Chapter 4: Happiness between Hiccups and Headaches

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." -Angela Schwindt


Being a father was hard.

There were good days...and then there were bad days.

The good days were very good, and thankfully often.

The bad days weren't particularly bad, but Makishima didn't want any ever.

Like his first day of parenthood.

Makishima didn't sleep much that night. After he settled Onoda into his bed, and convinced the boy that he was not going to leave, he sat in the room freaking out.

He was a father. A certified bona fide father.

His son was sleeping contently, under pale pink blankets so even if he was still coming to grasp with this new situation, he was happy.

He had a son.


Day 01

The next morning, Makishima realized that having a son and knowing what to do with one were two totally different things.

It was not a good morning.

Onoda had locked himself in his room and Makishima heard him crying distinctly.

He pounded on the door for at least half an hour, pleading with Onoda to open the door. It had felt a whole lot longer at the time. He was about to kick the door in when the boy finally opened it and his tear stained face appeared.

"Why!? Why did you lock yourself in?!" He shouted down at the boy, his nerves wrecked.

"Mama! I'm sorry, Mama! I..I did something bad! I-" He dissolved into tears. He suddenly understood what had happened, and noticed that Onoda was not wearing the pajamas that he had put him in the night before.

Makishima leaned against the opposing wall, slumping down, his beating heart pounding in his chest.

They were quiet for a moment, and he watched the crying boy with sad eyes, "I'm sorry too...Just..don't lock me out, okay? No matter what, promise me that you won't lock me out. Ever."

The boy nodded stiffly, "I'm sorry, Mama, I'm sorry. I promise…" He wiped his arm across his face, and crawled over to Makishima. He leaned against Makishima's side, burying his tearful eyes into his shirt. Makishima sighed and pulled him close.

That first day was an indication of what was to come.

Onoda's bed wetting problem was an issue that Makishima trudged through. Every other morning, Makishima found himself washing soiled sheets. Onoda was always distraught over it, but he never locked himself away in shame again. Makishima was glad for that.

"I'm sorry, Mama! I really, really tried!"

"It's okay, Sakamichi."

"I'm really, really sorry..."

"It's okay…"

"But, Mama...I-"

Makishima finally turned around and closed the washing machine lid. "Sakamichi, listen. This isn't a big deal. I knew about this problem, you know...from before so, it's okay. We'll work through this." He ruffled the boy's hair, a true smile gracing his lips, "You can do it. No matter how long it takes. Okay?"

His son nodded, and pulled at his sleeve, "Okay, Mama. Um, Mama, I love you..."

Makishima grit his teeth, his eyes widening. Warmth spread through him as he pulled his son into a hug. "I love you too, Sakamichi."

And, even as Makishima burned breakfast, and accidently put too much balsamic vinegar on the second batch of toast, he was happy.

Joy sat giggling at Makishima, trying to hold in his easy little laughs with his hands. It was such a jarring feeling, the feeling that everything was right in the world, that feeling of fullness, but at the same time it was terrifying because the world was a terrifying place, and his son was now in it.

He never knew he could love someone like this, how someone could have this hold over his heart, where he would do anything to keep his precious son alive and safe and happy.

It was like being being born again, and as that first day set, and Onoda had settled in his lap, sleeping soundly after watching that very cheery anime with the magical girl, Makishima took out a thick leather bound sketchbook, and at the top of the first page he wrote Day 01.It was the start of a beautiful beginning.


Day 05

He held his hand tightly as he led Onoda up the stairs to their studio office.

His face was a little drawn, his eternally furrowed brow lined harder than usual.

Onoda slipped on a step, and Makishima realized he was dragging the boy up the stairs.

"Uh...sorry..you okay?" Onoda adjusted his glasses and nodded. His small face was unusually tense, and for some reason that made Makishima guilty. "Hey..." He started, crouching on the step below the boy, "Are you nervous?"

Onoda nodded, his little hands twisting his clothes in his fists, "I want Uncle to like me."

Makishima patted his head, "Don't worry about that. Just be you."

Although, he couldn't say for certain that Onoda would be liked, it was hard to say that wouldn't be the case. Onoda was the definition of adorable. No matter how cold a person was, he would ultimately crumble to the kid's disarming smile.

Onoda beamed said smile and nodded. "Okay, Mama!" He reached out and grabbed Makishima's pinkie. Makishima stood up and continued up the stairs.

Onoda hopped up the rest of the steps after him, making a big deal of making it to the top, his nervousness temporarily forgotten.

The studio was cold when they entered, and Onoda shivered. Makishima frowned at the action. He really should put two sweaters on the boy.

He made his way past the front lobby, thinking of getting to his office before he met his brother.

Unfortunately, a group of seamstresses and interns came down the hallway.

Makishima watched as their eyes widened as they looked at him and then down at a beaming little boy.

Kasumi, a no nonsense seamstress, approached them boldly, "Is this Onoda? Thomas-san told us about him." She didn't wait for a response from the man, and turned to Onoda. "Hi there! Is your name Onoda-chan?"

Makishima paused, debating whether to correct her, because Onoda was no longer an Onoda by name.

Onoda looked at her wide eyed, and then nodded. The rest of the women came closer, gathering around the boy. Makishima was unceremoniously pressed to the outskirts of the group, and he watched as Onoda was cuddled and ruffled with. The women cooed and giggled at Onoda with wide smiles and sparkling eyes. It was a display of Onoda's charm and Makishima smiled softly at it.

But then the cute moment began dragging on. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Onoda was now being hugged and when the cheek pinching and smoochy forehead kisses started, he stepped in.

"Uh, can I have my son back?" He asked the pack of excited women.

Onoda was handed back to him, and he looked like he had gone through a small cyclone.

"Ah, sorry, Makishima-san. We got a little carried away." Kasumi apologized, becoming the spokesperson for the gaggle of women. "He is absolutely cute!" She reached out and touched the tip of Onoda's nose, and the boy wrinkled it in response, his eyes going cross eyed as he attempted to see the woman's fingertip. She laughed, and the women behind her giggled, cooed, and clucked, almost like hens watching over their chicks. "You should come and visit us, Onoda-chan! Okay?"

Onoda frowned, "Okay. If Mama say so, I will."

What a perfect response. The women waved at Onoda and gave a polite nod to Makishima before they filed out of the hallway. Onoda waved back with enthusiasm, "Bye bye!"

Makishima smiled slightly, and put Onoda down. "That was a little crazy." He muttered to the boy. He then led them to the back offices, this time making it all the way to his door when Thomas came down the hallway.

"Whoa! Maki! Is this...?" He exclaimed, and then laughed, dropping to his knees in front of the boy.

"Wow, you are the cutest kid I have ever seen! I'm your Uncle Thomas! You can call me Tommy!" He reached out a hand and ruffled Onoda's soft black hair, "So, what do you like to do? You like robots? I love robots! How about we play with some robots I have in my office?"

"Robots?" Onoda asked excitedly, and he looked up at Makishima, "Can I play with robots, Mama?"

Makishima gave Thomas an annoyed look, but sighed, defeated, "Sure. Is um… my brother in his office?"

Thomas picked up Onoda high into the air, making the boy scream delightfully for a second, before he settled him into his arms, talking a mile a minute about his collection of robots, and how they should totally build one together, and how it'll be a lot of fun.

Makishima finally had to interrupt their happy chatting by placing a hand on Thomas' shoulder, "Hey, where is my brother? Is he in his office?"

Thomas looked like a child, smiling and giggly, "Yeah, he's there. SO! Maki, can we play with my robots now?"

Makishima looked at Onoda who was flushing happily, and felt just a tad jealous, "Are you going to be okay by yourself for a little bit, Sakamichi?"

Onoda nodded, "Yeah, Mama. I want to play with Uncle Tommy's robots! Can you come play too?"

Makishima nodded,"Yeah. I just have to talk to someone real quick. You play. I'll be back soon." He turned his eyes to Thomas, "You better behave, and take care of him." He said, but Thomas was much too happy to feel threatened, "Aw, Maki, don't worry, Saka-chan and I are gonna have loads of fun!"

Thomas lifted Onoda into the air, and rushed down the hallway, making airplane sounds, the boy laughing delightfully. Makishima watched them go, not knowing whether Thomas' obvious love of being childish was a good or bad thing.

He couldn't worry about that now. He had to talk with his brother. He steeled himself and went to the main office. He knocked lightly, and peeped his head in, "Uh… you busy?"

His brother shook his head, but his eyes seemed nervous. " I heard… uh the kid, and Thomas being more obnoxious than usual. So, you brought him here?"

Makishima came into the office, closing the door behind him quietly, "Yeah. You said I could."

His brother nodded, and stood up, coughing nervously. "Right. Yeah. I did say that."

Makishima came up to his desk, fingers tapping lightly on the wood. "You also said you needed to confess something. So, I'm here."

His brother's eyes widened and he sucked in a shuddering breath. Whatever his brother wanted to tell him, it was jarring to see how obviously important, how impacting this was.

"Yes. I did also say that. Well…"

He moved from his desk and went to the window overlooking the street. It was quiet for a couple of minutes, long suffocating moments. His brother cleared his throat uncomfortably, and turned to look at him.

"Uh…You've been with me for years, Yuusuke. Tell me have you noticed anything... weird about me?"

Makishima gave him a half lidded look. That was a long list that he didn't feel like elaborating on at the moment. He could hear Onoda and Thomas chatting down the hall and wanted to get back over there to make sure Thomas wasn't teaching his child any bad habits.

"No. Not really. Nothing… prominent, I guess."

His brother breathed in deep, "Of course. I mean I kept it hidden rather well." He ran a hand through his short hair, "Uh. Well, I'm… I'm actually… I'm uh… dating someone."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. So… yeah."

Makishima blinked in confusion. Was that it? While, yes, it was strange that his brother was dating, it wasn't really that big of a deal. "That's nice. Do I know her?"

He nodded tersely.

Makishima's next question was obviously going to be 'So, who is she?' but his brother's fist were white, and he was so stiff that he looked like he would fall over if lightly pushed. Makishima opted for another question, one that wouldn't make his brother spontaneously combust.

"How…How long have you two been dating?"

His brother unclenched a little as it was not the question he was expecting. "Uh…Five, almost six years, now."

That got Makishima's attention. How his brother could be dating someone for this long and Makishima not notice a thing was incredible. How was that even possible? Did Thomas know? Was that why his brother had never even looked at woman in the long years working together?

"Sin-Since you started the label...?"

His brother nodded again.

Makishima waited and waited some more. He was actually curious now of who had the patience to deal with this. While he loved his brother, he was also aware that he could be hell on the nerves. He listed all their mutual contacts that Makishima remembered in his head, going through most of the woman unavailable to be dating his brother. There was one person though. Someone who was always around, constantly present in his brother's life. He blinked again. No, that wasn't possible… was it?

He looked up at his brother, brow furrowing. He shouldn't assume, but it made sense why his brother was having trouble with this confession. Makishima cleared his throat, making his brother jump pathetically. "So, uh… this person you're dating… is it…?"

His brother was nodding before he even finished the sentence, "I know, it's… shocking, right? I just… I've been so afraid to tell anyone. I thought I could be more like you and not care what people said, but I care a lot what people think of me. I care so much, but I'm killing myself with this. I thought that maybe you could… I don't know. Since you did this, this adoption thing, this unbelievable risky thing, I could… I could tell you. I- I'm not making sense, am I?"

Makishima grimaced, because no, his brother was not making total sense, but Makishima got the gist of it.

"Oh. Okay."

"Okay!? That's all you're going to say? You're not angry? Or confused or worried or something? Don't you think I'm being hypocritical? I am a hypocrite! I- just tell me if you're angry, Yuusuke?"

Makishima just raised an eyebrow, "Uh. No. I'm not…any of those things?"

"You're not disgusted?"

He honestly had no clue that his brother was inclined in that way. His brother did everything to act very appealing in the eyes of their associates and workers so maybe he had been putting up an act all this time. Five years. Makishima could have never done something like that. Maybe that is why he was strict with his life, not wanting to ever bring attention to their home lives.

Makishima shrugged, "No. I've gone out with guys too, so it's not a big deal to me."

"What!? When!? How did I not know about this?! Why didn't you tell me?" Makishima started at his brother's outburst, "I didn't think it was important."

"Not important! It's really important! So, you don't care?"

Makishima shook his head. "No. I'm happy for you. I don't see why you were worried about how I would react."

"Well, you are really into women. Your gravure collection and the exhibits you fund, I assumed…"

Makishima let out a heavy breath, "I like how women look, but that doesn't mean I'm solely attracted to just that." It was strange that they had lived together, but never discussed anything real personal. In fact, this whole year was the only time that they had a real talk. Besides the daily chatter, most of their conversations were about business.

His brother dropped into his chair, "So, I was freaking out for no reason."

Makishima grinned good naturedly, "Like usual." Then he frowned, "But… Thomas… doesn't seem like your type. I thought you'd be into... I don't know, a quieter less messy kind of person."

His brother blushed, and Makishima's eyes widened at it, because he couldn't remember the last time he had seen his brother do that. "Uh… He's not actually… It happened accidentally."

Makishima was frowning harder now, because Thomas was quite the womanizer, "So, is your relationship… uh open or something?"

His brother looked uncomfortable, "No. That's actually my fault too. He wasn't uh… he didn't like men at first, but when we met it was… it was…" His brother was struggling hard, his words growing quieter, and Makishima decided if he wanted the quicker more informative story he would just ask Thomas about it at a later date, "Uh…It was… like fate… or something like that, but, anyways, we didn't want people to know at first, so I made Thomas date women to keep people from… finding out. It worked for a long time but Thomas got tired of it, and he broke up with me for a while…Remember? When he left for all those months?" Makishima did, but he had been told Thomas was going back to the United States to brush up with some things. Makishima was connecting everything. Thomas' hollowed look that day, the numerous touches between the two of them, their tight friendship. It seemed so obvious now.

"Yeah... So... I'm sorry, you don't want to know about all this… All I wanted to tell you is that I'm…I'm taking a page out of your book and doing whatever the hell I want. You adopt a kid without any help or support save a blonde idiot, so then I can…I can tell people that I'm…" He swallowed hard, and his eyes teared up, relief and joy on his face, and Makishima felt himself panic, because he had never seen his brother cry, "That I'm happily in love with that man…"

The door burst open in that second, startlingly the two men into yelps, and Thomas rushed in, making an awful lot of racket.

"Captain Sakamichi, I see two very strange looking aliens. I advise not to make contact. We could get the dreaded weirdcootievitus disease."

Onoda laughed in Thomas' arms, "That's not an alien! That's Mama!" Thomas set him down and Onoda skipped over to Makishima, beaming up at him, lifting his hands excitedly, "Mama! Uncle Tommy has a lotta, a lotta robots! We were playing astro... astro…" He turned and frowned up at Thomas, "How do you say the game, Uncle Tommy?"

"Astronauts! Moon explorers!" He said, reaching down and picking him up again, "Me and Sakamichi are going to live on the moon!"

"Mama, can you come to the moon? Uncle Tommy says the moon is made out of cheese, the yellow stuff."

"Yeah, and cows like to jump over- Oh…Is something wrong?" Thomas had just noticed the man behind the desk, wiping his face hurriedly. He set Onoda down gingerly, giving Makishima a worried look. It was so weird to know that Thomas was…with his brother. Why were they attracted to each other? They were so different.

"I'll be back, Captain."

He made his way over to the man, who was still covering his face, "Uh…Are you okay, man?"

Makishima didn't want to intrude on the moment, so he turned to his son, "So, you're going to leave me to go to the moon, eh?"

Onoda looked so shocked, "NO! Mama! Uncle Tommy says I have to be a grown up to go to the moon. I will bring you with me."

Makishima smirked, "I like the earth just fine. So, did you have fun?"

Onoda nodded, and started on one of his long winded detailed recountings of the event. He was getting to the part where they had scared some interns in the mock up station, when he was interrupted by Thomas' yell. "WHAT! YOU'RE SHITTIN' ME!"

Makishima clapped his hands over his son's ears and hissed at the man, turning to reprimand him. Unfortunately, what he saw made him stop. Makishima rolled his eyes, as he saw his brother being kissed rather earnestly by Thomas. Then he realized that Onoda was also watching. He slowly turned around, and gave his son a helpless look, as the boy cocked his head, curiously inquisitive of the scene.

"Ah... so... the moon? It's made out of cheese? "

Onoda was successfully distracted, and nodded his head." Yeah! You can eat cheese. I don't know how it tastes though."

Makishima patted his head, "Well, we're going to have to try some soon. How does that sound?"

Onoda cheered happily before they were interrupted by Thomas, "Captain Sakamichi, you wanna play some more?"

Onoda looked up at him, smiling but then frowned, "Uncle Tommy, why are you crying?"

Thomas leaned over and picked him up, wiping at his face. "Uh, I am? I guess, sometimes you get so happy, your face starts crying... but nevermind me. It's time for you to meet your other uncle. He's kinda a grumpy person, so he's not as cool as me. "

Makishima snorted quietly as Thomas brought Onoda over to the stiff man behind the desk, and set him down. Makishima watched with bated breath, as Onoda looked up at his uncle. It was quiet, and it became painfully obvious that neither of the Makishima brothers were particularly good with kids. Onoda broke the silence by digging into his pocket, the sound of rustling paper filling the room. "Uncle Maki? I made this for you."

