Title: Akai Ito
Characters: Sho Sakurai, Ninomiya Kazunari, Aiba Masaki, Matsumoto Jun, Inoue Mao, OCs
Pairings: Sho/OC, Nino/OC, Jun/Mao
A/N: As I have promised, I have two chapters to post for Sho's birthday. This is the latest one I've finished. Hopefully it wouldn't take long for me to finish the next one. Comments are &hearts .
Previous Chapters: One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten
Nino resisted the urge to bang his fist on the wall as he heard another noise from the apartment next door. He could understand that someone was moving in, but that doesn’t mean that they had to disturb him the whole day when he should be studying.
He was just about ready to lose his patience when someone suddenly rang the doorbell. If it was his new neighbor, he was definitely ready with a complaint.
“Who’s in there?” he asked coldly before opening the door.
“Um... I’m from next door.”
It was a young woman’s voice so Nino’s mood somehow changed. He even unconsciously fixed his disheveled hair with his hand before he finally opened the door to reveal who his new neighbor was.
“Konnichiwa,” the girl greeted as she smiled shyly. “We really apologize for the noise we’re causing.”
Nino had to blink twice just to be sure. It’s been a couple of years since then. Her hair was a little shorter, but nothing really changed to him.
“Well, it’s quite bothersome... but it can’t be helped, right?” He couldn’t really hide his irritation as he heard more noise from the neighboring apartment. “I hope this won’t keep up for days. You do understand that there are students and working people around here.”
He thought she was probably keeping herself from lashing at him when he noticed her hands tighten around the package she was holding.
“We’re very sorry,” she said again as she bowed in apology. “We’re almost done, so you don’t have to worry....”
Her voice trailed off when she remembered that she didn’t know his name yet. Nino noticed this so he smirked and crossed his arms in front of his chest. It seemed like she didn’t recognize him at all.
“Ninomiya Kazunari. And you are?”
“H-hajimemashite. Shimizu Natsumi desu,” she bowed once again and then suddenly remembered about the package she was holding. “Here are some delicacies from our town, Ninomiya-san.”
So it’s Natsumi the crybaby. Shouldn’t it be ‘Hisashiburi’?
Finally, he found out what her name was. Back then, he had to go back to Tokyo already so he asked his cousin to just take the money she owed and ask for the girl’s name or even her number. But the idiot totally forgot about it and just remembered when Nino asked him about it the day after he had expected her to come.
“Thanks,” Nino said as he took the package from her. He was sure she already had a good look at him, and yet she still didn’t remember who he was. “Would have been better if you added a bottle of juice.”
“May I beg your pardon?”
“Nandemonai,” he said with an obviously fake smile and then muttered under his breath just when more noise came from her apartment. “Someone’s eyes must have been too swollen that day.”
“I’m sorry. What were you saying, Ninomiya-san?” It was obvious how her tone had already changed from the time she had first greeted him.
“Oh, are you going to live alone next door?” he asked and smiled inwardly for being able to quickly come up with something to say.
“I’m living with my friend,” she answered shortly. “Well, I need to go now to help her. Thank you for understanding.”
Nino couldn’t help smirking once more after she quickly left then slammed the door shut when she entered the apartment next door. May it have been fate or coincidence, he was sure the coming days would definitely be more interesting now.
Hanako squinted against the light that seeped through the curtains in her room. For a moment, she even forgot that she wasn’t alone there. She gently placed a hand on Shoichi’s forehead and smiled when she confirmed that he no longer had fever. As slowly and noiselessly as she could, she lifted herself up from the bed to look at Sho who was sleeping on the futon laid out on the floor. He was wearing Masaki’s shirt and sweatpants which she lent to him without the owner’s permission.
Just as the thought of her friend’s cousin crossed her mind, her eyes went wide when she realized that someone was cooking in the kitchen. Stealthily, she left her room and tiptoed to the kitchen.
“Ohayou, Hana-chan,” Masaki suddenly greeted even though his back was turned to her. He then looked over his shoulder with a knowing smile. “You didn’t even tell me that we have visitors.”
