to be told, he had felt a little angry at Julius, but after hearing him out Ludger felt relieved. “It’s okay. But try to warn me next time no matter what.”

His kind and caring smile, completely melted Julius’ heart. No matter what, Ludger’s smile always eased Julius mind. He was glad that in the end Ludger hadn’t gotten too angry at him… otherwise he wouldn’t know how to apologize.

“Now let me take care of your wounds. Let’s undress you.”

“My little brother is quite bold huh… I don’t remember teaching you that.” Trying to change the serious subject, Julius ended up teasing Ludger again, unable to suppress a chuckle.

Understanding his brother’s implications, Ludger’s hands stopped what they had been doing, while his cheeks flushed in embarrassment.

“W-What in the world are you even thinking about, Nii-san?”

“That that’s something you should be thinking of doing with a girl─Ah speaking of, didn’t you use to have a crush on──”

“Uwaaah n-nii-san!!” In a panic, Ludger’s hands sealed Julius’s mouth preventing him from spouting any more embarrassing nonsense. Although his brother had looked surprised, he still looked amused at Ludger’s flustered reactions. Sometimes it gave him the impression that Julius liked teasing him. Feeling slightly irritated at the thought, Ludger said with a small pout, “Anyways, let’s just take care of your injuries.”

Truth to be told, Ludger felt more annoyed at his brother’s words than the intentional teasing. Ludger remembered of the times Julius brought girl after girl to their place, more precisely to his own room. Of course, when younger, Ludger didn’t truly understand such things, but as he grew up, he eventually came to realize the meaning of those encounters. Perhaps, out of concern and respect for his little brother, Julius had stopped bringing girls over at some point, still that didn’t make up for all the times he had done it. It was vexing just remembering all that. It upset Ludger incredibly just remembering how he had felt all those times. Why had Julius done it in the first place, when Ludger himself was right there beside him? Wasn’t he enough?

“W-What nonsense am I even thinking?” Alarmed, but mostly embarrassed, Ludger ended up scolding himself mentally.

“Uhm, Ludger…” As he noticed the furrowed brows on his brother’s face, Julius knew that Ludger had to be upset with him. Feeling guilty, he decided to apologize one more time.

“‘I’m sorry Ludger, I didn’t want to make you angry.”

“I’m not angry.” Ludger said as he quickly unbuttoned Julius’ shirt. Little by little the small buttons were undone, revealing muscular skin covered by multiple wounds. Yet, there was one near his brother’s shoulder that caught his attention. The wound was quite deep, and it kept on bleeding. It looked horrible and definitely painful; and all of a sudden a thought crossed his mind. Ludger observed Julius’ shirt on the same spot as the wound, yet even though the wound was bleeding nonstop, Julius’ shirt looked abnormally clean… It was then that it hit him; Julius had, obviously, changed clothes before returning home; and the only reason for him to do that was none other than Ludger himself. Julius wanted to hide his wounds from Ludger.

“You’re scowling, how come you’re not angry?”

“Nii-san...” Ludger faced Julius before continuing. His expression was one of pure concern and panic. It was then that Julius understood why Ludger was scowling. Julius had totally forgotten about that ugly wound. It hurt so much, and yet his brother's concern had nullified the pain.

Unable to bear the worried sight his precious brother was giving him, Julius avoided Ludger’s eyes.

Tightening the grip on his brother’s shirt, Ludger gritted his teeth at Julius’s reaction. He surely understood right away what Ludger wanted to tell him, yet he had decided to avoid his concern. It hurt. Attitudes like these were what hurt Ludger the most. All he wanted was to take care of his brother just like he did with him, yet the wall Julius put between them each time Ludger even tried doing it, was too thick and painful. Why did he even do that? Why did Julius avoid Ludger’s care time and time again? Why did Julius push Ludger away whenever his little brother wanted and tried to get closer to him?

“Am I so unreliable?” Ludger’s voice sounded lowly; shakily.

Julius looked immediately at his brother, surprise written all over his face.

“No, I─”

“Then, do you dislike my caring that much?”

“What? No─”

“Then, why do you hide something as important as this from me?”

Ludger sounded and looked so hurt it was actually quite astonishing to Julius. He had, of course, seen Ludger sad before, but hurt like he felt that moment… Julius hadn’t yet witnessed it. However he couldn’t say he liked it. As much as he loved his little brother, seeing him this hurt was what he disliked the most and, surely, he would dislike it eternally. Ludger’s eyes were pleading him for answers; for the truth, and having spent all his life telling lie after lie in order to protect his brother, Julius wanted to tell the truth even if only this once. Ludger needed it, and so did he.

Letting out a desperate sigh, Julius’s hands enveloped Ludger’s one more time, as gently as possible. He felt how the tight fists relaxed their strong hold on his shirt, and honestly he felt a little relieved. Although exasperated and hurt, Ludger was still listening to him. He would do anything to ease his brother’s pain. Blue eyes met aquamarine ones, and so the truth was spoken.

“I didn’t do it with ill intent. What I least want is to hurt you, so I decided to hide this from you. I was sure that if you saw it you’d get so worried… I don’t want you to worry about me, Ludger. I am alright. This will heal in no time and─”

Ludger wouldn’t say he didn’t understand what Julius was saying. He wouldn’t say that Julius was wrong, neither would he affirm he was right. He knew how much his brother liked him and how much he too worried over his well-being; yet, deep down, Ludger couldn’t forgive his brother for hiding something this important to him. If he had done it today, only God knows how many times had he done it before. Thus, no matter what, Ludger couldn’t forgive him. If Julius could take care of him, why couldn’t he too take care of Julius?

Ludger was mad. Truly.

“That’s not the problem! Of course it’ll heal. Every wound does. Even if I leave it be, your wound will heal without my help. It has always been like this, right?”