Makishima frowned. Onoda had not told him about this. Makishima watched as his brother shifted uncomfortably, and hesitantly reached for the folded paper. "Thanks... uh... for this."

Onoda blinked happily, bouncing on his feet as he watched his uncle carefully open the paper.

From the confused face he sported, Makishima realized that he would probably have to interpret, but it wasn't like he himself understood what Onoda's drawings meant most of the time. He got up to head over to translate when Onoda began speaking, "It's a promise, Uncle. Like…uh a paper promise."

Makishima frowned, and so did everyone else in the room. Paper promise? What did that mean? His brother was a little faster on the uptake, "You mean a contract?"

Onoda shrugged but Makishima connected the dots. It made sense why Onoda that morning had been asking all the questions about the paper they had filed a couple of days ago, the adoption contract with the state, to ensure that Makishima would raise a child to the best of his ability. Onoda had not understood the concept at all at the time or so Makishima assumed. He should really stop doing that.

"It's a paper promise. I will be a good boy so Uncle will like me."

Makishima found it unbelievably adorable that Onoda had gone through the effort to do something so adult like in order to compare to someone so non child friendly like his brother. The man cleared his throat confused and helpless at the cuteness before him, glancing at Makishima and Thomas, "Ah… Well, you didn't have to… make that sort of promise. But uh… I mean, it's not that I don't like you or anything… but uh…" He was struggling for words, avoiding the boy's intense gaze. Makishima had never seen him so off balance before.

"Oh for god sakes!" Thomas intervened and picked up Onoda, "You have got to be the cutest being on this planet! A contract!" He hugged Onoda in his arms, squeezing the life out of him, until he started to complain about air, "Sorry! Well, Sakamichi-chan, I really, really like you and this guy will too. He's just scared of new things. Wanna go play some more? Wanna scare more ladies?"

Onoda beamed, nodding his head enthusiastically, "Yeah! Yeah!" He turned slightly to look at his uncle, "Can Mama and Uncle Maki come play too?"

Thomas grinned so wide, Makishima was sure he had never seen so many teeth, "Of course. Only if they can keep up, though!"

And then he took off at literally a full run, leaving two surprised Makishimas in his wake.

Makishima was suddenly worried about his son's well being, and was about to follow them out the door, when his brother cleared his throat, "Uh, Yuusuke, why did… Why did he do this?"

Makishima shrugged, "I don't know, Sakamichi is a weird kid sometimes."

"No, I mean why did he think of doing it? Did he assume I wouldn't like him? What does it even mean?"

Makishima was looking out the door, wondering where those two had scampered off to, answering distractedly, "Uh, I might've told him that and it means exactly as he said. He promises to be a good boy and in return, he wants you to try and like him." He glanced back at him, leveling his eyes,"And he takes promises very seriously."

"Yuusuke, I don't dislike kids! I just… he's…" Makishima turned to look at the man, who seemed lighter in a sense, shoulders less heavy, "I can see it now… I understand a little, what captured you at the beginning. I want to… I want to… I don't know… be part of that. So, can you let me…? I mean I know I don't deserve it after not supporting you all these months, but… I'm asking…"

Makishima clapped him on the back, "It's alright. I don't care. Besides, I'd rather you stick around, it might help you…loosen up."

He frowned, "Loosen up? I'm not uptight! Am I? Yuusuke!? Wait, come back here!"

Makishima had stuck his hands in his pocket and started strolling out the door in search for his son and the blonde noisemaker.

His brother followed him, repeating his question.

Luckily Thomas was coming down the hall, this time capes wrapped around their shoulders, "Yo! You guys came!" Makishima saw that the fabric they had used for their superhero attire was rather expensive. He shrugged it off since it was the head of finances running around in it, "Yeah, so we should go eat now, Sakamichi."

Thomas put Onoda down, "That sounds like a great idea! We'll pay since we're your uncles. Maki, you're on your own."

Makishima frowned at that, and Onoda was watching them with raptured eyes before he was suddenly called.

"Uh, Sakamichi?"

Onoda turned to look at the rather nervous man, "Ah? Yes, Uncle?"

Makishima watched, bemused as his brother stuck out a hand, "I promise, too, to be a good uncle."

Onoda looked at the hand, confused, and Makishima chuckled at his brother's helpless look, "It's a handshake…" He said weakly.

"Hand holding?" Onoda asked, and the man nodded. Onoda grabbed the hand, but didn't shake it, instead holding it in the way that Makishima had learned to get used to. He swung the hands back and forth, looking up at his uncle with that heart melting expression. "I like you, Uncle! I will be a good boy. I promise too!"

The man was clearly overwhelmed, and looked over to Makishima and Thomas for help. They had already turned around, walking to the exit, "A good uncle must learn." Makishima said, chuckling at his brother, but he was actually reflecting on how that was him all those months ago, unable to understand what was going on. He could see the affection start to infect. Thomas snapped a photo, all his sympathy also absent, "Aw, dude, that's adorable. Now let's go eat before I turn into a monster!"

"Monster!?" Onoda cried out, looking surprised.

"Yeah! A hungry, hungry monster! Let's go!"

Onoda was looking alarmed so he pulled at the hand he was grasping, "Let's go, Uncle Maki! Uncle Tommy might turn into a monster!" Makishima grinned as he watched Onoda half drag an overwhelmed uncle, following his other uncle who was making awful monster noises. He was glad that it had all worked out better than he had hoped. Everything was finally, finally falling into place.


Day 10

It was chilly, and Makishima worried that Onoda didn't have enough clothes on. The boy though didn't seem to mind the nipping wind. Makishima saw him go down the slide for the tenth time, before scrambling back to the top and waving at Makishima eagerly and sliding down again. Makishima wrapped his scarf around himself, not liking the cold.

"You sure you want to just sit?"

Makishima glanced over to the direction of the voice. A woman was crouched over a grumpy looking child, and the boy nodded his head. The woman looked disappointed, as she grabbed the boys hand, and headed over to the bench that Makishima was sitting on.

"May we?" She asked hesitantly when she approached him.

Makishima looked at her, and nodded once. She sat down, and seated the boy next to her. He wondered at their relationship. They didn't look related, judging from their appearances. The woman had rounded features, while everything about the boy was sharp and angular. Makishima noticed the difference in their woman was clothed in a well worn sweater, and the boy was wearing Kenzo jacket and Fendi sneakers. Not terribly expensive, but nothing to sneeze at. Maybe she was a nanny.

He caught the woman's eyes, and she was frowning at him. He looked away, but felt her eyes on him.

"Uh… Are you here with someone?" She asked carefully.

Makishima glanced at her, slowly nodding his head, "Yeah, my son." He pointed to Onoda who was racing some children up the wrong side of the slide. It was still very weird to say that.

"Oh. How very nice."

Makishima frowned as she sounded doubtful. He glanced at the child sitting next to him, like a statue, stoic and quiet. What a weird kid.

He looked back up at Onoda, who was laughing with a bunch of kids at the top of the slide, looking triumphant for conquering the wrong way to use the slide. Makishima saw that his jacket was becoming loose, and when he jumped down the stairs to the woodchip ground, that his shoelaces were untied. Makishima stood up, and called out to him, "Sakamichi, come here real quick."

His son started, and then came running up to him, tripping a little in his rush, "Ah! Mama? Yes?"

Makishima reached out and fixed the jacket on the boys tiny shoulders, "Your shoelaces are untied."

"Oh! Sorry, Mama!"

Makishima gently poked his nose before kneeling to tie his shoelaces. "Did you see me Mama?! I went up the slide! It's harder to go up than down, but my new friends helped me."

"Yeah, I saw you, but be careful not to go up when kids want to slide down." Makishima responded, as he double knotted the laces. "We're going to leave soon, just so you know."

"M'kay, Mama."

"You seem to be having lots of fun." The woman at the end of the bench said suddenly causing both Onoda and Makishima to look up. Onoda nodded slowly in response.

"See, Suke-chan, why don't you go and have fun too?" She said to the boy sitting at her side, who was almost glaring at Onoda.

Onoda looked a little confused, but as the nice kid, he volunteered, "Ah…You wanna come play?" He asked hesitantly, fixing his glasses.

The boy turned away, crossing his arms. "No. I don't like you. Go away."

Makishima gaped at the boy, thinking that he probably needed a kick to the shin. Onoda looked a little hurt.

"I'm sorry…" The woman said, her face distressed, "Shunsuke-chan… He's a little difficult sometimes." She looked down at the grumpy boy, "Suke-chan, don't be mean. Why don't you go play? This boy could be your first friend."

The boy crossed his arms harder, looking down at the ground. "Don't want to." He said stubbornly.

Makishima smoothed the hairs over his son's head, "Okay. Go play," He told him, not wanting his son to get more hurt by this insufferable little brat.

Onoda was still looking at the boy though, before replying, "Mama, can I sit down?"

Makishima was surprised, "Yeah, you can, but don't you want to play some more?"

Onoda looked shy, as he shook his head, but he headed over and sat next to the angry boy. The boy was looking at him, shock evident in his face. The woman was also looking confused.

Onoda settled down comfortably and it was quiet until the boy asked what was on everybody's mind.

"Why are you sitting down for? I don't wanna be your friend. Go away."

Makishima was suddenly reminded that he had never really liked kids; Onoda being the only exception.

The woman looked pained, and she opened her mouth to say something when Onoda spoke up.

"I know…You don't wanna play so, I'll sit here with you, so you're not alone." Onoda said, his feet kicking back and forth. The boy frowned, confused at Onoda, and pulled his hat tighter on his head.

They sat there awhile, and Makishima knew his son enough to know that he really wanted to run and go play, but felt obligated to keep the little brat company. Makishima sighed.

A couple of kids called from the slide, "Onoda-chan! C'mon, we gonna go up the slide again."

Makishima winced at what they called him. Sakamichi had introduced himself as Onoda again.

Onoda beamed, and jumped in his seat. He glanced at the boy sitting next to him. Biting his lip, he sat back resolutely.

Makishima pushed back his hair. Onoda was so stubborn it was amazing.

The kid, though, found it exasperating. "You don't have to stay here! Go play or whatever! I don't need you around!"

Onoda scooted closer to Makishima, clearly frightened at the boy's outburst. Both Makishima and the woman frowned ready to scold the kid when Onoda said, "I know! I know! I'm sorry. You look sad. I don't like to be alone when I'm sad. I have Mama now, so I'm not sad, but you look sad. I wanted to help! Sorry! I… I'll go away now."

The brat eyes widened, and he actually looked like a kid for a second, before he squinted at Onoda again, "No! Imma gonna go. Whatever!" The boy hopped off of the bench and started walking away, his gait annoyed.

"Ah! Suke-chan! Wait!" The woman called out. She gathered her bag and quickly bowed to Makishima, "I'm sorry! I- Please excuse us."

She took off after the boy, and Makishima looked down at his son, disappointed that his first attempt to make a friend had been wasted on that kid.

Onoda was looking sad, eyes downcast. Makishima gathered him up in his arms before picking him up. "Don't worry about him. He's grumpy. Grumpy people are like that."

Onoda sad eyes lightened, and then he giggled, "Like Mama in the morning?"

Makishima smirked, "I'm not grumpy, Sakamichi. I'm tired. You're the grumpy one…"

Onoda shook his head, "Nope! Mama is grumpy!" He giggled into his hand, before hugging Makishima around the neck.

Makishima lifted him a little higher, and wrapped the end of his scarf around Onoda's neck, and reached over to pick up his goat patterned messenger bag. "Ready to go? Or do you wanna play some more?"

Onoda looked thoughtful for a moment, "Nope! Let's go home, Mama."

Makishima nodded and headed home. It was a quiet trip and Makishima was thinking of what to make to eat when Onoda asked him a question.

"Mama, why did the little boy not like me?"

Makishima exhaled heavily, and he tried to remember what all his parenting books he had read through could help him. Nothing came to mind.

"Because that boy is not very smart." Makishima said finally, although he was already regretting the statement.

Onoda cocked his his head, face perplexed. "I'm not very smart too, but I liked him. He looked like Arimaru-kun from Love Hime!" Onoda said.

Makishima frowned, "Stop saying you're not smart. You're not even in school yet. I'm glad you liked him. Not everyone is going to feel the same way you do, though. It's because we all live different lives, and see things differently. It's his loss for not wanting to be your friend. Leave it at that."

Onoda nodded, and his stomach growled. Makishima grinned, "Hungry?"

His son paused, and Makishima held his breath, "Yeah. Imma hungry, Mama."

Makishima smiled, "Okay then. Let's go eat."

Makishima didn't expect to see the boy again, especially since he had stormed off in such a manner yesterday.

So when they arrived at the park the next morning, and saw the sharp eyed boy sitting there, seemingly waiting, they were both surprised.

Onoda looked a little frightened and Makishima felt like hiding him in his jacket. Well, he should search for another park to head to tomorrow if this kept up.

The boy was giving Onoda a cold glare as he approached, and he slid off the bench to walk up to Onoda. Makishima defensively put his hands on his son's shoulders, feeling threatened.

The boy stood there, staring at his son for a moment, resulting in both Onoda and Makishima to fidget awkwardly.

"I'm not sad." The boy finally said, his tone a little snotty, "So you were wrong yesterday,when you said that. I'm not sad at all."

Onoda's brow was furrowed. "O-Okay…" He said slowly and he looked up at Makishima clearly confused.

"Go play, Sakamichi." Makishima said firmly, and nudged his son to the playground. Onoda glanced once at the boy before running into a mass of wiggling kids.

The boy's jaw was clenched and he sat back on the bench, crossing his arms. The woman that was sitting there, who he was sure was his nanny, gave Makishima an apologetic look.

"Suke-chan, are you sure you don't want to play with Onoda-chan?"

Makishima grimaced at the use of Onoda's old surname, and was surprised at the fact that this woman had remembered his son's name at all.

The boy shook his head, but his feet were swinging back and forth, and Makishima saw that his eyes were following his son. Again, what a weird kid.

Makishima said nothing, reaching for his phone to text back Toudou, who had left him about twelve messages just that morning.

That man was going to be the end of him. He called and called and texted him repeatedly until Makishima explained to him what he had meant by being a Mama. The man was impressed, and asked for pictures of his 'cute' son. Unfortunately, Toudous had replied with a 'Not too terrible.'

Makishima didn't like him, but for some unknown reason, he kept texting back.

Maki-chan! Good morning!

Maki-chan! I hope you slept well! Get enough beauty sleep and maybe someday you will reach my beauty!

Maki-chan! I dreamed of racing you! Of course, I hope this dream will soon come true soon!

Maki-chan! Eat a good breakfast! I wouldn't want you to get sick.

Maki-chan! Something terrible happened!

Maki-chan! Are you not going to ask what happened?

I will tell you anyway. I found one of my favorite headbands broken today! One I had from high school! I was so sad! This is my sad face :'( I must find whoever did this to me!

Maki-chan! Why are you so busy right now? :(

Makishima scanned the texts with a weary look, and went ahead with the harrowing task of replying to each text in one compact message.

Mornin'. I slept fine. We'll race soon. I ate breakfast. That's too bad. Buy a new one. Sorry, I'm with Sakamichi.

He sent the text, and suddenly looked up as Onoda called out to him, "Mama!?"

His son ran up to him, but stutter stepped when he glanced at the snotty brat next to him. He slowed his steps and moved cautiously to Makishima side. The boy stiffened when he saw Onoda approach.

"Mama, can I have water?" Onoda asked sweetly when he came up.

Makishima dug into his messanger bag, and retrieved a water bottle. Onoda drank from it quickly, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve. His eyebrow were narrowed in the expression that Makishima now recognized as stubborn determination.

"Ah… Do you wanna play…? Since you're not sad? We are playing a game." Onoda asked the boy, still sweetly, hesitantly, and eyes hopeful.

The boy's eyes narrowed, "I told you already. I don't wanna be friends. I think you're weird."

Makishima bit back a nasty reply to defend his son. Anything he was thinking of was much too harsh to say to a kid

Onoda pushed his glasses up, "We… uh we don't have to be friends. Just Play. Do you wanna?"

The boy paused, "You don't want to be my friend?"

Onoda bounced back and forth on balls of his feet, "No! I want to! I really like friends, but we don't have to if you don't wanna."

Makishima and the woman exchanged helpless looks, as the boy sat there staring and thoughtful.

Onoda was being way too patient in Makishima's opinion, and he was about to tell his son to give up when the boy jumped off the bench. "Fine. Whatever. I'll play."

Onoda beamed, as the adults looked at the boy in shock.

"Goodie! I'm Onoda Sakamichi!"

Makishima sighed. He really had to tell Onoda that his name had changed.

The boy was still frowning, but he loosened up a bit, "Imaizumi Shunsuke." He replied, pulling his hat tighter on his head.

"Imaizumi-kun!" Onoda said happily, and motioned to the playground, "Let's go play."