“O-ohayou,” she stammered as she failed to act nonchalant about it. She quickly took her mug and started to make some coffee. “I’m sorry I went ahead and lent your clothes to Sho-kun.”
Masaki flipped a pancake with ease. Hanako was already feeling annoyed at the way he kept looking at her. It didn’t helped how she was reminded of the things that happened the previous night. She really needs coffee.
“That’s fine,” he said as he started making another pancake. “Anyway, why did they sleep here?”
“Shoichi-kun got sick and....” Her voice trailed off as she remembered the reason why Sho ended up staying there till it was very late. “It was very late when Sho-kun came so I asked them to stay.”
“I see.” Masaki nodded, but the look on his face didn’t change. “Nino and Na-chan are coming back this afternoon, ne?”
Hanako was relieved when the topic was finally changed.
“Yeah,” she replied as she poured some coffee into her mug. “Should we also go to the beach next time?”
Masaki’s loud laugh suddenly echoed in the quiet apartment. Hanako punched him on the arm, but that didn’t stop him.
“You guys can just go as a family!” he suggested happily. He turned to his left when he heard the door of Hanako’s room slide open. “Ah, ohayou, Sho-kun! Shoichi-kun ohayou!”
Sho came out carrying Shoichi on his back. The boy giggled and waved at Masaki and Hanako before his father set him down on a chair in the dining area. She didn't know they were already up. They're already dressed when they came out.
“Masa-kun made these?” Shoichi asked with a smile when he saw the food on the table.
“Of course! These are special because you’re here,” Masaki replied enthusiastically as he sat on a chair adjacent to where the boy was seated.
“W-would you like some coffee, Sho-kun?” Hanako winced inwardly as her voice came out rather robotic, earning her another annoying grin from her friend.
Sho briefly turned to her and smiled. She didn’t like how her heart suddenly started to beat faster at the simple gesture.
She took a deep breath when she finally had her back turned towards them. All she could hear was the hammering of her heart as she tried to act naturally in front of them. She quickly glanced at Sho and wondered how he could still act normally. At that moment, she was so deep in thought that the coffee she was pouring almost overflowed from the cup.
After quickly setting down the coffee in front of Sho, Hanako went to sit beside Masaki who didn’t stop in observing them. She was just relieved when they finally started to talk about another topic. Even for just a while she could eat her breakfast in peace.
They seem to be having fun and Hanako was feeling more relaxed when Sho’s cellphone suddenly rang. He had set it down on the coffee table in the living room before they started to eat breakfast. With an apologetic look, he excused himself and took the call in the far corner of the living room. While Masaki and Shoichi had started talking about an anime they loved watching together, Hanako continued to watch Sho while eating. She could sense that there was something wrong, especially when he lowered his voice and his back, which was turned towards her, looked rigid. She even noticed how he hit the couch with his fist after snapped his phone shut.
“Daichi-kun has an action figure!” Aiba exclaimed happily while sneaking a knowing look toward his friend. “It’s just next door. We can go and see it.”
“But I haven’t finished my breakfast,” Shoichi tried to protest as Masaki carried him over his shoulder.
“Daijobu,” Masaki assured when Hanako stood up and tried to get Shoichi down. “We’ll get back shortly. Sho-kun! I’ll just borrow your kid for a while.”
He ignored Hanako’s attempts to stop him and just left the apartment with Shoichi. Hanako could only stare at the door when she realized that she was alone with Sho in the apartment. She slowly turned to him and winced when she saw that he hasn’t moved from his spot at all.
He suddenly stood up and banged his fist on the wall out of frustration.
“Those people... they only think about themselves.” He took a deep breath and let out a sigh as he set back on the couch and buried his face in his hands.
“Uh, is it about work?” she asked as she cautiously sat on the other couch.
“Yeah, sorry.” His answer was muffled by his hands. He straightened up and ran a hand through his hair. “It’s just so frustrating. I’ve worked so hard for the past few days, but in the end it’ll all be disregarded.”
