A lot of people say middle children get hit the hardest; the eldest get favored, the youngest get babied, and the middle gets therapy. Shousei had never been in earshot of this, but if he had, he wouldn't understand it. For one thing, he'd always been the second son in his family, that was very different. A lot about his family, he'd gathered, was very different from most people's families.

He made himself into the good one, if not the heir. He was his mother's favorite. He was careful to leave just enough mess in his room that it looked lived-in so she didn't worry. He mostly didn't read, but he checked out books from the library sometimes so no one asked what he did do. He spent most of his allowance on music, and nearly all of his free time alone.

Shousei understood on some level what he was doing, though he didn't like thinking too hard about it. He felt well-adjusted enough. When he did think about it, he didn't resent anyone, and he didn't feel depressed; he didn't exactly feel serene, either, and it was a little lonely, but it seemed worth it. He had simply decided, over time, that the path of least resistance was the best option. What was he really giving up?

It became habit, over the years, and then preference. Sparse surroundings were more comfortable and meant less fuss. Studying rather than indulging too many hobbies meant studying was easier, which meant he didn't have to worry too much about college. Ducking his father's questions was mostly satisfying, and he wouldn't have known how to answer them if he'd tried. His life was simple; his burden was easy to ignore; if he had been more adept with poetry or religion, he would have had the words to describe what he felt.

Instead, he danced.

It was easier than talking, and who would have listened?