Imaizumi actually blushed at his name being called, before nodding once.

Onoda took off, followed by a more hesitant Imaizumi.

Makishima watched, bemused at Onoda introducing the kids to his new not friend. The woman at his side was still looking utterly surprised.

"I can't believe it. Shunsuke never has…" She turned her perplexed gaze to Makishima. "You're son… why did he… do that?"

Makishima shrugged, hell if he knew, "Sakamichi is just nice." Makishima answered, that being closest to the truth.

She shook her head, "No. I seen nice kids before. Shunsuke thinks they're annoying. That can't be it."

Makishima's phone buzzed and he answered distractedly, "Yeah, that's it. He's nice, and he wanted to be friends. That's it."

Toudou had messaged him a long text about Manami being a handful at the moment, and how he was pretty sure his nephew had to do with the utter travesty of the broken headband. How that angel was often up to no good and whatnot. He also outlined what he had eaten for breakfast, which looked pretty healthy.

The woman was talking to him, and Makishima focused to hear what she was saying, "- Lonely. I never seen a child that is so lonely. I hope you keep coming to this park, so that Shunsuke and Sakamichi can become true friends."

Makishima didn't see the problem with that. That being said, if Imaizumi continued being such a brat, and hurt his son in anyway, Makishima would have no problem in taking Onoda elsewhere, either, but he'll cross that bridge when he gets to it.

Makishima needn't have worried. Imaizumi was quickly becoming very good friends with his son to the point that he gave Makishima a cold look when he announced they had to leave, causing Onoda to ask for 'five more minutes, Mama! Please!' with the biggest doe eyes, making him impossible to refuse.

It was a good thing, though, and he could see the joy expelling from his son like sunshine.

Two hours later, Makishima was forced to walk over to the playground and pluck his son from the swing, earning a rather cross look from Imaizumi.

"You can play tomorrow. We have to go eat now." Makishima said to the pouting look that Onoda gave him.

Onoda struggled in his arms, and Makishima put him down. He was shy all of a sudden as he looked at his new friend. "Uh… See you tomorrow, Imaizumi-kun?"

Imaizumi kicked some loose wood chips, and nodded, "Yeah. Bye."

Makishima half grinned at him, and reached down to take Onoda's hand. "Okay. Let's go."

Onoda waved enthusiastically until Imaizumi and his Nanny was out of sight.

"So, are you friends now?" Makishima asked the beaming boy next to him.

"Yup! Imaizumi-kun is really cool! I'm going to show him my Hime tomorrow. Can we stay longer tomorrow?"

Makishima ruffled his hair, "Maybe. If you eat well today, we might stay longer."

"Okay! Mama!"

The weeks went by and everyday, Imaizumi waited for Onoda to come, and left when Onoda left. Onoda was very happy at having a friend. He brought his little toys and gave Imaizumi his favorite Love Hime button. Imaizumi never shared Onoda's facial expressions, and his enthusiasm was rather muted, but the day after Onoda had given him the button, Imaizumi came back with a rabbit keychain and gave it to his new friend with averted eyes.

It was cute.

The nanny, whose name was Shirahama Mako, was also ecstatic. She would sit on the bench with Makishima and tell him about all the children she had nannied over the years. Imaizumi, according to her, was the least friendliest, and she was glad that she had brought him to this park. They watched over the kids, munching on the snacks that she had made, and talking about the nuances of kids. Makishima found that when it came to asking about how to raise a child, he was rather open to talking.

"I see. So that's why you don't really look alike. I knew you dyed your hair, of course, but Sakamichi-chan looks too… round." She said, after Makishima confessed that he had adopted Onoda.

Makishima laughed at the description. "What…? Round?"

Mako nodded, "Yeah, yeah. His head, his eyes, his glasses. All round. You have sharper features."

Makishima scratched his head, "Yeah, maybe."

Mako was smiling, "But you have the same colored eyes. That's pretty unique. Shunsuke is the spitting image of his father, but I hope he grows up to be different from Imaizumi-san."

Makishima didn't inquire further, not truly interested in what the Imaizumi family looked like.

"Hey, so tomorrow my friend is coming with his kid, just so you know who Sakamichi might be playing with."

"Ah? Okay? Will it be okay with Imaizumi? Should I keep him home?"

Makishima shook his head, "No, I think it'll be fine. Don't worry about it."

Onoda came running up to him, "Mama! Do you think Imaizumi-kun can come to our house some day?"

Imaizumi's eyes were looking everywhere but at Makishima. Mako sighed, giving Makishima a slight smile.

Makishima pulled his son closer to wipe off some dirt on his cheek, "Maybe. It depends on his… well, on Shirahama-san, but if she's okay with it, then that's fine."

Mako fixed the jacket on the stiff boy, before speaking. "I think it'll be okay. I have to be there though, but not today. You have a family meeting today that we have to get to."

Imaizumi wrinkled his nose, looking slightly dejected. It was hard to read his face. Onoda turned to grab Imaizumi's hand, doing it so naturally. "Maybe tomorrow, Imaizumi-kun. I wanna show you my drawings and my colors!"

Imaizumi nodded mutely.

"Well, I guess it's getting late. We should go. I'll see you tomorrow, Makishima-san. Have a good day. Sakamichi-chan, be good. See you tomorrow." Mako said, as she stood up and gathered her things.

"Bye-bye, Shirahama-san! Imaizumi-kun! Bye-bye!" Onoda said, while he made up for Makishima's half hearted goodbye wave.

The next day, they came to the park a tad earlier than usual. Makishima yawned, as his son jumped at his side, swinging their joined hands together, humming the tune he recognized from his favorite T.V. show.

"You're chipper this morning." Makishima drawled out tiredly. He had struggled to stay awake all through breakfast, and it didn't help that Onoda was always a huge bundle of energy in the morning. It was an after effect from living on a schedule most of his life. The kid didn't understand the notion of sleeping in.

Makishima yawned again, and let Onoda take off to the playground, grateful that there was a couple of kids there, because that meant that Makishima didn't have to entertain the boy for a little bit.

He pulled at his sloppy bun, adjusting his leopard printed scarf. It was getting too cold these days. The visits to the park were going to have to stop soon. He did not want Onoda to get sick. He would rather shave his head.

"Well, your sense of style hasn't changed one bit, now has it?"

Makishima started, and then recognizing the voice, he turned around abruptly, "Tadokorocchi?"

His oldest friend came striding up to him, a… thing clinging to his arm. It wasn't an affectionate cling though, it was like the small creature was trying to knock down Tadokoro.

His friend looked weary, but his wide smile had not changed from his high school years. The only difference was that he now looked more bearish than ever.

"Makishima, how are you, you old goat?"

Makishima wanted to answer something testy but was distracted by the creature he was wrestling with, "Uh… I'm good… Tadokorocchi? What… who is that?"

"This is my brat." Tadokoro said gruffly.

The boy let go of Tadokoro's arm to peer at Makishima, " Who r'e you?" The boy said, his accent a little heavy. The child looked nothing like Tadokoro, except maybe their eyes. His features seemed much too large on his round face for a little boy, and his black hair was sticking straight up, like needles pointing to the sky. Tadokoro crouched down to place a heavy hand on the boy's neck, "That's my friend. I told you about him. Makishima Yuusuke. Now introduce yourself."

The boy rubbed his nose, and Makishima noted that he had dirt all over his face, "I'm Naruko Shoukichi! I'm called the amazing speed star, Shou-chan!" He posed dramatically.

Tadokoro rolled his eyes. "You're not a Naruko, geez." He looked at Makishima, explaining his son's odd behavior. "He recently found that his mom was a Naruko. He's been insufferable since."

The grabbed onto his father's leg, "'Cause Naruko Shoukichi sounds waa~aay cooler! An' I don' know wha' i'suffurable means, but I takin' you down for that, dad!"

Tadokoro was not impressed, and he plucked his son from his leg frowning at him, "Oi, calm down, you." As the boy tried to get his father to release him from his grip, Makishima just stared at the two in horror, thanking all the gods, deities and spirits that Onoda was not like this.

"So, where is your kid?" Tadokoro said, tucking his son under his arm. The boy wiggled, trying to escape and exclaiming loudly, and Tadokoro merely smirked at his efforts. Makishima was distracted by the mass of the loud wiggling child, that it took several seconds to reply. "He's uh… over there."

Makishima was suddenly dubious whether he should introduce his son to the spiky haired kid. While he would love his son no matter what, he really liked his quiet, happy obedient personality. He did not want Onoda to suddenly become... that, but Tadokoro was looking at him expectantly, and Makishima had no choice. They had traveled quite the distance to get here so early in the morning.

He called Onoda, who jumped off the jungle gym, and hurried back to Makishima's side.

He was looking cute and flushed, his eyes sparkling and his face half covered by the collar of his jacket.

"Sakamichi, this is the friend I told you about and that is his son."

Tadokoro crouched down to be eye level with Onoda, and looked like a circus bear doing an act. He dropped his son ungracefully on the floor, and placed a huge hand on Onoda's head.

"Well, you are not what I expected. Nice to meet you. Call me Uncle Tadokoro." Onoda was looking wide eyed at the man, but nodded slowly. He didn't get to talk to him much longer because Tadokoro's arm was pushed away roughly, and his son stepped forward.

"Whoa! Ya's eyes are gi-normous!" He said loudly.

Onoda blinked said eyes, perplexed by the spiky haired kid in front of him.

"Uh… I think my eyes are normal…" He said, awkwardly, and Tadokoro cuffed Naruko gently. "Hey, watch your mouth."

"I'm just sayin'!" The boy responded, and then turned back his angled eyes to Onoda, "Ya kinda look like a nerd, though. I'm Naruko Shoukichi. Who ar' ya?"

Makishima gave Tadokoro an annoyed look, and he replied with a weary apologetic expression.

"I'm Onoda Sakamichi."

Makishima groaned. He really had to explain his new surname to Onoda. Naruko cocked his head slightly, "You a boy?"

Onoda eyes widened again, "Yeah, Imma boy."

Tadokoro coughed slightly, trying to muffle a laugh. Makishima was getting more and more annoyed.

Onoda was really confused by the question, but was either too shy or too considerate to ask further on it. He decided on a safer route, "Uh. Wanna play? Over there?" He pointed to the jungle gym, unsure of himself.

Naruko grinned wide, and the smile showed much too many teeth for it to be normal. Naruko looked like he had jumped out of a T.V. show.

"Alright! I'll race ya!"

Onoda nodded, but was looking apprehensive. Naruko took off at what he probably thought was lightening speed. Onoda ran after him slightly slower.

Tadokoro clapped Makishima on the back, making the thinner man trip forward, "You're kid seems nice. Not as rambunctious as mine."

Makishima rolled his eyes. That was the understatement of the year.

"So, how is it going? Hard as you thought it'd be?"

Makishima sat down on his favorite bench, shivering in the cold. Tadokoro sat next to him, taking up an awful lot of space.

"No. I mean… It's hard, yes, but not like people told me it would be. I think that has to do with Onoda being such a pleasant kid. He doesn't cause all that much trouble."

Tadokoro groaned as Naruko screeched from the swings, jumping off at the highest possible point, like a crazy acrobat. Onoda was cheering for him, and Makishima was thankful that he was not participating because if Onoda tried that, Makishima was sure he would have had a heart attack.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. My daughter, she's nice and polite, and so I think this one," He gestured at Naruko, who was now standing very nobly, relishing in Onoda's praise, "... got all the hyperactive, loud genes."

Makishima snorted, "Well if you're his father then that much is obvious. Does he eat as much as you, too?"

Tadokoro grinned wildly, and Makishima saw their sudden resemblance, "Tries to. He's a small kid though. Takes up after his mom. Probably be small for the rest of his life."

"He has the personality that's big enough to make up for it." Makishima noted dully.

Tadokoro leaned back on the bench, making himself comfortable. "And your kid? Is he really an angel like you say?"

Makishima rubbed his hands together, watching as Naruko had gathered some sort of child army and was leading them with vigor around and around the jungle gym.

"Believe it or not, mostly yes. The only times he gets in trouble is when he gets in his moods. It's a problem that I hope I learn to deal with."

"His moods? Like he's crabby?"

Makishima shook his head. "No. He is incredibly stubborn. Once he gets this look, I know that I could talk 'til i'm blue in the face and he won't budge. I hate to think of what will happen when he's a teenager."

Tadokoro laughed loudly, "HA! That'll be the least of your problems, but he's obedient the rest of the time, though? So take it while you can. You remember what you were like in high school, all moody and eccentric. Imagine that?"

Makishima shivered again, this time not just from the cold. Yes, he hoped that Onoda did not become him in his teen years.

"Makishima-san? You're here early."

Makishima turned around to spot Mako and Imaizumi coming down the path to them. Imaizumi looked warm in his jacket and beanie. His sharp eyes looked around, probably for Onoda, and widened with concern when he didn't see him. He looked up at Makishima, frown forming.

"Where is Onoda?"

Makishima pointed over to the crowd of kids, "I'll call him."

He called out to Onoda, who trotted over quickly. He beamed at Imaizumi when he saw them, "Imaizumi-kun!"

Imaizumi looked pleased, but then his eyes narrowed at Naruko who had followed Onoda.

"Imaizumi-kun! Did you watch Hime yesterday?"

Imaizumi nodded but was staring at Naruko who was starting to realize that Imaizumi's stare was actually a glare. A rather fierce one too. "Who is that Onoda?" He said, almost darkly.

Naruko's brow furrowed, and he stood up to his full height.

"I'm Naruko Shoukichi. Who ar' you?"

The adults watched the kids with mild hesitation, feeling the hostility between Imaizumi and Naruko.

Onoda did not know how to read situations yet so he just continued to smile brightly at both of them.

"This is Imaizumi-kun. He's my friend."

Naruko stiffened, and put a companionable arm over Onoda's shoulder. "No way! Onoda-kun is my friend."

Imaizumi did not like that. At all.

Makishima gave Tadokoro a tense look. The man was eyeing the container in Mako's hands, looking hungry. Some help he would be.

"Hey, Tadokorocchi?"

Tadokoro glanced at him and Makishima motioned to the confrontational children with his eyes.

Tadokoro, the ever wise father, merely pushed his son slightly, "What are you guys doing here? Go play!"

Naruko tripped a little, earning a snicker from Imaizumi and a worried look from Onoda.

"Dad! I was havin' a starin' contest with this guy!"

"Yeah, go do it over there." Tadokoro said roughly and stretched out on the bench.

Naruko glared at his father, before pulling Onoda's hand and leading him hurriedly to the swings. Imaizumi fumed and took off after them.

"Oh dear…" Mako said, watching the bickering children. "I hope this isn't trouble."

Makishima was also keeping an eye on the three.

Tadokoro, though shook his head, "Shouldn't be a problem. Shoukichi gets into scrapes all the time."

"That's not necessarily a good thing." Mako responded, as she sat on Makishima's right, making him scoot to the middle. He frowned, annoyed at being squished, especially since there were plenty of other benches around.

Mako opened the container and offered some of its contents to Makishima, who took some, gladly.

Tadokoro grumbled next to Makishima, and an awkward moment passed before Mako offered some to him.

Makishima felt a little guilty, since he should've introduced them but now it felt like the wrong time. They sat there, quiet in the cold, and Makishima wondered if he should have taken up Mako's request to stay home that day.

The uncomfortable air was broken abruptly by screaming.

Makishima stood up automatically, looking for his son. Mako looked just as distressed.

Tadokoro on the other hand had the face of one who had experienced screaming often.

They rushed over to the crowd of kids, followed by some other parents, who were also worried.

"I told ya! I'm a tiger, not a porcupine! I'll beat ya up for real, ya hotshot!"

"I don't care what you say! You look like a porcupine, so imma gonna call you that!"

"Ah! Please stop fighting!"

Makishima towered over the kids, and came upon the scene of Naruko and Imaizumi gripping each others jackets, looking like they were attempting to fight. Actually, Makishima wasn't sure what exactly they were doing, but it was distressing Onoda, and that was enough for Makishima to intervene.

"Hey. Stop it you two." He said sternly, and went forward to pick up his son.

"Mama! I'm sorry!" was Onoda's automatic reply.

Makishima shifted his frowning face from the two brats to his son, "What are you apologizing for?"

Onoda's face pinched, "I… I think I did something wrong, Mama."

"No. You didn't. Don't blame yourself for what others do, okay?" Makishima said, adamant. His son's tendency to always think himself at fault when something went wrong was a habit that Makishima wanted to get rid of as soon a possible.

Mako and Tadokoro were pulling Naruko and Imaizumi apart, but they were rather worked up. Makishima was really regretting this meetup. He carried Onoda over to the bench and sat him down. He didn't really want to stick around for the disciplining of the other two.

"What happened?"

Onoda looked a little worried, his eyes trying to glance over to where he had left his friends. "Uh… Imaizumi-kun and Naruko-kun don't like each other."

That was obvious. "Yes, I got that much. Why did they start fighting?"

Onoda shrugged, "I don't know, Mama." But his eyes were bouncing all over the place, and he was biting his lip, fidgeting nervously.