His tone was calmer so Hanako thought it was fine when she leaned closer to hold his hand.
“Then let’s do something fun today... to make up for all that time when you were stressed at work,” she said with a smile. “You, me, and Shoichi.”
She thought it felt good when he returned her grasp. Even more so when he smiled back and pulled her onto the couch with him for an embrace.
“Is Papa alright?” Shoichi asked as Masaki set him back down on the doorway of the neighboring apartment.
Masaki looked back toward the other apartment then nodded as he patted the boy’s head.
“He’ll be fine. Let Hana-chan talk to him,” he said as he lifted his other hand to press the doorbell. “Da-i-chi-kun!!!” He loudly called out his friends name and pressed the doorbell for every syllable.
After a few seconds, Daichi opened the door for them and greeted them cheerfully.
“Why are you here so early, Shoichi-kun?” he asked as they walked into the living room. Before the boy could answer, he suddenly turned to Masaki with a wide-eyed look. “Don’t tell me....”
“He got sick last night, and it was too late when Sho came,” the other man said as he lounged on a couch. “Anyway, we came here so Shoichi-kun can see your collection.”
“I wanna see! I wanna see!” the boy said as he started to jump excitedly while holding on to Daichi’s long fingers.
Daichi chuckled then crouched down beside the boy and motioned for him to get on his back. Shoichi happily climbed onto the tall man’s back and giggled as Daichi stood up.
“Let’s go. It’s in my room,” he said as he walked to the larger bedroom in the apartment. He was about to enter, but he noticed that Masaki was still in the living room. “Aiba-san! Don’t touch Nino-san’s things. He notices it... every time.”
“I was just looking,” Masaki said with a pout as he finally left the stack of manga alone and followed Daichi.
The two men were so impressed at how a simple collection of action figures would make a four year-old kid so happy that he was almost literally glowing and sparkling in delight. They were having fun, as usual, when a single buzz from the doorbell made them stop. Masaki wasn’t sure why, but he suddenly had a bad feeling about the person behind the door.
Daichi went to open it while Masaki and Shoichi peeked from the living room.
“Ah, it’s... it’s very nice to see you today, Ma’am,” Daichi suddenly said with a tone of nervousness to the woman who was standing outside. “C-come in, please.”
It seemed that Masaki and Shoichi sensed that they should be quiet and behaved with this lady around. Both of them bowed in greeting as the woman walked into the living room.
“Um, this is Nino-san’s mother,” Daichi said with an uncomfortable smile. He turned to Nino’s mother and smiled. “They’re my friends from next door. They just dropped by for something and they’re just about to leave.”
Had it been another person who came, Masaki would probably insist on staying and continue pestering Daichi. But Nino’s mother seemed to emanate a coldness that didn’t make him comfortable. Daichi seemed pretty scared of her.
“Yes, we’re about to leave,” he said, feeling nervous though he still managed to smile. “Say goodbye, Shoichi-kun.”
After a quick goodbye, Masaki hurriedly left the apartment and carried Shoichi back in the same way he carried the boy out of the apartment earlier. As he was about to open the door of his cousin’s apartment, he felt the boy tap his shoulder.
“You can put me down now, Masa-kun,” he said in a low voice. Masaki did as he said and then proceeded to opening the door with his key. He was surprised when the boy slowly walked to his left to look at the neighboring apartment. “Nino-san’s mother is scary. Will Daichi-niichan be alright?”
Masaki couldn’t help laughing at the boy’s comment.
“Yes, she is, but don’t say it in front of the others, okay? And Daichi can take care of himself.” He opened the door and led the boy in with him. “We’re back!” he called out towards the direction of the living room where he supposed Sho and Hanako were.
As he had expected, Hanako was blushing deeply as she squirmed on the couch that was adjacent to where Sho was seated. He couldn’t help smirking even when his friend shot him a deathly glare.
“Back so soon?” Sho asked as Shoichi squeezed himself into the space beside his father.