“Ludger…” Julius looked at Ludger taken aback. He had meant to comfort him, but somehow his brother had ended up even more hurt with his choice of words. And Julius couldn’t even deny any of them. He knew Ludger was right, and since he had meant to say the truth, he couldn’t possibly lie now. He didn’t want to either.

“All I want is to take care of you. I want to take care of your wounds. I want to be by your side and support you in moments like this."

Ludger's hands; his whole body, Julius noticed, was shaking slightly. Witnessing a rather weak Ludger, breaking down because of himself─precisely because it was his own fault─Julius panicked considerably. For a moment he even doubted his own eyes; he thought that maybe they were fooling him, otherwise why would his brother worry─care so much for him? But that lasted a very short moment, because soon enough he accepted the reality his eyes were providing him. A reality rather sweet and comforting despite their present situation. His brother cared this much about him… How very──

Julius was, usually, a man who was able to take control of his own emotions and keep them in check, thus avoiding exposing his weaknesses to others. However, when it came to Ludger he had a harder time to control his feelings. The way they overflowed through him was too powerful, and even someone as strong as Julius was easily defeated. How so very ironic; and yet how so very dear. Defeat like this was sweeter and warmer than any victory he had ever achieved so far.

"Ludger──" Julius whispered dearly, his hands let go of the younger man's, cupping his cheeks instead. He could almost swear that he felt the wound on his shoulder sting painfully, but soon enough such pain faded away. Ludger did have the power to nulify all his pain. It was a power stronger and more comforting than any healing magic existent in the world.

The older man's gesture surprised Ludger to a certain extent. He said nothing nonetheless, because Julius's forehead bumping ever so gently against his own prevented him from uttering a single word. Ludger's aquamarine eyes looked at Julius intently, yet the older man's remained closed as he so honestly; so very uniquely, spoke the rest of his words reaching Ludger's heart instantly.

"I'm sorry for hurting you this much.
I really am." His blue eyes opened and looked straight at Ludger's. He wanted his dear brother to understand the seriousness of his words. "Thank you for worrying so much about someone like me." Julius smiled fondly as his thumbs caressed the softness of Ludger's cheeks. Even his gloved hand could feel the gentle warmth of Ludger's face.

With his heart beating so strongly, pumped by the sudden warmth of his brother's words, Ludger could only utter how he truly felt without even thinking twice. Why should he anyways?

"It's precisely because it's you, nii-san." Such words had left his mouth as a shy whisper nonetheless. Had they been uttered in a different way, things wouldn't─most likely─take the connotation they did… Yet, in all honesty, Ludger─more than anyone else─knew that those honest feelings of his meant exactly what they implied.

It was so wrong and yet it felt so right.

Julius nonetheless, was also caught by surprise. He expected kindness; warmth; fondness; love as his younger brother… but he surely wasn't expecting that kind of love. Once again Julius thought that his mind was playing him tricks; this time, nevertheless, he doubted his own ears. However, just like he had witnessed before, Ludger's eyes weren't deceiving him─they wouldn't ever deceive him. Those mesmerizing aquamarine orbs… they too spoke of love.

The moment Julius received that love, so pure and yet so strong, he knew that he was defeated even before trying to fight against his own feelings. The feelings he tried so hard to hide during so many years, bursted inside him, preventing him from hiding anything else for another minute longer.

It was so wrong and yet it felt so right.

Everything and anything.

"Ludger…" Whispering lowly, fear and insecurity seeping through his gentle tone of voice, Julius's lips leaned in to Ludger's.

Slowly; very slowly, tenderly, his mouth reached for Ludger's. Their eyes exchanged affectionate glances, speaking more of love to each others' than their owners ever did.
However only until their trembling lips met; because they instantly closed the moment it happened.

Everything about their kiss was chaste. The way Julius's lips enveloped Ludger's in warmth and love, the way his tongue gently invaded the younger man's mouth, the way Ludger softly moaned into the kiss as Julius deepened it… How could something so pure as their love be so wrong and yet feel so right?

Although they both were fully aware of how wrong it was, they wanted nonetheless, to cherish that kiss forever. And they surely would─even though it was their first, and most likely, last kiss ever shared.

 


 

 

Ludger let out a long sigh, as he looked up at the night sky. A soft breeze caressed his cheeks somehow making him feel even more nostalgic. Feelings he had so hard hidden in the depths of his heart, were now strongly overflowing within him, making it hard to suppress.

"Damn it, Alvin." He muttered lowly, as his aquamarine eyes were closed in order to fight those uncontrolled emotions.

"Meoooww~"

Not remembering of his dear cat, Ludger opened up his eyes in surprise and observed Lulu. The once sleeping cat was now fully awake and apparently hungry; Ludger knew the way Lulu was looking at him.

Chuckling, he caressed Lulu's head. The cat meowled clearly pleased at the gesture. Somehow Ludger felt calmer. And so did his rebellious emotions.

"I guess I should thank you for that, Lulu. Just this once I'll give you that can of 'Royal Feast' I've been saving for a while now. It's your compensation for earlier and my thanks for now."

"Meoow....... Meoooow...... Meow." Never before had Lulu sounded so pleased. Ludger chuckled again.

"Ah but don't think of getting used to such compensations, alright?"

"Meow~" A little disappointment could be perceived on that low mewl.

"As for Alvin─" Ludger said getting up on his feet and facing the inn where his friends were. A small grin made its way on his lips as a sudden idea crossed his mind. "I guess I'll take my little revenge on him. Just you wait Alvin."

Ludger would surely tease him twice as much as he had done before. Jude would most likely get caught in the middle of it, but hadn't the same happened to Ludger himself as well? After all that's why he had left their room earlier. Well no need to feel guilty over it then.