Was Onoda lying to him? Makishima felt a hole in his stomach where his heart dropped into. Onoda… lying to him?

Makishima steeled himself and asked, "Sakamichi, are you lying to me?"

Onoda's face scrunched up and tears gathered at the corners of his eyes, "I… I'm sorry, Mama! I'm really, really sorry! I… I don't want Imaizumi-kun and Naruko-kun to get in trouble! I don't! I'm sorry!"

Makishima felt hurt, but Onoda's heartfelt apology melted it into fondness, "Sakamichi, don't lie to me. Okay? I don't like it. It's okay. Don't… don't cry." He pulled his son into an embrace, soothing the child gently.

When Onoda had calmed down, and Makishima had wiped his face, Tadokoro approached, "Hey, Maki. Sorry about this. Shoukichi has something to say."

Naruko was looking remorseful at Onoda and he scratched his nose.

Mako and Imaizumi also came up to them, the boy's sharp eyes colder than usual.

Onoda watched them carefully and Mako cleared her throat. The sound kick started the children.

"Sorry we were fighting." was said.

By both children.

At the same time.

They scowled at each other, and they looked ready to fight again, when the tense air was interrupted by Onoda's giggles.

He was trying to hold them in, but they were erupting from him like a glass overflowing with water.

Makishima grinned and ruffled Onoda's hair, "You find that funny?"

"S-Sorry! You...Your faces were funny! Imaizumi-kun, Naruko-kun! Sorry! But you're funny."

Imaizumi was still looking grumpy but his face twitched slightly, a smile trying to form. Naruko's face was turned into that crazy wild grin of his, and he was looking pleased at making Onoda laugh.

"Course I'm funny! I know sum great jokes. Wanna hear 'em, Onoda-kun?"

Tadokoro put his large hand on Naruko's head, "Wait, just a second there, you're not done apologizing."

Mako also nudged Imaizumi, and the boys turned to each other. They looked uneasy and apprehensive.

It took several seconds before they both took a breath.

"Sorry, I'm-"

"Sorry for-"

They stopped, eyes wide at each other, once again speaking at the same time.

"Are ya copyin' me!?"

"No! I started talking before you!"

Makishima rolled his eyes. While it was still rather early, it was getting colder, and Makishima could feel the cold in his bones. He kind of wanted to get Onoda out of the chilly weather. He had also promised Tadokoro a hefty lunch. "Hey, Sakamichi, we're going to go. Tadokorocchi, you want to head out?"

Tadokoro was laughing at the kids' pointless argument, but he nodded. "Yeah, sounds good. Shoukichi, get your stuff and why do you have wood chips in your hair?"

Makishima fixed Onoda's collar as Tadokoro was messing with Naruko's spiked hair.

Mako zipped up her jacket and pushed down the beanie on Imaizumi's head, "I guess we'll be heading home now too." She tried to reach for Imaizumi's hand but he leaned out of her reach and grabbed onto Onoda's wrist. "Is he going home with you, Onoda?" He asked his eyes glancing at Naruko.

Onoda looked up at Makishima, who nodded.

"Yeah, I think he is."

Imaizumi's brow furrowed hard, his eyes piercing, "I wanna go too."

Naruko wrangled himself out of his father's grasp and came over to them, leaning an arm on Onoda's shoulder and he stuck his tongue out to the glaring boy. "Too bad hotshot. Guess I'm Onoda-kun's bestest frien'."

Makishima suddenly realized why Onoda had felt like the brats argument was his fault.

Imaizumi scowled, not letting go of his hold on Onoda's wrist.

Makishima was getting annoyed at all this fighting over his son. He quickly claimed ownership by picking up Onoda from the two boy's grasps. "Okay, that's enough bickering for one day. It's time to go."

Onoda shifted in his grasp, leaning back to look at him, "Mama, can Imaizumi-kun come to our house too?"

Tadokoro laughed, probably finding the request ridiculous. Makishima agreed. If these kids were fighting over his son like this, they should probably be separated. That was the wise thing to do so his automatic reply should've been no.

Of course, saying no to Onoda was very, very hard to do.

He was looking at him with eyes that should be illegal. Makishima cursed his soft heart and weak spine.

"Argh... fine. He can come."

Tadokoro was cracking up and Makishima made his mind up to get him back for it later.

"You think it's a good idea?" Mako asked, but she was looking grateful. Imaizumi was also looking...well he looked less grumpy.

Who was not happy was Naruko, who exclaimed his distaste to the decision quite loudly.

"Aw! Why's hotshot comin' too?"

Tadokoro clapped his hands together, "Be quiet, you." He said to Naruko, and then turned to Makishima and Mako. "Well, now that that's settled, let's get some grub. I'm thinkin' some ramen. Weather is perfect for it."

Mako cheered, "Sounds delicious! I know a place near here. They have excellent soy ramen."

Makishima put Onoda down to join his two friends, and watched as Onoda reached out his hands to the two boys. They both grabbed his hand eagerly, and looked sheepish at Onoda's sunny smile.

The rest of the day was loud and eventful. Luckily, Naruko and Imaizumi didn't fight again, but at some point they had flattened Naruko's hair less straight up to more to the side, and he looked more like an anime character. He had also traded shirts with Imaizumi, because as Onoda explained to him later, it had a red tiger on it. They decided not to take three 5 year olds out to eat together ever again. And to not to let Naruko and Imaizumi start daring each other, the result ending in both children's mouth burning from trying to eat some hot sauce.

He finally introduced Mako and Tadokoro to each other, they hit it off rather well, swapping recipes and stories back and forth between laughs.

It was almost two o'clock when Mako decided it was time to leave, and the three of them crept over to the family room where the kids had gathered around for a couple of episodes of Love Hime.

They were piled on the floor, fast asleep, the ending credits playing with that catchy tune that Onoda was always singing.

"Oh… It's moments like this that makes it all worth it." Mako whispered, looking fondly at the sleeping children.

Makishima nodded, and carefully picked up his son. He didn't like him to sleep on the floor like that. Onoda whimpered slightly, but shifted comfortably in Makishima's arms. Mako picked up Imaizumi, making sure that she didn't wake him either. In his sleep, Imaizumi looked like a nice, not grumpy kid for once.

"You takin' him to bed?" Tadokoro asked, his voice hushed. Makishima nodded. "Yeah, you want to bring Shoukichi?"

Tadokoro nodded and then handled his son gently. Makishima half smiled at him. He truly was like a mother bear, no matter how gruff he acted.

Mako waved with one hand, "Bye, Makishima-san. See you tomorrow. It was very nice to meet you, and thank for the bread recipes, Tadokoro-san. Have a good rest of the day."

They both said goodbye, and then headed up the stairs to Onoda's bedroom. After they put the kids in Onoda's bed, and made sure they were snugly covered by the blankets, they headed downstairs, suddenly exhausted.

"Well, this was fun. I'm glad I came."

Makishima nodded, stretching out his long legs, and yawning. He had to work on some designs, and do laundry, but he wasn't looking forward to moving at all.

"I am glad you came. I'll come to your place next time."

Tadokoro also yawned, wide and long, "That'll be nice. You can meet my daughter and the twins. Shoukichi was so excited to finally have brothers. He really looks after them. I think that's why he likes Sakamichi so much." He poured himself some more tea, "What about you? You gonna keep Sakamichi-chan as an only child?"

The question came out of no where, and Makishima raised an eyebrow. "Y-yes? I don't want another one…" Makishima had never even considered the idea of adopting another kid. It's not that he wanted a child, he just wanted Onoda.

"No? I guess you wouldn't since you had so much trouble adopting Sakamichi. You think he'll get lonely? You an' me grew up in large families, so we don't really know about raising an' only child."

Makishima frowned because Tadokoro voiced a concern that Makishima himself had been wondering. Onoda grew up in mostly an orphanage, with lots of children around, but now he was alone. Which is why he was trying to get Onoda friends. Imaizumi proved to be a good companion, albeit a… possessive one. He didn't know what to do. He did not want another kid. Onoda was and will always be the only exception.

"I don't know." He confessed lamely, "I'll worry about it… later."

Tadokoro was eating the rest of the snacks, reminiscent of their high school days. "Well, you do that. Still cycling, Maki?"

Makishima nodded, "Yeah. Trying to at least. I've been… busy lately."

"Yeah, same with me. I'm still fast as hell, but I need… I don't know."

"Motivation?"

"Yeah, yeah! Motivation. Riding for myself isn't as fun as it used to be. Not like the Inter-High days with you, Kanzaki and Kinjou."

Makishima blinked at the names. It had been a long, long time since he heard those names. "Do you know what happened to them?"

"Ah, Kinjou went pro. He had a pretty notable name in the states for awhile, but he had a bad accident some years back and disappeared. Kanzaki opened a bike shop… around here in Chiba, actually."

"Kinjou got hurt? How?"

Tadokoro suddenly looked like a gossiping grandmother. "Well, rumor has it that another cyclist sabotaged him, but it was never proved. Probably because that cyclist had reputation and such. I felt bad for Kinjou. I know he's here in Japan somewhere, though."

Makishima grimaced, "That's too bad, but I can't see Kinjou giving up even after something like that."

Tadokoro nodded, agreeing heartily, "Yeah, because he's the snake of the stone path." Tadokoro raised his cup, as if saluting him.

Makishima grinned, and also raised his cup, "And a man that never gives up."

Tadokoro laughed loudly, "Man, reliving the old day makes me nostalgic. Hey, we should go riding soon! Maybe round up a team."

Makishima looked doubtful, "I don't know. Aren't you busy?"

"It'll be good for me. Get away for myself for a while."

Makishima could see that his old friend was tired and worn despite still being young. He supposed that inheriting the family business at eighteen, and having four kids could do that to you. Maybe Makishima could help this way.

"Yeah…" Makishima said slowly, "I guess, if we can match our schedules."

"We should find a team of six again. Two climbers, two sprinters, and a couple of all rounders."

"I… I know another climber." Makishima said hesitantly, Toudou's face appearing in his mind.

"Good, sounds good! I'll see if I can find Kinjou. I have no real idea where to look for him though, but I'll try."

Makishima stretched, shaking the ache of the day out of his bones, "Wanna watch some old tapes of our high school days?"

Tadokoro stood up also, "Sure! Nothing like remembering those weird, awkward days of racing."

He stayed for a while, getting drunk on memories, and laughing at their old odd looking high school selves until the kids came down, Naruko complaining loudly that he was hungry and inquiring where 'hotshot grumpy face' went.

Onoda yawned and came over to sit in Makishima's lap, waving happily to Tadokoro.

"Sleep well?"

Onoda nodded his head, yawning again.

"I'm hungry, Old man!"

Tadokoro cuffed his son lightly on his shoulder, "Hey! Don't call me that!"

"Grandpapa does!"

"Your grandpa has a weird sense of humor. Don't learn that from him."

"It's better than being a bear." Makishima sniggered. Tadokoro glared at him before declaring, "Alright, it's been fun, but I have to head back. Wife is probably wondering where I am. It's my night to feed the twins."

Makishima frowned at the comment. "Okay, well, I'll show you out."

He picked up Onoda, and Tadokoro did the same with Naruko, who went from complaining about being hungry to complaining about leaving, "I don't wanna go, dad! Let me stay the night."

"No. We're leaving." He gathered up Naruko's shoes and jacket, and hefted the struggling boy over his shoulder. "Thanks for the food, Maki. Call me when you want to ride together. Hopefully soon."

He stepped out into the December wind. "Brrr! Man, it's getting cold. Well, I'll see you Maki, Sakamichi-chan! Shoukichi, say bye."

"Well, put me down then!"

Tadokoro laughed, and dropped his son on the porch. Naruko scrambled to his feet, and then frowned up at Makishima, "Hey! Put Onoda down."

Makishima regarded him for a second and Onoda squirmed in his arms. He put him down gingerly, the total opposite of Tadokoro's rough handling. Naruko threw his arms around Onoda, giving him a rather choking hug. Onoda beamed and also hugged the boy back, just as enthusiastically.

It was cute.

"Onoda-kun, 'member, I'm your bestest friend now, 'k!"

Onoda nodded his head, smiling and happily flushed.

"Okay, enough with the goodbyes." Tadokoro said, and picked up the small firecracker, tucking him under his arm. Naruko exclaimed, and laughed, "Bye Onoda-kun! Bye Green Goat-san!"

Green goat…? Makishima rolled his eyes. That was probably Tadokoro's doing and judging from the laughter drifting in the waning sunlight, he was right.


Day 39

The fast approaching holidays had Onoda a constant ball of enthusiasm. They had gone shopping in the morning, and the supermarkets and grocery stores had put decorations up, and Onoda was enthralled by them.

Christmas was never a holiday that Makishima had particularly cared about. Their family had a nice dinner and exchanged presents. It was quick, and then they all went back to their daily lives soon after.

The arrival of Onoda into the family changed that drastically.

It started with his mother.

His brother's acceptance of his son was a welcomed relief, but it was his parents, more notably his mother,that was a greater concern to him. After lunch with with his brother and his… boyfriend, Makishima took Onoda to finally meet his parents. Father knew and he had accepted the fact, but it was mother that was the more traditional parent. He had been worried that Mother would raise hell about an adopted child in the notable Makishima name and when they finally did meet, she was fuming. She assaulted Makishima with about a million questions; about his heritage and his bloodline, and where he came from, and on and on, as Onoda waited in the car. Of course, all those questions and concerns disappeared when she set eyes on him, and it was like watching ice melt on a warm day.

Now, she wouldn't go a couple of days without calling "to hear my cute grandson's voice."

So this Christmas ordeal was being steam powered by her. She had called and all but demanded her grandson celebrate their first Christmas together.

That call was shortly followed by one from Thomas, saying that they wanted to take Onoda to the Christmas Parade in Tokyo before they all ate at their parent's house. Even Toudou was insistently texting him, because he was going to be in Chiba for the holidays this year, and wanted to hang out that day. He had pleaded and begged, and finally, with the promise of bringing his nephew along to befriend Onoda, Makishima had caved.

Makishima groaned at all the sudden plans accumulated on top of him. Honestly, he wanted to spend the holidays alone for the first time, but he begrudgedly knew that he had to share Onoda with his family. So he worked on a schedule, making sure he could fit everyone in. Toudou would come Christmas Eve for a little bit before he took off to his parent house for the night.

Since he had never decorated, or regarded or even cared about Christmas and New Years, he was sort of stumbling through it. He went shopping for Christmas items and when he asked if there was a Christmas package, the cashier gave him a rather pitying look.

But he trudged through, with the help of a very excited Onoda. He told him of Christmases in the orphanage; how they would stay up and listen for footsteps, and always wondered who was it that left the brightly wrapped packages under the cafeteria Christmas tree. Makishima also learned that Onoda always got clothes for Christmas, nice clothes, he had said.

"What's the best gift you have gotten?" Makishima asked him as he threw some garland in the basket.

Onoda's cute face concentrated for a moment, "Uh. My Mama gave me a shirt. It's my favorite shirt."

Makishima paused. "A shirt? Which one?" He had all of Onoda's clothes memorized. Onoda jingled a bell that Makishima had thrown in basket, eyes sparkling, "My Mama shirt. It's really big and yellow. It says best boy on it, 'cause Mama said I am the best boy!"

Makishima blinked, remembering the awkwardly large yellow shirt that was amongst Onoda's belongings. "Oh. So you really like that shirt?"

"Yup! Yup!" Onoda said, but his attention was suddenly diverted to a big fir right outside of the window, festive papers wrapped around its branches. "Wow! So pretty!"

Makishima smiled at his enthusiasm. He had always wondered about that shirt, since it didn't match the rest of his wardrobe. Onoda's mother must've given it to him before she passed away. It suddenly held so much more significance in his heart. That shirt was something that he could never really live up to.

"Mama! Are we going to get a tree, too?"

Makishima dropped about ten boxes of string lights into the basket, "Of course. We'll go pick one out. A small one so you can decorate it."

"Yay!"

The rest of the day, Makishima could not get the shirt out of his mind. He had debated for a long time what to get Onoda for his first Christmas with him, and now that he had to compare with something so precious as a gift from a deceased parent, what he had gotten him seemed rather insignificant. They brought a small Christmas tree that was as tall as Onoda and set it up in the family room, on top of a small box so it could peek out of the window. Onoda got right into decorating, opening everything. He was tangled in string lights and garland in a matter of five seconds, a new record. When they got most of the decoration on the tree and off of Onoda, the house looked rather festive. There was still items strewed across the floor when the doorbell rang. Makishima opened it, and Toudou stepped in a little frantically, "Is Sangaku here? I lost him already! That darn boy! Sangaku!" Makishima was so confused that he let Toudou storm through the house, looking for his nephew. "I swear I only let him climb ahead me because the hill is a torture! A certifiable torture! If I had came with my bicycle, I would have loved it. Maki-chan, why did you not tell me that you lived atop a fantastic hill like this?"

He tripped suddenly over Onoda who was watching him go on about with wide eyes, "Oh! And who is this?" He crouched over and peered at Onoda, who shrunk back just a tad. "Well, you are cuter in real life than in your pictures, I suppose."