“Nino-kun’s mother came so we decided to leave,” Masaki answered as he walked to the kitchen. He looked back and smiled knowingly at the couple in the living room before opening the fridge to get something to drink. “Hope I didn’t disturb you guys or anything.”
“Pretend that I was never here,” he continued, unfazed by Hanako’s increasing annoyance. He winked at Sho before he disappeared into his cousin’s bedroom.
Just as the door to the bedroom slid close, Sho slung his bag on his shoulder and stood up as he took Shoichi’s bag from the table.
“I’ll just pick you up later,” he said to Hanako as he held Shoichi’s shoulder and they both walked to the genkan to leave.
Hanako nodded and smiled.
“You didn’t forget anything?” she asked, eyeing the bags Sho was carrying.
“I checked already and everything’s here,” he answered confidently after helping Shoichi with his shoes. He stood up and smiled gratefully to Hanako. “Thanks again.”
“See you later!” Shoichi said as he waved goodbye while walking out of the door.
She waved goodbye to them as they stepped out into the hallway and continued to watch them from the genkan as they walked away. But she was surprised that after walking past the next apartment, Sho stopped then suddenly walked back. She stepped back a bit from the door as he came.
“Yes, I did.”
That was all he said before he leaned closer to give her a quick kiss. She could only stare at him after the sudden gesture, but then blushed when she remembered how he was meaning to do that earlier before Masaki came.
“See you later!” he said, giving her hand a squeeze before walking back to Shoichi who looked puzzled.
Everything seemed to be happening so fast. She was so much in a daze that she couldn’t think of something that they could do together later. But she wasn’t complaining. All she knows is that, at that moment, she truly was happy.
“Of course it’s your fault that we weren’t able to have fun last night,” Jun said as he placed his bag inside the trunk of his car. “That’s time and money wasted, you know.”
Nino frowned when his friend especially emphasized money.
“I already said sorry. I’ll make it up to you guys next time,” he said as he opened the door of his car and threw in his backpack on the passenger seat. He clicked his tongue and looked towards the direction where the girls went. “Where did they say they were going?”
“To buy more souvenirs. They forgot to get one for some people.”
He knew it’s going to take some time for them to come back so Nino sat on the driver’s seat with the door open and started to play some games while waiting. Jun, on the other hand, busied himself by listening to some music while leaning on the side of his car. Nino was almost about to get through a difficult level when his phone started ringing. He tried to ignore it, but Jun started to lightly kick his leg to get his attention.
“Ah, how troublesome!” He threw his PSP aside and grabbed the phone which was placed over his dashboard. His irritable expression changed though when he saw who it was. “Okaasan?”
Jun couldn’t help snorting when Nino’s tone changed. He was able to move away just in time before Nino’s foot came in contact with his shin.
“I visited a friend nearby so I decided to drop by your place. But Daichi-kun told me that you went on a weekend trip with your friends,” came his mother’s voice from the other line.
Nino glared at Jun then closed the car door so he can have some peace.
“We’re just about to head back home,” he managed to reply. “If it’s fine with you, you can wait for me. I have someone to introduce to you.”
“If it’s a girl, I don’t have time for it,” his mother said rather sharply and he was reminded how he had turned down two omiai that she had arranged in the past few months. “I’ll stay until dinnertime then go back home.”
Before Nino could say more, she hung up. He clicked his tongue and buried his face in his hands. After resolving a problem, another one came. After a few moments, he turned to where Jun was and saw him talking to Mao and Natsumi who were trying their best not to laugh. He scowled and stepped out of the car.
“Shall we get going?” he asked as he took Natsumi’s arm.
“Eh... did you get scolded by your mother?” Jun teased.
Mao muffled her laughter by burying her face on Jun’s back. She thought it was her first time to see Nino that way.
“Urusai,” Nino managed to say as he thought of a way to get through this situation. “If you want to stay, then stay. We need to go.” He pulled Natsumi into the car and then started to drive back home.
Natsumi could only look at Nino’s serious face as he drove. She wasn’t sure why, but he suddenly looked so determined.
