Michael has never given much thought to the idea of having brothers: he knows he has them, of course, because his mother mentions them, sometimes, when she's in a mood: he even knows their names, though she never describes them. Wanted children, Emily Lin says darkly, in his memory, With a father who actually acknowledges their existence and a mother who never wanted to drown them.

He's never considered having brothers, and yet he's sitting in a cafe across from his oldest half-brother, hands tightly clasped in his lap and eyes politely downcast, wishing he was anywhere but here. Yamazaki Masaru is tall and intimidating, exactly the kind of person that Michael avoids, and actually is actively interested in him, which is even worse. He's spent his whole life avoiding attention, walking on broken glass.

Reflect nothing. Be soft-spoken and obedient, no one looks. Shy stuttered answers to his brother's questions, asking none of his own, long awkward silences because he doesn't try to fill them up with words. What do you want to do with your life? I don't know.

(does it matter?)

Sparrows are dull and uninteresting, only twitter and never sing, broken glass echoing too loudly beneath his feet: step lighter, Michael reminds himself when faced with the weight of his brother's gaze and trembling like a butterfly caught in a net, and you'll leave no trace behind, fall back into forgotten. Only, he knows somehow, that he can't ever walk lightly enough living to leave no trace for his brother, and that thought frightens him more than anything.

This time, when he bolts and runs, leaving untouched pastry and a lukewarm cup of tea behind, Masaru doesn't follow him: once and only once, Michael knows, and runs anyway.