And Makishima felt like kicking him, because knowing Toudou, that was most certainly an insult.

"Ah… Thank you." Onoda said, looking over to Makishima, worried. Makishima came over and picked up his son, "Toudou, what is going on?"

He stood up, "Manami! He disappeared! You have not seen him?"

Both Onoda and Makishima shook their heads, still looking at him perplexed, "Are you sure you brought him?" Makishima asked faintly.

Toudou glared at him,"Of course I did! I am not insane!"

Onoda squirmed in Makishima's hold, and he set him down on the ground, "We can help look." He said timidly, clearly intimidated by the man. Toudou flicked his hair back, "Alright. Where do you think he could be?"

Onoda thought for a second, before beaming brightly. "I think outside!"

Toudou gave him a bemused look, before glancing over to Makishima, "Well, go look then."

Onoda then took off into the late afternoon, skipping out the door. Makishima really did kick Toudou this time. "Ow! What was that for!?"

Makishima started to the door following his son into the darkening light, "I don't like Sakamichi running out here when it's too late."

"Oh, he will be just fine. He is a little boy. They are pretty sturdy."

Makishima gave him an incredulous look, "Are you stupid?"

Toudou looked highly offended, "What! Well, if you are worried, let us go out there. I didn't know that you were such an overprotective father, Maki-chan."

Makishima wondered again why he had invited the man. They were certainly not friends, and he was the sort of person that Makishima didn't want to get involved with save for road racing. It was just too complicated.

"Uncle?"

Both adults stopped their bickering to look at a slightly dirty Manami with an even dirtier Onoda in tow. Onoda was beaming, "Mama! I found a Christmas angel! Like in the story!"

Toudou made a weird noise and crouched down to brush his nephew of the dirt, "How many times have I told you not to take off like that, Sangaku-chan?" He scolded as Makishima gingerly picked up his son, who sported a large patch of dirt across his front, "How did this happen?

Onoda beamed, "I fell again, but an angel came to help me."

Toudou snorted, "Well isn't that cute." He looked pointedly down at Manami, "But this kid is most definitely not an angel."

Onoda frowned at him, "But he looks like my angels in my Christmas book."

Manami tilted his head, smiling a little too mischievously for a five year old. "I can be an angel if you want, Sakamichi."

Onoda smiled grandly, looking ecstatic at the idea. Makishima on the other hand felt a shiver pass through him. Manami was… strange and he wasn't sure if he liked that.

"So, did you make us anything to eat, Maki-chan?"

"No, I wasn't aware that I had to. I'm going to eat at my parent's house soon so I don't want to spoil Sakamichi's dinner."

Toudou pouted, looking like a child, "What? How utterly rude."

He folded his arms, and walked back into the house as if he owned the place.

Manami followed him and Makishima, frowning, went after him.

Manami headed up the stairs, jumping up a total of seven steps, turning around and leaping off to the floor. Onoda squealed and then shouted in delight, "Wow! Manami-kun! You are really cool!"

Manami beamed, "Thank you, Sakamichi. Do you want to try?"

Makishima did not like that, "Uh, no." He said quickly and picked Onoda up before he could reply.

Toudou came back into the hallway, mouth going a mile a minute. "Maki-chan, your house is quite lovely. You do not seem as the sort of man that would like a quaint home like this."

Why did everyone think that?

He shrugged in response, and headed over to the family room, and sat down on the couch.

Makishima was annoyed at how at home those two were. Why had he invited them again?

He put Onoda down and pulled off his patterned sweater, placing it out on the stair rails to remind himself to wash it later.

Toudous was flipping through the magazines he kept in a basket near the table, "Maki-chan, did you happen to come across the article done on me in last year's up and coming athlete section? It was quite the read. Of course it would be. I am a professional cyclist and a model. I have been told that I perfectly balance traditional beauty with a modern twist. I am truly the best of both worlds."

Makishima snorted as he entered the living room. Manami had disappeared like a shadow and he couldn't help, but worry where he had scampered off to.

"Sangaku does that often. Pay no mind to it." Toudou said, and then eagerly continued on his topic, "So did you see it?"

"See what?" Makishima replied, and motioned for Onoda to come sit next to him.

"The article Maki-chan!"

"No." It was true. The only magazines he read were fashion reviews and Cyclists times. He never paid attention to the spreads that they did, but it was surprising that Toudou was well known enough to have an article done on him. He must have some fame, unfortunately.

"I will find it for you. As rivals, you must know everything about me as I must know everything about you."

Onoda was watching the man with perplexed eyes as he came and sat in Makishima's lap. He was always a little shy around imposing people.

Makishima brushed his hand over Onoda's hair, feeling specks of dirt from his fall, "Rivals. I don't know what sort of rival I'll be. I won't be riding in any competitions soon."

"Really!? And why ever not?" Toudou yelled out, scaring Onoda in a slight jolt.

"Not so loud, Toudou. Sakamichi is not in school yet."

Toudou dropped his eyes to Onoda, "Oh. How old are you, little one?"

Onoda shyly brought up his hand, fingers spread out, "Um… Five."

"Hmmm, you are quite small for a five year old. Sangaku is also five. Are you also a troublemaker, Sakamichi?"

Onoda shook his head so hard, "NO! I always listen to Mama. I try to be a really good boy!"

Makishima half grinned down at him, fondly, but Toudou looked unconvinced. "Well, I suppose if that's true, you shall be a good influence on Sangaku. And speaking of the devil's spawn, where did he go? Sangaku!"

Suddenly a head popped out from under the couch, "Yes Uncle?" He said, as if there was nothing strange about where he was laying.

Makishima frowned at the weird boy, and Onoda in his arms, was so impressed. "Manami-kun, I didn't know you were down there! How did you get there?"

Manami scooted his shoulders, twisting his body weirdly to get from under the couch, "I'll show you, Sakamichi-kun."

And while Onoda could be a great influence on Manami, the opposite could be said about Manami's influence on Onoda.

"Uh. No." Makishima said for the second time tonight, and he had a feeling that he was going to continue the trend. He turned to Toudou who was fixing his hair. When he caught Makishima's annoyed gaze, he beamed, "Well, either way, the lack of competitions does not necessarily hinder us from challenging each other, my rival! We can compete against each other… perhaps on weekends and such."

Makishima already trained by himself, but the extra push of competing might help. Then again this was Toudou.

"No thanks."

Toudou sputtered, "What! But, Maki-chan! How will we get to truly embrace our rivalry if we do not compete! We must!"

Makishima flicked his hair back, and adjusted his quiet son on his lap. He glanced down at Manami who was sitting cross legged on the floor, staring almost wide eyed at Onoda. This kid was so weird. "I don't really have time." It wasn't necessarily true. He was riding with Tadokorocchi every other week and Thomas would babysit Onoda on those day, and he was always asking for more time. But again, this was Toudou. He didn't really truly share the man's enthusiasm for this supposed rivalry they had. But he had to admit there was something between them, a spark of some sort that was a tad confusing when speaking to him. He was annoying and exhausting, but Makishima kept finding himself communicating him.

"You must make time. Wouldn't you like to race me? I can show you what a real cyclists looks like." There was a sudden fire in his sharp eyes, and Makishima could see that despite all of Toudou's annoying airs, he truly was a magnificent athlete.

Toudou turned to look at Onoda, "Do you not want to see your father race, little one?"

Makishima grimaced, his slight admiration for the man disappearing in a puff of smoke. How dare he try to use Onoda to convince him?

"Yeah! I wanna see Mama race you!"

Makishima looked down to his naive little son, who was smiling at him. "And Manami-kun can come too, right?"

Manami also smiled, not as brightly as Onoda, but still pretty damning.

Toudou was nodding his head, agreeing with the children, "You should listen to your son, Maki-chan! Look at him! I was wrong about you, Sakamichi-chan! You have very nice eyes, especially when you ask for something." Toudou reached out and pinched Onoda's cheeks in the way an elderly woman would. "You really ARE adorable!" He pulled Onoda into his lap, taking him abruptly from a surprised Makishima, squeezing the boy tightly and turned back to Makishima, "So, when's our date, Maki-chan? Eh?"

Makishima frowned at him, exclaiming quickly, "Don't call it a date, Toudou! And I suppose if I'm being forced into this, I'll ask you something."

He hadn't talked to the man about Tadokoro's idea of setting up a team yet, so this was as good as an opportunity as ever.

"A friend of mine proposed that we start riding as a team again, just for support and stuff, and we need another climber. I was thinking of ask-"

"Absolutely! Spending more time with my most fiercest rival is a good idea! But even if we are a supposed team together, we are still rivals Maki-chan. Do not think you have avoided our rivalry."

Makishima mused at how easy that was, and how much he would regret this in the future. He couldn't believe that he actually asked him. Was he a glutton for punishment, or did he secretly like the man? He didn't want to think about it.

Makishima watched as Onoda squirmed in Toudou's hold, looking obviously like he wanted to get out of the embrace but he was too polite to say something. His kid was too nice. He was about to yank the boy from the strange man's hold when Manami poked his uncle's arm, a little hard, "Uncle, I don't think Sakamichi likes you."

Toudou looked so offended, Makishima stored the expression for future reference, "What!? Not possible!" He pulled back from Onoda with a wide eyed look.

His son was waving his hands, "AH! No! I do! I like you, Toudou-san! I think you are very, very nice! And you are Mama's friend! And you are very pretty, too! I like friends! Really! I'm sorry!"

Toudou's face shifted and he looked like he was looking at an adorable puppy, "Oh! You are too sweet. I just want to eat you up!"

Makishima cringed at the comment, and leaned forward to take Onoda when Toudou stood up, avoiding his arms, "Oh! Sakamichi! You are a very nice boy! You should call me Uncle Toudou, if you like. We will be seeing a lot of each other soon, so we might as well be on familiar terms! Can you please be a good influence on Sangaku-chan? Keep him out of trouble."

Onoda frowned, taking the request seriously, "Okay….Uncle Toudou! I really like Manami-kun!"

Manami was smiling airly, knowingly and responded with a sparkle in his eyes, "I like you too Sakamichi."

Toudou scrunched his nose at the exchange, and set Onoda down. "I suppose that is nice." He turned to Manami, "and you! Sakamichi obviously likes me, so why did you say such travesty?"

Manami cocked his head slightly, a cheeky smile on his small cute face, "Uncle, sometimes you put on too much smell. I don't like it. I thought Sakamichi wouldn't like it either."

Toudou hissed, "It is perfume! It is a good smell!" He gently placed Onoda on the floor, frowning at his nephew.

Manami shrugged, his eyes back on Onoda, watching the boy in a fascinated fashion. Makishima didn't like the look. Manami was a weird kid. Not bad, just… a tad strange, but Onoda likes him, and that was all that mattered.

Onoda smiled back at him, obvious happiness in the crinkle of his eyes, "Ah, Manami-kun, do you wanna go play in my room?"

Manami nodded and grabbed Onoda's sleeve, "Yeah. Do you have video games?"

Onoda shook his head, "Ah. No. Are they fun?"

Manami shrugged, "I guess. Let's go anyways. Uncle doesn't like me bothering him when he's on dates."

Makishima's jaw dropped and he wanted to kick Manami, as they took off up the stairs and the question Onoda asked as they disappeared made Makishima want to chase after them. "Uh… What's a date, Manami-kun?"

"Oh let them be, Maki-chan. They will be just fine."

Makishima gave him an incredulous look, "I don't want your nephew to tell Sakamichi about dating or anything like that. Why does he think that anyway?"

Toudou looked a little red, "Ah, well, he always says what is on his mind. He is a cheeky little snot. He cares for almost nothing, but he seems to like your son. I'm glad."

Toudou actually looked grateful, his eyes softening, "Sangaku happens to be ill often. This is the first time he has left the hospital in some time, and I want him to truly have fun. Y'know, in case that he may have to return."

Makishima pressed his lips together, feeling sorry for his assumptions, "Oh. I'm… sorry."

Toudou came to sit down on the couch. "Well, even so, he should not say things of that sort. We are merely rivals."

Makishima shifted uncomfortably. It felt off to talk to Toudou after all the texting they had been doing. What were they? Friends? Acquaintances? Rivals?

"Toudou," Makishima started before he could stop himself, "You're into men, right?"

Toudou sputtered, looking shocked for a moment, before his eyes narrowed, "Yes and what of it?"

Makishima was regretting asking, and he shrugged. "I just wanted to know."

"You do not have a problem with that, do you Maki-chan?"

Makishima felt the accusation hard, and he turned indignant, "No. Of course not." He said, turning to look at the man straight in the eye, "I do too, in fact. Sometimes. So, it doesn't matter to me."

Makishima couldn't figure out why he had mentioned his own sexuality to the man. He never mentioned such things. His attraction to people was regardless of their gender, but he didn't have to tell that to the loud man.

Toudou's eyes were shifting around, avoiding Makishima at all cost. It was so awkward, that he almost wished that Toudou would start chatting on again.

Toudou muttered, "Maki-chan too…"

Makishima felt embarrassment turn his ears hot underneath his hair, and he wanted to find an excuse to leave.

"Sakamichi is a nice boy, Maki-chan. He is very cute. He has a charming smile! And his eyes! Beautiful eyes!" Toudou flushed suddenly and he peered over to Makishima, like a school girl. He looked like he was glowing in the blinking lights of the Christmas tree, "They are like yours, Maki-chan."

Makishima grit his teeth at the subtle compliment, a first from Toudou, and stood up. It was too hot all of a sudden and the room much too small. The shift from… whatever they were to whatever this was, was just too fast and disorientating and Makishima wanted to escape, "We-" Makishima's eyes widened as his voice cracked, "We should check on the kids."

Toudou, that goddamn man, was smirking, "Of course, Maki-chan."

He stood up and headed over to the stairs, smiling softly at Makishima as he approached. God damn it.

Onoda was fine when they checked up on them. Manami, on the other hand, was laying on the floor with his eyes wide. Apparently, to make Onoda laugh, he had been spinning for five minutes and toppled on the floor, dizzy .

Onoda was laughing, but he was also worried. When Manami managed to get up off the floor, he asked, a little brusquely, if there was something to eat.

That's when Toudou offered to cook and left the room.

And because Makishima was feeling awkward after the strange moment in the family room, he didn't stop him. Toudou made appetizers, something he claimed he learned as a kid.

It tasted just fine, it was the company that was were settled in the family room again, eating around the coffee table. Manami spent a lot of the time watching Onoda eat, asking how it tasted to him. Toudou was talking, about everything under the sun, but every time he would meet Makishima's eyes he would stutter, have a slight misstep. Makishima felt like he was in high school again.

It was going to be a challenge to be in a team. He wished he could go back and fix … well didn't know what or how to fix it… whatever this was, but at least try to make it less awkward.

Finally, Toudou announced that he should be going. They were traveling to Hakone that night to spend time with their family there, Toudou claiming that they owned a rather exclusive Inn. Makishima was glad to see them go, and he just nodded a good bye to Toudou as he bundled up Manami. Onoda was quite the opposite.

"Bye, Manami-kun! I really like playing with you! I like being your friend!" He concentrated hard and then exclaimed in a slightly broken english, "Uh, Merry Christmas!" It was adorable. Makishima knew that Onoda had learned that from his favorite tv show.

Manami smiled that particular smile, the one where you could see that he was a strange boy and grabbed onto Onoda's hand, pulling him close. Makishima assumed that he was going to hug the boy, so his jaw dropped in surprise when Manami leaned in and planted a kiss on Onoda's smiling mouth.

What… was...that? Makishima was in so much shock that he felt like his entire body had turned to stone.

Toudou merely rolled his eyes and reached over and grabbed his nephew's hand. Onoda's eyes were wide, wider than Makishima had ever seen them. "A...A kissy?" He asked, his voice a little breathy.

Manami grinned dreamily at him, "I've seen Uncle do it to the people that he likes and I like you, Sakamichi. You are as pretty as a girl."

Sakamichi blushed and his eyes glowed in a certain way that Makishima wasn't aware that they could. He looked so utterly cute like that, and something horrifying clenched his heart as his mind suddenly flashed to the future when Onoda would… date someone… kiss someone… have... sex with someone!? He quickly shut down that thought before panic made him freak out.

"I like you too, Manami-kun! I hope you can come back!"

Makishima didn't say anything, but he was thinking that he wanted to keep his sweet little son away from the knowing, mischievous dark haired boy.

Toudou coughed, "That was quite the statement, my dear nephew." His bright eyes shifted from Manami to Onoda, "Don't let your heart get stolen, little one."

Onoda didn't understand that, and he frowned, "Ah…My heart?"

Toudou smiled grandly and he looked up at Makishima, something shining in his eyes, very liken to what was in Manami's eyes, "I will not say goodbye in the same manner as Sangaku-chan. Try not to be too disappointed, Maki-chan."

Makishima felt like kicking him, not for the first time tonight, as his face tinged just a light pink.

"See you." He said stiffly and pulled his happily waving son into the house, closing the door in the face of the two devils.