“Um, your mother—”
“She dropped by to visit me,” he suddenly said, cutting her off. “I didn’t know she’s coming today though I’ve told her a million of times to call me first.”
“Maybe she wants to surprise you.” Natsumi found herself smiling despite the feeling of nervousness on meeting Nino’s mother. Despite being neighbors with Nino for so long, she had only met her once and they were simply introduced. “Would it be... would it be alright to see her today?”
Nino quickly glanced at her and smirked.
“I want you to meet her today,” he said with his eyes back on the road. “But you should know that she’s not interested in meeting ‘a girl.’”
“What do you mean by that?”
“She had tried to arrange an omiai for me... and failed twice,” he replied flatly. “I don’t get why she’s so much in a hurry.”
There was an uncomfortable silence afterwards, until Natsumi turned on the music to lighten up the atmosphere somehow. They were fighting just hours before that and now they’re talking about her meeting his mother.
“Do you think it’s alright?” she asked hesitantly. “I don’t want to start an argument between the two of you.”
“What are you talking about, Na-chan?” he said in a tone that Natsumi didn’t like very much. “I did fine with your parents, right? I expect you to impress her too and change her mind.”
Natsumi wanted to protest, but thought against it. After all, Nino tried his best to show her parents that their daughter has a good and reliable boyfriend.
“I just have one request then,” she said quietly. Nino slowly turned to her as she held on to the sleeve of his shirt. “Stay by my side always, okay?”
Nino smiled and patted her hand.
“You don’t have to say it. I will.”
“So doing something together would be grocery shopping,” Sho said with a nervous laugh as he, Shoichi and Hanako entered the supermarket hand in hand.
Hanako chuckled as she released Shoichi’s hand to take a grocery cart.
“This then cooking lunch,” she said as she led the way. She glanced at them and laughed at their disappointed expressions. “Shoichi just recovered from a fever and... I was really planning to do this anyway.”
Sho caught up with her and helped her in pushing the cart while Shoichi held on to the hem of his shirt. Sometimes the boy would walk ahead or stay behind to look at something.
“Italian?” Sho asked as Hanako started to get ingredients for spaghetti.
“Shoichi said he wants to eat spaghetti,” she answered while reading the label of the spaghetti sauce. After a few more seconds, it seemed like she had decided on it as she placed it into the grocery cart. “And... pizza. So we’ll try to do it.”
Hanako started walking to another aisle so Sho looked behind to call Shoichi, but he saw him talking with another boy. He remembered that it was one of the children who talked to them when they went to watch their performance at the daycare.
“I’m with my Mama and Papa,” he heard Takeru say. The boy pointed to a couple nearby then turned back to Shoichi with a question. “Who’s with you?”
Shoichi was about to answer when he saw his father walking towards them. He smiled at Takeru in greeting.
“I’m with Papa,” he answered in a small voice.
“Eh? How about your mother?” Takeru asked again. “Where is she?”
Shoichi looked at Sho helplessly. He was thinking of finally telling his friend the truth. They haven’t talked about it ever since the incident in the daycare.
“Well... she is—”
“There you guys are!” Hanako said as she came toward them to dump an armful of food into the grocery cart. She was about to tell them to follow her when she noticed Shoichi’s friend from the daycare. “Ah konnichiwa, Takeru-kun.”
“Konnichiwa, Shoichi’s Mama!” the boy greeted back.
Hanako was about to react about the greeting and being called as Shoichi’s mom when Sho smiled and spoke.
“He was just asking about you before you came,” he suddenly said, which caused Shoichi and Hanako to abruptly turn toward him with a questioning look. He only smiled and winked at them.
“Oh, I see,” Hanako replied with a nervous laugh. “Well, we have to get going. Bye, Takeru-kun!”
They waved goodbye to the other boy and walked towards the checkout counter. Sho walked ahead and pushed the grocery cart while Hanako and Shoichi trailed behind him. The boy, who was confused at first, now looked up to her with a knowing look as he held out his pinky to her. Hanako smiled, entwined her pinky with his, and swung her arm as they walked happily together.
It was almost time for lunch when Nino and Natsumi finally arrived home. Had the circumstances been a little different, she should be feeling better now that they’re back. However, it was the opposite. She was still feeling quite agitated despite Nino’s reassurance. She couldn’t help holding Nino’s hand as they walked down the hallway.
“Feels like I’m being executed,” she muttered as she stopped in front of her apartment. She was supposed to drop off her things inside the apartment, but ended up leaving them in the car first lest she suddenly changes her mind about meeting Nino’s mother once she’s home.
‘What’s wrong with you?” Nino said irritably as he tugged at her hand. “It’s my mother.”
“That’s why! It is your mother.” She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. It was hard to admit to herself that she has regrets asking him meet to her parents. Now he’s expecting her to do the same. She looked past him, towards his apartment door ad braced herself. “Okay, I’m ready.”
Nino rolled down his eyes then pulled her along with him. He expected it to be quiet when he opened the door since his mother was there. Daichi would probably add more toys to his collection to make him forget this day when he was forced to be alone in the apartment with her for more than two hours.
They were having tea in the living room when he and Natsumi stepped into the living room. Or more like she was having tea, while Daichi was sitting rigidly on what really was his favorite couch and was trying his best to agree with everything she was saying.
He probably wouldn’t forget the look of helplessness and relief on his roommate’s face when they came. This was all while his mother calmly sipped her tea.
“They’re finally here!” Daichi announced as he stood up and strategically moved away in order to end up back in his bedroom.
Natsumi could only stare at her the whole time. She was meaning to greet her, but he just stood there and stared. Damn, Nino’s going to kill her. That is, if she’s still alive after this.
“I suppose you remember Natsumi,” she heard Nino say.
She tried her best to smile, but she supposed it came out as a grimace when the older woman gave her a cold, scrutinizing look.
“It’s... it’s nice to see you again, Ninomiya-san,” she stuttered. She noticed then that Daichi had already managed to “escape.” The poor guy was forced to endure all of this.
“Yes, I remember,” Nino’s mother said as she gracefully placed her tea cup down. “What is her business here?”
Nino frowned deeply. Of all the days for her to be in such a foul mood, it has to be today. He would have been able to handle this better if she was smiling at least.
“She’s my girlfriend, and I thought—”
“Didn’t we already speak earlier about this?”
He was cut off when his mother shot him a sharp look. No way is she going to listen now. He knew it would be much more troublesome if he would be insistent about this. When he felt Natsumi’s hand on his and glanced towards her, he was already resigned to the fact that they lost it today.
“I’m sorry for the intrusion, Ninomiya-san,” Natsumi said in a low voice, but Nino was surpised at how her tone changed as she continued. “I would be going now, but I want you to know that I am not giving up on your son.”
He felt her grip on his hand tightened, and he couldn’t help smiling. This was the girl he chose, after all. She just quietly left with that determined look on her face, and insisted on letting Nino stay with his mother.
When he came back to the living room, he saw that his mother was already preparing to leave.
“She annoys me,” she commented, breaking the silence between them.
Nino crossed his arms in front of his chest and smirked. This is going to be much more fun than he had expected.
“That’s why I chose her.”
Monday. Nino never thought it would come again. Not after all of the crazy things that happened during the weekend. He thought it would probably take him a long time and a couple of pages if he had to chronicle each and every event. Of course he wouldn’t. It’s Monday and he has work to do.
He was busy that morning, but he thought it was good how he felt like time flew by faster. Before he knew it, it was time for lunch. These days, Natsumi usually prepares a bento for him. That Monday was an exception, but he understood that she’s busy and had a lot to deal with after meeting his mother whom he knew his neighbors sometimes referred to as the witch.
“It’s these two people again,” he said with feigned disgust as he joined Jun and Sho in a table in a nearby family restaurant.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be with you if I was given a choice,” Jun shot back with a smirk. He glanced toward Sho and then snickered when he saw his colleague smiling to himself. He didn’t mean to, but he had caught him doing that a couple of times already that morning. “Shouldn’t this guy be depressed right now?”