Father was wearing a santa outfit, which was the weirdest thing that Makishima had ever laid his eyes on. Even his brother looked pale at the Makishima patriarch dressed up like so. The only one that was not weirded out was Onoda, of course, who was sparkling at his grandfather actually being the Father of Christmas.

"Ho ho ho, Sakamichi, were you a good boy this year?"

Onoda nodded his head, "Yeah! Yeah! I try to be a really good boy!"

Father motioned for Onoda to come sit on his lap, which the boy did, asking the all important question, "So, what do you want for Christmas?"

Onoda blinked those impossibly large eyes of his and answered without a stutter, "I wanna always be with Mama!"

And everyone's hearts melted.

Dinner went well, even with Father in that scruffy beard and Mother constantly making sure that Onoda liked everything.

Their first introduction had been much like this one, in fact. Father had brought a couple of presents, and Mother ordered all these disgustingly sweet looking appetizers. She was so smitten, and her affection only grew when she saw how kind, and obedient Onoda was. Onoda was endlessly excited with anything his grandmother went on about, and it was a relief because Mother could talk on for hours. This dinner was so different from last year's Christmas. They had two new additions this year. Onoda, of course, and Thomas.

Thomas kept up most of the talking, speaking about the parade they were going to tomorrow, the giant Gundam robot display opening up, and, of course, how he was going to take Onoda. Makishima grimaced at the thought. He wasn't really into parades, but Onoda looked so excited in between being almost force fed by his grandmother that Makishima couldn't help but want to take him.

They were in their second course when there was a loud racket in the living room, and the Eyebrow man, whose name Makishima recently learned was Ryuto, went to investigate. He didn't get far when someone crashed into him.

There stood a tall, gangly teen, in the most eye piercing elf lolita costume that the Makishima family had ever laid eyes on. Her brown eyes sparkled, and she smiled crookedly, "I see you all started without me."

The family collectively groaned.

It was the youngest of the Makishima siblings; an eccentric, smirking young women who loved being different.

She dropped an armful of presents on the floor and scanned the table. Mother was already going on about how utterly short her skirt was, but the teen paid no mind. She gasped when she saw Onoda sitting there, staring at her so wide eyed. She shrieked and launched herself over to his seat, and quickly plucked him up from his chair.

"Oh my god! You are so cute! How are you even possible! Look at this cute little nose! I just want to squeeze you forever!" And she did hug him tightly, looking like she might just do what she had claimed. Makishima stood up frantically to check that his beloved eccentric sister was not choking his son.

"Hey, be careful! He's…" He started but she cackled and took a step away from him. It was chaos all of a sudden. Father started laughing loudly in his beard, and Mother was still going on about how appalling his sister's clothes were. His brother rubbed his temples, and Thomas was beaming wickedly.

They have never had a louder christmas.

Onoda made a little desperate noise and his sister finally stopped suffocating him. She leaned him on a jutting hip, "Oh! I'm sorry, my cute little adorable nephew! I'm your aunt! Your Auntie!"

Onoda blinked confused eyes at her, "Are you an elf, Auntie?"

His sister laughed, sounding just like their father, "Only sometimes!"

"Hey!" Makishima called out to her, "We were eating!"

She pouted at him, her long face looking strange with the gesture, "Nice to see you too, big brother. Your baby is so cute! My god! How did you even find him!?"

"At the mama swings." Onoda replied, starting to warm up at the 'elf' carrying him.

"Oh? Well, you are going to have to tell me all about it because I wanna know!"

She sat down with Onoda in her lap, and the family hushed to hear the story from Onoda's perspective, faces smiling fondly at the boy.

For the rest of the night, Makishima was not able to even go near his son. Onoda was constantly being passed back and forth between his sister, his mother, and Thomas. He hasn't been set down for a significant amount of time in hours, and Makishima was starting worry at this weirdly overly affectionate side of their family. Even his brother, who was quite stoic with Onoda most of the time, had Onoda sit in his lap, when his sister had plopped him down to "hold" for a second while she took off her candycane striped platform heels.

They decided to open presents earlier, before midnight strikes, because Onoda is getting sleepy and it was barely 10.

Present opening was usually a big deal, but they all looked like hawks watching as Onoda crawled to the tree in the living room, happily smiling at all the presents. His sister sat down next to him, legs spread out, and the more dignified adult in the room sat on the couch sipping tea and eating some decorative Christmas macaroons. Everyone in this family had a sweet tooth. The large, rarely used TV was on in the background, showing the traditional Christmas specials.

"Uh, Auntie? Which one is for me?" Onoda asked, eyes so bright.

His sister grinned, and she started organizing the presents, pushing a pile of boxes to Onoda, until he looked like he was being run over.

He looked over to Makishima, "Uh… Which one?"

Makishima half grinned, "All of them."

Onoda stuck out his hands, "Wha- NO! To-too many!" He said, waving his hands frantically. "Uh...Toooo many."

"Nonsense. They are all yours. Now, start unwrapping! We are waiting, Sakamichi!"

They spent the next half hour trying to comfort a teary Onoda because he could not comprehend that all the presents under the tree were solely for him. The poor boy started crying when he realized that everyone had gotten gifts for other people, except for him. It was an emotional moment for everyone because Onoda was utterly devastated.

Everyone was in a panic until Mother finally scooped up Onoda and sat him on her lap, a stern look on her face.

"Sakamichi, you stop crying right this instant."

Makishima grimaced because he knew that particular voice. The rest of the family watched almost fascinated as Onoda wiped his tears and bit his lip.

"Now, do you remember what you said you wanted for Christmas?"

Onoda nodded, and looked over to Makishima, "I said I wanted to always be with Mama."

"That's right. Now, for this Christmas, you have brought us the best gift of all."

Onoda's eyes widened, "Eh? Really? I brought a gift too?"

The woman smiled, and Makishima could see the grandmother in her, "Of course. You brought us together again. You know it has been a long time since we had all of us here, but everyone likes you very much, so we all came. That's your gift. You bring people together."

Onoda looked around the room to the faces, and suddenly understanding, he beamed. "Really? Everyone likes me!?"

It was so strange that his mother mentioned that. Onoda did have that gift. He brought him and his brother closer, had helped him get reacquainted with Tadokorocchi, had made two very opposing personalities put up with each other for the sake of his friendship, and was the reason that Makishima had met Toudou. It was because of Onoda that all that had happened in the past year.

What a great gift to have.

Makishima wondered, would Sakamichi also have this gift in the future? Would he bring people together for the rest of his life?

He looked at his son now, and smiled, because Onoda was smiling. His mother was right, it had been at least four years since they had celebrated Christmas together, but the pull of Sakamichi was too great. Makishima knew, he could feel that there was going to be many, many more events like this.

Finally, Onoda began unwrapping presents, and Thomas won some sort of unspoken competition apparently when Onoda picked his Love Hime wrapping covered gift. He looked smug the rest of the night.

There was a lot of stuff. Toys and clothes, a lot of clothes because the family collectively agreed that Onoda sometimes looked like someone threw up a rainbow on him with Makishima dressing him like so. There was a whole collection of Love Hime DVDs, no doubt from Thomas, and books, most likely from his brother. The strangest gift though was a mouse onesie pajama from, surprisingly, his father. Onoda had been so taken by them that he took off his sweater and put them on, and he looked so cute running around thanking everyone so earnestly for their gifts in those mousey pjs. The rest of the presents were opened. Makishima was handed gifts with his name on them. Sweets from Dad, a beautiful handbag from Mother, and unfortunately, his sister had cheekily handed him a stack of Gravure fan books, which Makishima quickly hissed and hid them from his son's innocent eyes.

By the time they had finished going through everything, the floor was covered in bright wrapping papers and Onoda laying on the floor. His hand was spread out over all his gifts, and he looked like he was trying to make sure he was holding on to everything. Probably because he felt so grateful, he didn't want to offend anyone.

Father brought out a couple of glasses, and opened some decorative Sake; a gift from his eldest son. He poured an amount of it in cups and motioned for the family to take one.

Together, they lifted their cups, and Father, still in his rich red santa suit said, "A toast, for this wonderful Christmas with my family, and to a future where we can have many, many more."


He could still hear his family's voices downstairs laughing and reminiscing. Onoda burrowed in the sheets, the big ears of his onesie flopping down.

They were in his old room laying in his bed.

Makishima had never actually slept in the same bed with Onoda. One of the reasons was that Onoda still wet the bed occasionally. It wasn't as often anymore, not like those first few weeks, but he still did every once in awhile. Makishima did not want that to happen in his bed.

But this was nice, he decided, and Onoda muttered something under his breath.

He was planning on going back downstairs and spending time with his family, but he was so comfortable in the bed that he just stayed. Besides, they had to get up early for breakfast tomorrow morning because Thomas was insisting they leave by seven to get a good spot to watch the parade.

Makishima turned over and watched his son's face in the quiet light of the moon. This had to be the best Christmas he had ever experienced even with the slight annoyance of his son being kissed. He had to keep an eye on that Manami boy. Excluding that little incident, this was the greatest holiday he had had in a while. His family was together, and he hadn't even known how much he did miss them. His mother was right when she had said that Onoda had brought them together again, closer. And Makishima smiled at the sleeping boy, and quietly, as the clock ticked in the background, he whispered.

"Merry Christmas, Sakamichi."


Day 117

Makishima swore never to have another party ever again. Everything was out of control, and he had finally retreated to Onoda's room, laying uncomfortably on the twin bed with the light pink bedsheets.

It had started just fine. Onoda had no idea that there was something up, or that his birthday was that day, which surprised Makishima since he had been told that children take birthdays very seriously. Then he remembered that at the orphanage they didn't celebrate birthdays in the same way. So when Onoda woke up in the morning and jumped down the stair in his usual fashion, and saw his family room filled with balloons, he shrieked.

"What! What happened to the TV room?" He asked, as he ran into the kitchen, face alarmed.

Makishima gaved him a surprised look. "It's your birthday…" Onoda had looked so confused for a moment before jumping up and down. "Oh yeah! It's my birthday. I'm six now! Six!" He ran back into the family room, and started playing with the balloons. "I like balloons, Mama!"

"I know." Makishima called back, serving breakfast on the table, "Now come here and eat because you're going to need your energy."

And of course the first people to appear at the party, a tad early, was Mako and Imaizumi. Mako apologized profusely, whispering that Imaizumi had wanted to get there before the "porcupine." She was followed by Toudou and Manami, who came in exclaiming again on how much he loved and hated that hill. There was a brief disturbance, and Imaizumi and Manami didn't exactly get on the right foot when the strange boy came in a planted a kiss right on Onoda's cheek, making Imaizumi so red and so bothered. Makishima made sure to always stay in the same room with Onoda after that, in case that devious little Manami attempted more kisses.

Toudou introduced himself to Mako, and they started up a conversation about skin care, the latter gushing on how 'beautiful' Toudou was.

Makishima listened to the conversation, keeping an eye on his son.

Toudou was glancing at him every once in a while, his eyes sparking that mischievous light. The moment they had at Christmas sometimes still came up in his mind, but he ignored it because he realized that Toudou wasn't necessarily flirting with him, only that he was quite the flirtatious personality. Besides, their rivalry had been a good push for Makishima. He found the renewed passion for his cycling when Toudou was constantly challenging him. Toudou was unlike anyone he had ever met. A sometimes foolish, always loud type of person who you couldn't take serious with all his arrogance narcissism until he got a road racer, his figure perfectly aligned, eyes narrowed and sharp, glinting mad desire for the win. He truly was the God of the Mountain when he was quiet and sneaking up on you.

That was when Makishima thought he was beautiful.

He blinked at his thought, not okay with how much they had been on Toudou lately. In the months after the proposal of the team, the three of them met every other Saturday, and Toudou and Tadokoro, while not officially friends, acknowledged each other's formidable skill. Tadokoro was stronger than ever, and they couldn't touch him in the sprints, but he was worse than ever on the slopes. Their team stayed as it was until Toudou introduced another man into the fold, eyebrows so sharp set into a face that seemed out of stone. His name was Fukutomi Junichi. His family were notable cyclists, and Makishima wondered why he wasn't a professional because his skill was uncanny. He didn't ask and Fukutomi didn't tell. It was fine with a four man team. They were a ragtag group, and couldn't really cooperate all that well, but there was something about not having to compete, and challenging each other, which they constantly did, that made it work.

Now all they needed was to find Kinjou.

At this point, Makishima was regretting inviting everyone that he had invited, especially Thomas and his brother. Thomas had made any awful lot of racket when he came in with an armful of presents, and quickly stole Onoda from his two friends, but soon he caught Toudou's eyes and things started spiraling down from there. Tadokoro and Naruko were the last to arrive, and Naruko was just the icing on the explosive cake. He obviously got into a fight with Imaizumi right off the bat, and Manami apparently instigated the whole thing. When the adults had settled things and had them playing games in the living room, Makishima found Toudou and Thomas talking quite excitedly. He dreaded to find out what the topic of their conversation was.

"Makishima-san?"

Mako handed him a glass of water, "You look a little wired. Are you alright?"

Makishima shrugged, "I'm just not used to all this." He gestured to the chaos around him. She smiled a little tightly, "I see. I suppose it's a little overwhelming at first." She looked nervous suddenly, "Ah, Makishima-san, I have to tell you something. This might be the last time that Sakamichi and Shunsuke get to see each other."

Makishima frowned at that, "What? Why?"

She averted her eyes. "Shunsuke mentioned you and Sakamichi to his mother the other day and she didn't like the idea. They are sort of…old fashioned."

"Was it because of me?" Makishima asked, and Mako clenched her jaw, "They don't really understand that their son really need friends like Sakamichi. They are going to put him in a private school in April. She told me that she doesn't want her son and your son to interact."

"Is it because of me, Mako?" Makishima asked again. She looked guilty, "I'm actually not sure, really! I tried to explain to her that you are a great parent and that Sakamichi is the sweetest child in this world, but parents are blind when it comes to their children." She sighed heavily, looking over the children playing a game on the floor. "I actually lied about coming today. Shusuke doesn't know. It's really going to break his heart losing his first friend like this."

Makishima had a fist clenched, because even if he didn't know Imaizumi for that long, his son loved his company, and taking that away was just cruel. "So, are you going to tell him?"

Mako pulled and bit her lip, worried, "And say what? Your parents don't want you to be friends with an adopted kid? Makishima-san, there is nothing I can say that will explain it."

Makishima nodded, but wished that Imaizumi's parents could open their eyes to the reality of the situation. Onoda was going to lose Imaizumi, and Tadokoro was moving back to Osaka for the next couple of years. That was too far for any real interaction between his and and Naruko. Manami lived in Chiba, but for how long? Toudou had been texting him, updating him all that week that things were getting sort of heavy with his sister, and they might be forced to move back to their family Inn.

Everything was changing much too quickly, and Onoda was starting to lose people that he had gotten quite close to. It was terrifying.

"Sakamichi will be okay, Makishima-san. He is the type that will have plenty of friends." Mako said, smiling reassuringly.

Makishima nodded, but in his heart he doubted and he worried for his son.

His thoughts were interrupted by Toudou and Thomas cackling like a couple of witches, and glancing over to Makishima with wicked eyes. He seethed internally, not looking forward to dealing with that.

His brother came up to him, "Uh, Yuusuke, how are you?"

"Fine."

His brother raised an eyebrow, not convinced, "Go upstairs. Take a break. I know you stayed up last night to decorate all this. Nice colors by the way."

"You want me to leave my own son's birthday?"

"No. Take a break. You're not doing Sakamichi any good if you're grumpy.

Makishima frowned at him, "I'm not grumpy."

His brother snorted, "Well, whatever. We can handle four kids. Besides, Sakamichi would hate it if you weren't happy."

Makishima let out a sigh. He was tired and he had stayed up the night before for hours trying to get this place festive. Not to mention the food and the cake, but it was worth it to see his son light up at the sight of being honored and cared for.

"I guess you're right. I'll lay down real quick." He took a step back, but his brother called out to him, "Ah, Yuusuke…"

"Yes?"

His brother smiled fondly, "You are a good father. I'm proud of you."

Makishima blinked at the compliment, "Oh...uh…thanks."

His brother nodded and then went to go talk to Thomas and Toudou, who were still chatting.

He didn't even realize he fell asleep until he heard loud screaming and…

Makishima stood up straight. Were those fireworks he heard?

Makishima jumped out of his bed and ran down the stairs. The house was a mess. Someone was pounding on the pantry door. Makishima rushed over and threw it open. Mako was in there holding onto a broom.

"Ah! Makishima-san! Ah… !"

"Mako? What were you doing in the pantry?"

"Well… I was locked in there."

Makishima exclaimed loudly, "What!? Locked? Why? And where is everyone else? Where is Sakamichi?"

Mako exclaimed just as loudly, "I think the dark haired one locked me in here! He asked me to get him a broom and he seemed so sweet. All my experience was telling me not to obey, but that little boy has the most damning smile." She was frowning so hard, "I'm sure everything is alright, Makishima-san. There were four other adults after all. They can care for four barely six year old children."

Makishima thought about that for a moment and then he began to panic. What was he thinking? Thomas was like another kid! And his brother had no idea how to handle children. Mako was locked up in the pantry, so that meant that it was all left up to Tadokorocchi and Toudou.