Sho looked up from the menu he was scanning then chuckled.
“Why would I be depressed when there’s so much in this world to be happy about?”
Nino almost spit out his water while Jun almost dropped his glass on his lap. It caused some more ruckus in that corner of the busy restaurant that Sho couldn’t help laughing heartily at the reaction of the two men.
“What in the hell was that Sakurai?” Nino said in both surprise and irritation at the time they were finally able to place their orders and he was able to get his composure back.
“Sorry... but if you were in my place; I think you’ll also be this happy.”
It was at that moment that Nino and Jun’s eyes met. It couldn’t be....
“Why, you rascal, what had you been doing with Yoshida while we were away?”
“Nothing weird or perverted, thank you for asking,” he answered sarcastically as he looked towards the entrance of the restaurant. “But I was able to say a lot of things I should have said long ago.”
There was silence as the obvious fact started to sink in.
“You guys are going out?” Jun asked, trying his best not to say it too loudly nor sound too excited.
Sho nodded in reply just as the food they ordered came.
“Took you six years. Good job, Sakurai,” Nino said with a frown when he realized that the food wasn’t as good as what Natsumi cooks. “I can’t believe I chose to eat here today.”
“But Mao-chan said she likes it here,” Jun suddenly blurted out before he even realized what he had just said. He cleared his throat then coolly looked at the window towards the restaurant he usually goes to. “We decided to switch today so we’d know how it is like.”
“Ah... I really can’t believe I ate here today and joined you two,” Nino grumbled as he lazily moved his spoon around the plate of hayashi rice. “I think I just lost my appetite.”
“Why don’t you have your bento today, anyway?” Sho asked when he remembered that Nino doesn’t usually eat out these days. He even remembered him being happy about it.
Jun, who was relieved that the topic was changed and Nino’s in the spotlight this time, smiled knowingly.
“Bet she met your mother yesterday, and it didn’t turn out well,” he said before ducking to evade his colleague’s small hand that aimed to hit his head.
Sho couldn’t help chuckling when he found out what had been bothering Nino since that morning. Hanako told him before about the time when he met Natsumi’s parents. Seems like the results were different this time.
“What do you plan to do about that, Ninomiya-san?” he asked while acting like a news reporter, as he held out his fist under Nino’s chin as if he was holding a mic and waiting for his answer.
Nino clicked his tongue as he pushed Sho’s hand away.
“Shut up and eat,” he said angrily before stuffing his mouth with food till his cheeks were puffed up.
If he really had to give an answer, Nino thought he shouldn’t really do anything. He didn’t want Natsumi to pretend to be something she wasn’t, just to impress his mother. He also didn’t want to force his mother to like Natsumi. Though it could take a miracle, he just wanted them to like each other naturally, to find a common ground even if one day, they might gang up on him.
“Hey, what do you think about going to the beach again... the six of us this time?” Jun suggested excitedly, which almost made Nino choke on his food.
“I'm not doing it again,” he said after drinking all the water in his glass. “Besides, we're going somewhere this weekend.”
Jun raised an eyebrow at him.
“And where would that be?” he asked.
Nino stood up and placed his exact payment for his food on the table. Though if he had a choice, he would pay less. After paying, he glanced down at Jun then smirked.
“My mother's house, of course.”
A lot of things are happening and Natsumi felt that she had to move or else she would be left behind. First, she met Nino's mom and then when she got home, Hanako told her about her status with Sho. Then around lunchtime, Masaki called her to say he wants to eat cream stew for dinner. He wouldn't say why at first, but eventually, he did admit that he was going back to Chiba soon.
She sighed then placed some meat on the grocery basket before moving on to the vegetable section. Her mind was still adrift while she was choosing carrots, so it surprised her when someone suddenly called her name.
“Ah, it's really you, Natsumi-san,” Mao said with a smile as she walked quickly to where she was.
When Natsumi looked over Mao's shoulder, she saw Jun pushing the grocery cart and following her. She smiled weakly and waved to them.
“Grocery shopping together?” Natsumi asked Mao with a knowing look to which the other woman replied with a giggle.
“He's going to cook, he said,” she replied in a low voice as Jun neared. “By the way, how was everything yesterday? I was surprised when Nino suddenly decided to leave.”
“Oh that... well....” The look of worry was back on Natsumi's face. “I met his mother and it wasn't a good first meeting. Anyway, I'm really sorry again if that caused you trouble.”
“What are you talking about?” Jun chimed in. “Don't worry about it, Natsumi-san. I'm sure Nino has something up his sleeve.”
From his tone and the smile on his face, Natsumi could tell that he knew something that she didn't. Well, she just has to trust Nino about this, anyway.
“I think I'll go ahead,” she said with a smile when she remembered the time. “I have to make dinner today. I'll see you guys around.”
She said goodbye to them and even promised to get together with them again next time. Her walk back home was quiet. She thought it was good so she could think better. As she neared their apartment building, she was even swinging the plastic bag of food she just bought.
“Na-chan!” Hanako happily linked her arm with hers when they met on the way home. The smile on her face faded a bit when she saw the plastic bag her friend was carrying. “I didn't know you'll be the one cooking today. Wasn't it supposed to be Masa-kun?”
“He asked for cream stew,” she answered meaningfully as they stepped into the entrance of the building. “He just called about it this afternoon.”
“I see,” Hanako said then she smiled again. “I'll help you then.”
Masaki and Daichi welcomed them home happily as usual, though they couldn't help feeling a bit sad now that the jolliest person there would be leaving for a long time.
“I'll be visiting you guys again, I promise,” he said as he placed his arms around Natsumi and Hanako's shoulders while they were cooking.
“I just hope next time it won't be because your father kicked you out,” Natsumi said a little sharply before elbowing him on the side. Yet after that, she placed an arm around Masaki's waist and gave him a squeeze. He hasn't even left, but she already felt like missing him.
“You are making me cry, Na-chan. Stop it!” he said jokingly as he wiped his misty eyes.
Just as they finished cooking dinner, Nino came from work. When Masaki saw that he brought ice cream for everyone, he excitedly took it from his cousin's boyfriend and placed it in the freezer.
“It feels like Friday in here,” Nino said with a sigh as he sat beside Natsumi. “When are you going to leave, Aiba?”
“On Saturday, if nothing comes up,” he said as he happily went back to the table. “Please take care of my cousin, alright?”
Nino made a face then glanced at Natsumi.
“You didn't have to tell me that,” he said. He then seemed to remember something so he glanced at Hanako. “Ah... Yoshida... I heard from Sakurai. Congratulations.”
Hanako almost choked on the food she was eating. He's probably the last person she expected to tell her that.
“Why, thanks, Nino,” she said out of politeness. “By the way, I heard your friend wants to go to the beach again. Sho asked me to come. How about you guys?”
Nino smirked after taking a sip of water.
“We are going to my mother's house.”
It was Natsumi's time to cough violently. Nino needed to tell her about these things first before announcing it to everyone. She glared at him the moment she recovered.
“What are you talking about?”
Nino suddenly looked like a five year-old trying to persuade someone to do something through his charms. He planned to tell her later, but he thought there's no difference and there's nothing wrong with telling her now.
“I just thought it would be nice to visit her this weekend,” he answered, unfazed by her reaction. “You'd be able to see the place where I grew up in. Wouldn't that be nice, Na-chan?”
“It's actually a great idea, Na-chan,” Masaki said with a wink. Daichi and Hanako also nodded in agreement.
“How awesome, everyone’s siding with me for a change,” Nino said with a triumphant smile. “So what do you say?”
Natsumi frowned and sighed just for show. She's still a little upset, but she'd really love to see the place where he grew up in. And maybe next time, he could bring Nino to her hometown in exchange.
“I don't have any choice but to say 'yes,' right?”
go mood: awake