Sure they could be trusted. Just as long as there was no food to distract the bear and if there was no mirrors in sight. If Toudou came across a mirror, he wouldn't be any help either.

Makishima was doomed.

"Okay." He started, and Mako stood straighter at his tone, "First we find everyone. No, first we find Sakamichi." Everyone else came after his son.

Mako nodded. "Yes. If we find him, no doubt Shunsuke will be at his side." Makishima went out of the kitchen and into the dining room where he found Tadokoro hunched over a plate of food.

"Tadokorocchi? What are you-" Makishima spotted what he was eating and almost screamed, "SHO! That's the birthday cake! WHY ARE YOU EATING THAT?"

Tadokoro turned and grinned at him, "Hey, Maki. Don't worry, I'm only eating the part that we saved. I tried to clean up what they dropped, but it was way beyond saving. This is good cake. Ya gotta tell me where you got it fr-"

"Dropped? Wha- Who dropped the cake!? What is going on?"

Mako stammered, "Oh dear, I forgot about that."

Tadokoro was brushing crumbs off his lap, "The brats did it. Thomas was trying to stop Shou and Imaizumi from fighting again. They dived under the table and that blonde idiot went right after them; knocked the cake right off. It fell all over the place. I managed to save this part. It's good cake."

Makishima was fuming, "Tadokorocchi! What the hell! Where is my son? And everyone else?"

Tadokoro stood up, "I sort of got distracted. I'll help look alright. No need to shout, Maki."

Makishima felt his eyes twitching and he turned around with a huff. Then, he heard a whirl and crack of a firework. "And who brought fireworks?"

Tadokoro chuckled, much to Makishima's annoyance, "I think that's Shoukichi. He's a big fan of 'em."

"They're dangerous, you bear! Aren't you worried!?" Makishima yelled from over his shoulder as he hurried to the backyard.

It was Naruko with the fireworks, but thankfully, his brother was the one shooting them off. Makishima looked around, not spotting Onoda, "Hey! Where is Sakamichi?" His brother started and the tossed the popper on the ground, " Yuusuke! Ah! What- I mean-"

"Sakamichi? Where is he?"

His brother looked over to the sloping hill, "Well, Thomas and Toudou went to go look for them. I guess Manami wanted to play hide and seek against us, and...well… we can't find them."

"You lost them!?"

Tadokoro and Mako caught up, and Mako quickly dusted off Imaizumi, and Tadokoro brushed soot off his son's face, "What's going on?"

"Where did you see them last?" Makishima asked.

His brother folded his arms, "It's okay. They'll find them, Yuusuke. It's just a matter of time."

A matter of time!? What was wrong with all these adults? Onoda was six! Barely six! This was not okay. He took in a deep breath and thought for a moment. If Onoda was playing hide and seek then there was one place that he could be. Makishima headed over to the side of the house, and crouched over the porch. "Sakamichi? Are you in there?"

He heard giggling and then his son crawled out, face beaming, "Mama! You found us! I didn't know you were playing though! Uh! Good job, Mama! Now you hide!" Makishima merely picked his now dirty son from the ground, wiping at the dirt on his face, "Are you okay?"

Onoda nodded and glanced at the porch where Manami had also crawled out, "Ah! Sorry, Manami-kun! I thought we could win."

Manami flashed back that sunny smile, "It's okay, Sakamichi. I liked hiding with you. We should do it again."

Makishima shook his head. "Not right now. Let's get you cleaned up first."

He walked to the back of the house where Tadokoro and Mako were scolded the two fighting brats. When they saw Onoda, though, they came running up, glaring at Manami, "Onoda-kun! Did this weird kid kiss you again!?" Naruko shouted in his usual loud voice.

Imaizumi was scowling at Manami and the boy in response just tilted his head, "There's nothing wrong with kissing right, Sakamichi?"

Onoda squirmed in Makishima's arms, giving him a worried look, "Uh, I don't know, Manami-kun. Mama, is kissing bad?"

Makishima grimaced as four pairs of innocent eyes landed on him. He wanted to say that kissing was bad because he didn't like Manami's tendency to do it with his son, but kissing wasn't a bad thing. Luckily, he was saved because Toudou called out from the hill interrupting them.

"Oh! Maki-chan! You found the children! How fortunate!" He strode up, looking weary, but not a hair out of place, "How did you find them?"

Makishima wanted to kick him, but instead ignored him in favor of scolding the blonde man that came up behind him, "Toudou! Thomas! What happened here? The house is a mess, and cake is gone, and you lost the kids! I was only gone for half an hour!"

Thomas managed to look sheepish, "Yeah, we got carried away with the game and the cake was my fault. Tell you what! Go upstairs and the rest of us will handle it! We'll clean and fix everything. Go wash up!"

Makishima was going to protest and tell them off because leaving them up to their own devices had been a terrible idea, but Onoda tugged at his collar, "I need to go the bathroom, Mama."

Makishima sighed, "Alright, Thomas. I'm taking Sakamichi to the bathroom. I'll be right back. Don't break anything, alright!" Thomas glanced at a dejected Toudou, and Makishima simply rolled his eyes at them. He had scolded enough.

He went into the house and up the stairs, dropping Onoda off at the bathroom. "Im going to your room real quick, Sakamichi. Call me when you're done."

Onoda nodded and quickly ran to the bathroom. Who knew how long he had been holding it in just to hide?

Makishima sighed again as he entered Onoda's room and plopped back onto the bed. His limbs didn't fit and the bed creaked under his weight, but he didn't care. He was suddenly exhausted, and his nap had made him moody, grumpy, and groggy.

But there was no way he would fall asleep now. The day was ruined. He wanted to blame his friends and family, but ultimately, he was at fault. He just wasn't good at this type of thing and probably would never be. How many more birthdays would he ruin? Would he ever get good at this?
The door creaked and Makishima lifted his head to see who it was.

Onoda came silently into the room, eyes deep, "Mama? Can I come in?"

Makishima sat up leaning back on his hands, "It's your room Onoda. Of course you can come in."

He came over and crawled on the bed. He quickly settled in Makishima's side. Makishima could see the dirt spots and cake icing in his hair, and he was reminded on how terrible this party had gone.

"Are you mad, Mama?"

Makishima frowned, "No, Sakamichi, I-I'm not mad. Why do you say that?"

Onoda leaned his head against Makishima's ribcage, "You look mad, Mama."

Technically, he was a little upset, but not at his friends and family per se, but at himself.

"I'm sorry that your birthday didn't come out well. We'll try again next year. I promise it'll be better."

Onoda shifted his large blue eyes up, "Mama, I really liked my birthday! I don't think it was ruined at all. All the people I really like and love are here. And I got to have lots of fun." He shifted his gaze down to his hands, "I know that birthdays are really important… It's the day I was born, but I never really thought I was important." He reached out with those small soft hands of his and hugged Makishima around the waist, "But I feel really important today so I think it's the best birthday ever!"

Makishima looked down at the boy, fondness melting his frowning expression. Onoda was right. It didn't matter that things hadn't gone according to plan, and that it wasn't the perfect birthday party he had envisioned. He had forgotten who this day was for. If Onoda was happy then that should have been all that mattered. It was all that matter. If Onoda had felt loved and appreciated and important, then that was good enough.

Makishima brought up a hand through the mussed hair of his son and grimaced at how dirty he was. Onoda preened under his touch and looked up. The tender moment was suddenly cut short when the door slammed open and the Naruko disaster came rushing in. "KAKA! I found ya, Onoda-kun!" He was quickly knocked over by a not so cool headed Imaizumi who pushed an indignant Naruko to the ground. Manami entered next and stepped over them neatly and with an airy grace, "Ah, Sakamichi-kun. I'm glad I found you. You want to run away with me again?"

Toudou's hand grabbed the back of Manami's sweater, "No one is going anywhere, little nephew. Maki-chan will have my beautiful head on a platter if I allow you to cause anymore trouble." His gleaming eyes swept the room, "Oh for the love of all that is sacred, who chose such horrid colors?"

Makishima snorted and swung his long legs on the bed, hand still on his son. "I never did expect you to have good taste, Toudou."

Toudou scowled, but a blonde head popped in and grinned, "Oi! Maki, we finished downstairs. Um… Can you come down? And Saka-chan, of course."

Makishima glanced down at Onoda who looked hopefully up at him, and then sighed, "Yeah. Let's go."

He stood from the bed and gathered up Onoda's small frame in his arms, before walking to the door. He didn't bother in separating Naruko and Imaizumi though, opting to just kick them apart until they yelled up at him. It was so strange that sharp cold Imaizumi was so heated up in his interaction with Naruko.

"We're going downstairs. I'm going to lock you two in here if you don't get downstairs right this instant."

Two sets of eyes blinked up at him and then scrambled to the door and downstairs.

"Well, that was quite effective, Maki-chan. So unexpected from you."

"Yeah! I guess even an old dog can learn new tricks."

Toudou and Thomas exchanged grinning looks and Makishima groaned and passed them. He almost ran over Manami who wasn't stepping out of the way. "Makishima-san, can you carry me too?"

Makishima gave him a panicked look, "Uh… No thanks."

Manami continued smiling, "Okay. Can you put Sakamichi down, then?"

Makishima frowned at the sweet smile and was wary. He unconsciously tightened his hold of Onoda. "Not this time."

Manami frowned, looking confused for a second before the smile came back, "Okay. I'll wait downstairs." He took off glancing back once with the same gleaming eyes that Toudou flashed him with sometimes.

Manami was going to be quite dangerous in the future.

Makishima was not looking forward to it.

"Sangaku really is quite taken with Saka-chan, Maki-chan. We should arrange them to get married like back in the feudal ages. Then we could truly be family."

Thomas exclaimed before Makishima could protest, "NO WAY! Sakamichi is a pure angel! He's never getting married! What are you talking about?"

Toudou frowned, marring his looks with the scowl, "Tommy! It would be a great match! Can you imagine their children!? Such cute children they'll have!"

Even Thomas looked a little confused, "Man, they are both guys."

Toudou shrugged, "And? But honestly think on it, Tommy. Wouldn't they?"

They continued chatting about marriage and children, ignoring the annoyed look that was fierce on Makishima, as they went down to the kitchen. They disappeared quickly through the door and Onoda gave him a concerned glance

The kitchen was dark when they entered and Onoda clutched his shirt, "Why are the lights out, Mama?"

Makishima was not in the mood for pranks so he searched the wall with one hand, sighing, "Okay guys…Wher-"

"SURPRISE!"

Makishima jumped and Onoda screamed as they saw the party guests gathered around a small cake. There was Tadokoro, Mako, Thomas, Toudou, and the three troublemakers sitting excitedly in their chairs. Even Imaizumi was smiling at them.

Makishima came forward and sat Onoda on the kitchen table, "Where did this come from?"

"I know your parties, Maki. I thought another cake would be good for back up. This one is better, anyways. It has your hair colors."

Makishima grimaced at the cake, for it indeed was decorated green and red. Damn Tadokoro.

"Come, Sakamichi! Come!"

Onoda beamed and crawled across the table to the cake. Makishima smiled at the faces waiting expectantly around the cake, "Let's sing! Happy birth-" Naruko started loudly, his accent so apparent with his voice. The rest of the group joined him quickly.

Sakamichi was practically shining as the song went on and Makishima felt his hand move on its own, and he placed a hand on his shoulder.

When the song ended, thankfully because they were not the best singers, Onoda leaned over inhaling a deep breath, and with a big exaggerated huff, he blew out the candle.

Makishima had a feeling he knew exactly what Onoda had wished for.


Day 147

It was odd that Makishima was more nervous than his son at this current moment. He felt beads of sweat dripping down his spine, and the hand that gripped Onoda's was wet with perspiration.

"Mama?"

Makishima cursed himself, and looked down at his son, willing his heart to stop pounding. "Yes, Sakamichi?"

"I'm a little scared." He said quietly.

Makishima pushed his selfish nerves out of his mind, and focused on his son. He crouched down, and fixed the backpack on Onoda's shoulders, "You don't need to be scared. It's just school."

Onoda eyes were downcast, "What if they don't like me at school?"

Makishima exhaled heavily. That was an age old question, and one that Makishima struggled with as an adult. His first response was, screw them, but that would not help Onoda at all.

"That might happen," He started honestly, forcing himself to continue, "but I will always love you. So no matter who likes you and who doesn't, remember that you have me. Okay?"

He had no idea if that helped him at all, but Onoda lit up and he nodded his head, "Okay Mama! I love you too! A lot! I will remember!"

Makishima's buzzing nerves were soothed for a moment at that smile. He stood up and with new resolution, he entered the school.

They entered the cafeteria, and he sat in one of the chairs, his knees bouncing, jittery.

A kid with bright orange hair sat next to them and he grinned wildly at Onoda. "Hi!"

Onoda jumped slightly in his chair, and wide eyed, he nodded, "Uh... Hi."

"You're small like me! Most kids are bigger than me."

Onoda scratched his face and Makishima melted a little when he saw the familiar action. "Ah. I'm small, but Mama says being small is good 'cause I can hide better. I'm Ono- I mean I'm a Makishima Sakamichi."

"Ah. I'm Hinata! Call me Hinata!"

Onoda was instantly animated once more, "Do you watch Love Hime? It's my favorite."

"Yeah, yeah! I do! But I like robots, too!" Their conversation was cut short by a stout woman tapping on a mic, signaling for the room to quiet down.

There was announcements and introductions, and it was all quite boring until the headmaster of the small school came forward.

Makishima stood straight when he spotted the tall darkly tanned man.

It was Kinjou Shingo.

Makishima was so shocked for a moment that he didn't even hear what Kinjou was saying, only that he was coincidentally the headmaster of Onoda's school. What a small world they lived in...

There were quiet whispers around them, woman cooing at how nice looking and how well mannered the principal was and Makishima wanted to groan. Instead, he looked down at his son who was paying attention to Kinjou's words with rapt attention.

Makishima decided to follow his son's lead and focused on the speech. He only caught the tail end as Principal Kinjou called in the teachers and introduced each and everyone.

When the introductions finished, the teachers dispersed, gathering up the kids in their classes by holding up signs with their classroom number.

Makishima looked at the little name tag on Onoda's lapel. The number 1-B stood out in dark bold letters. He looked up to the teacher holding the corresponding sign.

The teacher was a wide smiling fresh faced woman who quickly and enthusiastically rounded up all the children away from their parents with relatively strange ease. She bowed to the parents and smiled so brightly at the children in her classroom.

Onoda tugged at Makishima's sleeve, but he was being pulled by his new friend Hinata, "Uh, bye Mama. I'll be a good boy. I'll miss you, Mama."

Makishima pressed fondly down on his son's hat, and then with his heart in his throat he waved good bye. Although, he managed to hear the inquisitive quip from Hinata, "Why does your mom look like a scary man, Saka-chan?"

Makishima grimaced.

When the children left and he no longer could see his son, he and the other parents began to talk amongst themselves and Makishima swept the room to look for Kinjou. It was so strange to see him again, as a principal of all things.

"Makishima-san?"

Makishima started and whirled around to Kinjou who had called him, "Kinjou! Ah!"

Kinjou looked relatively the same since they had seen each other. It was strange. There was a couple of women murmuring around them and it suddenly felt like highschool all over again. Kinjou's lady charm had only increased through the years. Makishima wondered if he was married.

"I didn't mean to scare you, Makishima. I was very surprised to see the name Makishima on the list of incoming students. Although, I didn't expect you to have a son… of this age."

He smirked slightly, no doubt remembering a conversation they had had long ago in the club room about how Makishima would rather become a drab businessman than have a snot nosed greedy kid. That was for people like Tadokoro. How he would eat his words now.

The slight polite smirk on Kinjou's lips made Makishima feel very certain in his presumption. Makishima huffed out a breath, a fond smile appearing on his lips from nostalgia, "Yeah, I guess it would be strange. Having a kid isn't exactly as bad as I thought it would be."

Kinjou nodded, and his face returned to that business like expression, "I hope you and your son have nothing, but fond interaction with our school. We strive to provide and teach the very best."

"I know," Makishima said, just slightly intimidated by Kinjou's sudden change in attitude, "That's why I picked it. Plus, I live nearby."

"Oh, that is good. Last I heard, you had a label in Tokyo."

"I do. I like Chiba better for Sakamichi, though."

Kinjou's smile returned and Makishima swore that he could hear the ladies swoon, "Yes, we all turned out well, didn't we?"

Makishima nodded, "I guess so." He looked over to the door where Onoda had disappeared through almost expecting his son to come running back. Kinjou must've caught the action because he started talking again, "Sakamichi seems like a very well behaved little boy. I don't suppose he got that from you."

Makishima snorted, "You remember what I was like." Makishima's smiled tightened suddenly, worry lines deepening his already frowning face, "Sakamichi is…my son. Will he be alright? I mean in school and such."

Kinjou blinked, "Are you worried?"

Makishima grimaced and then nodded his head, "Sakamichi has been bullied before. I just worry… that he might not fit in."

And if he didn't fit in, Makishima wouldn't be much help either. He had no idea how to make people like him so there was no way he could advise Onoda on how to go about that. All the adults that had met Onoda had been so taken by him, it was hard to imagine him having trouble with people, but kids were strange.

He suddenly wanted to go peek into Onoda's room to make sure he was doing okay and making friends and happy. Why did kids need to go to school anyway? This was torturous.

Kinjou dug into his pocket on his suit, and pulled out a business card. He pulled out a pen from somewhere and jotted something down on the back, "Here. This is my number here at the school, and on the back I have given you my personal mobile telephone number. If you are concerned, please do not hesitate to call. I can assure you that bullying of any type will not be tolerated at my school and I will personally be visiting each classroom to see if everything is well. I will make sure to keep out an especially careful eye for Sakamichi."

Makishima worried brow didn't lessen but he nodded thankfully anyways, "That's… good. Thank you for your attention." Kinjou bowed slightly, "It is my duty and honor to make sure that your son receives the best education possible, and that he is both safe and happy while he learns."

Makishima clenched his teeth. He actually wanted to ask if he could sneak over to Onoda's classroom and spy, but Kinjou was attacked by a flock of middle aged women with pink high on their faces.

If he wasn't so worried, he might have laughed.

Well there was nothing he could. Kinjou would keep an eye on him. Onoda would be fine. He was cute and nice and polite. Only absolute idiots could dislike him. Idiots and evil people.

Makishima reassured himself as he headed home.


Makishima was no longer worried.

He was way beyond that.

He had only gotten home and the large house seem so empty without Onoda's tiny pattering feet following him everywhere. Each room had a particular Onoda signature, and it was making Makishima so angsty.

How long had it been? A couple of hours? What was Onoda doing now? Had he gotten hurt? Had the other kids started some sort of conspiracy against him? Did they give him something toxic? Was the school even there anymore? Or had a meteor hit it? Or a very specific earthquake?

Makishima pulled out his phone and the number, but after a moment he put them both down on the coffee table and started pacing.

He was a little too frantic. Onoda was fine. Kinjou was there. His old classmate and captain had always been reliable. He need not to worry.

And even though he knew all these fact, he couldn't help the wrongness of the whole situation make his skin crawl with discomfort.

Onoda was going to be gone every day from now on, almost five hours daily. It would only get worse from then on. As his son grew older, he would only spend more time away from Makishma. Five hours would become seven and then ten depending on what club activities Onoda picked up. School was an atrocious idea. Who the hell ever thought of it?

Makishima paused in his walk. Being apart was the problem. Onoda was notoriously clumsy. He would trip or fall on an almost hourly basis. He usually brushed it off, but Makishima was always there to pick him up or shake off the dirt. Who was going to do that while he was at school?

No one, that's who.

No, it would be better if Onoda just stayed with him. All the time.

It was reasonable, Makishima reasoned.

Onoda could be tutored privately, and he would probably excel learning from home.

The friend issue was still a concern, though.

Makishima paced in the family room, still too nervous to sit still. He kept glancing at Kinjou's number on the coffee table.

Onoda had friends. Manami and Naruko. Sure, Manami was weird, and Naruko was wild and lived far away, but they could work it out somehow. Makishima could drive over to Tadokoro's place every other week to drop Onoda off, and Manami could come visit…Bottom line is that Onoda didn't have to go to school. He could keep him here, safe in the house.

Makishima ran his hands through his hair. He wanted to call Kinjou and ask how Onoda was doing, but it had only been an hour since school had started so it was ridiculous, but that didn't lessen the feeling. He needed to talk to someone or he would march right back to the school and make sure Onoda was happy.

He couldn't call his brother, or Thomas, as they might be worse than him in this situation, and Tadokoro would tell him to man up and let the boy be. He had no idea what Toudou would say, but it would probably be loud and annoying. He needed someone that understood him. Someone who could calm him down.

Makishima called Kizura Miyata.

She answered after the first ring, her voice soothing, "This is Miyata, go ahead."

"Uh. I have a problem."

"Makishima-san? Is something the matter with Sakamichi?"

"Ah, no. Well, maybe. I'm not sure."

Miss Miyata paused on the phone, and an awkward moment passed. "What is it?"

Makishima suddenly felt very stupid. It was not a good idea to call up your social worker and have a nervous breakdown. That did not show good parenting at all.

"Uh...It's Sakamichi's first day of school…" He started lamely. "I dropped him off this morning and he was apprehensive, but I still made him go. I think that maybe school might not be a good idea for him." He was picking up steam now and pacing around the room, "What do you think about a private tutor to teach him? I know it sounds weird, but I think Onoda would do very good with someone one on one like that and he could stay home. Schools are dangerous, and I know that he had trouble in the orphanage with kids bullying him. I don't want that to happen again, so-"

Mrs. Miyata stopped him abruptly, "Makishima-san, do you need to go grocery shopping?"

Makishima blinked. "What? What does that have to do with-"

"Check your kitchen if you need anything."

Makishima, almost in a stupor, headed over to the kitchen, and looked around. He had wanted to buy some more water and milk cartons for Onoda. Maybe some strawberries since Onoda had never eaten them before.

"Uh…A couple of things…Why?"

"Meet me at the greengrocer near your house. Across from the shrine. I'll be there in ten minutes."

"What? Wait, why? You want me to go shopping now?" Makishima asked, bewildered by the request.

"Yes. Meet me there Makishima-san." The phone clicked, signaling the end of the call.

Makishima stood there and frowned at the kitchen counter. Why? It didn't make sense, and the call hadn't helped him at all, but he listened, grabbing his shoes and keys as he walked out the door.

Mrs. Miyata looked just as friendly as she had a couple months ago at her last house visit. She smiled broadly at him as Makishima locked his bike at a bike stand. He approached her hesitantly still wondering why they were here shopping of all things.

"Good morning, Makishima-san."

"Hi…?"

She looked over to the grocers, "You are probably wondering why I asked you to come here, am I right?"

Makishima nodded.

"Well, you seem to be worried about Sakamichi-chan. You may want to take him out of school, and keep him under your wing at all times. New parents, or rather all parents actually, have these… impulses all the time and as Sakamichi gets older, the feeling will get stronger. The best way to not give in is to distract yourself. So, come shopping with me. I need some rice."

Makishima frowned at her reasoning, but complied because Mrs. Miyata was one of the people who really did know what she was talking about.

She went through the aisles, picking up a couple of things here and there.

"So, was Sakamichi-chan worried this morning or were you the only nervous one?"

Makishima looked at his hands, "He said he was a little scared, but I think I was ten times more worried… " He swallowed hard, feeling a lump in his throat. He missed his son. It almost felt like those months that he had been banned from visiting the young boy for awhile. It was the first time that they had been separated any length of time after taking Onoda home. Makishima did not like the separation.

Mrs. Miyata laughed. "I predicted that you would be overprotective like this. It's alright Makishima-san. It's normal to be worried. Sakamichi was bullied in the orphanage, but he dealt with it, didn't he?"

Makishima mumbled, "He shouldn't have to."

"Yes, that's true, but the way he treated his bully tells you about how he'll do. Sakamichi has the talent of joy and kindness. He will be fine. Think about it, Makishima-san. It's better if you realize right now that you can't always protect him. Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and watch them go, hoping for the best."

"That's stupid." Makishima said blatantly.

Mrs. Miyata laughed again, "I agree, but such is the way of raising a child. It's a juggling act. That's why being a parent is so hard."

"They never talked about this in the classes." Makishima muttered, as he looked at his empty basket.

"They did. It's called parental anxiety. Makishima-san, Sakamichi will be fine. You just need to listen to him. Maybe celebrate when he gets home. If you just think about it too much, you will drive yourself insane."

Makishima agreed with that point. "I know, I know." He sighed, "So, a private tutor is not a good idea?"

Mrs. Miyata smiled at him, almost teasing, "I think that's for your benefit, not Sakamichi's. Unless he has trouble at school, he should stay there."

Makishima frowned. She had a point. Not that Makishima liked it, but she was right.

"You wanted strawberries, right?"

Makishima nodded, and followed her lead into the produce section.

They chatted. Mrs. Miyata talked about her son, worried about his last year of high school, and about college entrance exams, and about a promotion she might get at her job. Meaning she wouldn't be a social worker anymore. Instead, she would be managing the social workers, replacing Mr. Sendo, who was transfering to be Director of the International Adoptions Department. Makishima told her about how his family had accepted Onoda, and how he was worried about Onoda being lonely in his home after growing up in the orphanage.

"Makishima, has Onoda said or acted as if he was lonely?"

Makishima paused, thinking back. Onoda was always happy. There was moments when he was ashamed of wetting his bed, or when he would have anxiety over eating some days, but he was relatively always smiling. Not that that was reassuring, because Onoda tended to be self sacrificial a lot of the time, and wanted to be least bothersome as possible.

"No…" Makishima replied slowly.

"Then you don't have to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed." She said simply, looking at some artichokes.

Makishima grimaced at the slight reprimand, "But… "

"And if this is a problem, what will you want to do about it? Have more children?"

Makishima paled at that thought. No, he did not want another child. "No. I mean, I don't want to adopt another child, but I don't want Sakamichi to be lonely either."

"But he has you, Makishima-san. That's all he wanted. Now that he has school, he will make friends and he won't be lonely, as you say. At this age, a child's life revolves around their parent. They are a child's protection, friendship, and saviour. You are what is most important in Sakamichi's life right now." She paused, and then looked apologetic, "I'm sorry for being preachy today. You are a good parent, Makishima-san. A great one, and Sakamichi is lucky to have you. You two were meant for each other."

Makishima half grinned. "No, it's okay. I have to hear this stuff. I always think of the worst. I'm negative and just worried. I'm glad you're frank. So… uh thanks."

She reached out and patted his arm, "No, thank you for listening. So, do you want to make a celebratory lunch for Onoda?"

"Well, he's getting out right after lunch so he shouldn't be hungry. Maybe a… a dessert?"

Mrs. Miyata smiled, "Have you ever tried your hand at making a strawberry shortcake?"

Makishima groaned, "I still struggle making rice. I don't want to burn down the house trying."

Miyata raised a fist, "Don't worry, Makishima-san. I'm an old hat at cakes. I'll teach you."

Makishima had his hands in his pockets as he waited in the front of the school. He was beyond nervous, but after spending a couple of hours with a stern Mrs. Miyata, and burning a couple of cakes, he was a lot more relaxed.

"Hello again, Makishima-san."

Kinjou approached him suddenly, making the nervous Makishima jump. "Kinjou-san."

"Please, just Kinjou. We are old teammates, after all."

Makishima nodded, "Well, Makishima then or Yuusuke. Whichever."

Kinjou smiled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. "Eager to see your son?"

Makishima paused and then nodded. "Yes. Did he… I mean, how did it go?"

Kinjou stood straighter, "Sakamichi-kun is very well behaved. He listens well and is friendly and kind. The very example of a good student. Although…" Kinjou paused.

Makishima was frowning at how rehearsed the beginning sounded, but his heart dropped when Kinjou went off tangent

"What? What happened?"

"Ah, Sakamichi had trouble eating our lunch. I managed to get him to have a little, but I thought I should inform you. It could be due to nervousness of the first day. Regardless, he will probably be hungry at home."

Makishima nodded, "Ah. Yeah. I was worried about that. He uh…has a problem eating sometimes. It's something we are working on."

Kinjou smile stayed but his eyes looked concerned, "I see. Is there anything that I can do to help him here at school?"

Makishima shook his head, "I'm not really sure yet. I guess I'll talk to Sakamichi first. I'll get back to you, but thank you for your concern."

Kinjou nodded stoically. It was quiet for a moment, before Makishima asked, "I heard you… uh… stopped cycling for a bit?"

It was Makishima's way of bringing up a sensitive subject but he felt like he messed up by the way Kinjou stiffened and blinked awkwardly. "Y-Yes. I was injured three years ago in a race in California. Unfortunately, I was cut from my team, and I moved back home."

Makishima hesitated, "So, how did you become a director of an elementary school?"

Kinjou pushed his glasses up, "I've always liked children." He said seriously, and Makishima stared at him. "They enjoy my magic tricks."

Makishima choked back a laugh, coughing as it got caught in his throat. Kinjou had a slight smile on his face, bemused and self pleased.
"Kinjou… That…That is the strangest reason to become a principal." Makishima said pounding on his chest to avoid suffocating.

Kinjou put his hands in his pockets, "But to answer your real question, I haven't stopped cycling. I just lost myself for a while. I've stopped competing professionally though."

Makishima was catching his breath, "Ah. I see. I haven't raced in awhile either, but Tadokoro mentioned starting something again."

Kijou frowned, "Starting again? Racing?"

Makishima shrugged, "Not for competitions, but for ourselves I suppose. He said he needs to get away sometimes, and I love cycling so…he…or rather we thought it would be a good idea."

Kinjou didn't say anything and he didn't get a chance to because the doors of the school opened and kids began coming out. Makishima looked over the mass of children to see his son talking with a short orange haired boy. Onoda's smile was wide and real, and Makishima felt relief flood him.

Makishima waited patiently for Onoda to see him, and he beamed when he did, "Mama!"

He came trotting up to him, his hat pushed on his soft black hair. "Mama! I really, really like school! Really, really!" He started to go on about all the things he did, and how he made friends at recess, and how his teacher was nice. Makishima reached down and picked him up, his enthusiasm contagious.

"I'm gla- wait, slow down, Sakamichi." Onoda took a deep breath, his eyes sparkling, "Okay, you can tell me all about it at home, alright? Let's get home. I made some dessert."

Onoda smiled radiantly, "Okay, Mama!"

Makishima started walking away from the school, when Kinjou called out to him, "Makishima?"

He turned to look at his old teammate, "Yes, Kinjou?"

He looked uncomfortable for a moment, "I think, I would like to join the team you are forming. If possible."

Makishima felt weirded out by the way he worded the question, as if suddenly he was the captain, "Yeah, of course. I'll call Tadokorocchi."

He nodded, and went to talk to some other parents.

Onoda was looking curiously at the exchange, "You make friends too, Mama?"

Makishima grinned, "Of course. So, hey, are you ready to eat some strawberries?"

Onoda's eyes widened into stars, "Strawberries!? The little red fruitys?"

Makishima picked him up higher, "Yes. You want some?"

"Yeah! Yeah!" He said excitedly. Makishima took off again, cheering with Onoda into the afternoon.


Day 155

Thomas was definitely serious about striving to be the world's best uncle. He would come by for a visit at least once every other week and everytime he came by, he had something to give Onoda. Toys, games, and candy. He would sometimes sneak him some little gifts or candy that Makishima didn't like him to eat too often. Luckily, Onoda was the type of kid that always asked his parent if he could have the aforementioned snack before he dug in. After awhile, Thomas stop trying to hide his gifts from Makishima with a rather defeated look. He often took Onoda to the park, or the zoo, or wherever he wanted to go that day. Onoda would always run around like a maniac when Thomas stopped by, and when he came back, he was dirty, ragged, and tired, despite the bright excited eyes and unrestrained smile on his face. Onoda loved him to death and claimed him to be the best uncle ever.

His brother, on the other hand, was such a worrywart. Whenever he came along with Thomas, Makishima noticed that he always came back looking like he had aged ten years. Makishima asked him about it one day after they had visited an amusement park.

"It's nothing. It's just…. Thomas takes him on all these crazy rides and lets him eat all that food that can't be good for him! I mean, how is he eating? Is he eating enough vegetables? He looks a little pale."

Makishima laughed at him, "I'm glad that he's eating, even if it is a little unhealthy."

His brother slapped the table lightly, "No! I read that for a growing child, what they eat right now is crucially important for their future development."

Makishima raised a thin eyebrow, looking at his brother with bemused eyes, "And you've been reading parenting books, why?"

His brother actually blushed. It was quite the sight, and rather rare in things not related to Thomas.

Makishima had noticed that his brother had grown rather attached to Onoda. At first he was distant, talking at him in his usual careful matter. Onoda didn't understand that but the boy was determined to be the best little boy in his uncle's eyes. And inevitably, said uncle caved. In the beginning, it was a slight pat on the head, or a slight ruffle of his hair. Next, was a genuine smile appearing unintentionally when Onoda would come running up, uncontrollably excited, to the slight scowl he would give Thomas when he felt that the blonde man was playing too rough, and finally, to the day when Onoda, while being carried around by Thomas, as was usual, reached out to hug his stiff uncle. Both Makishima's and Thomas' jaws dropped when the man took Onoda from Thomas' arms and gave the boy a quick awkward hug, but a hug nevertheless.

Now, Thomas would tell him of his brother's latest development, like the time that he had caught him dancing with Onoda to an anime intro song when they babysat one time, or the fact that often when they went to the store, he would buy some clothes and make Thomas pretend it was a gift from him. Apparently, he was appalled at the way that Makishima dressed Onoda.

"Just a couple here and there. Sakamichi is thin for his age. I could pick up some meat and bring it? The expensive rich kind. Does he drink enough milk? I mean, none of that junk food that Thomas fed him today had any nutritional value."

Makishima rolled his eyes, "You are too fussy. Sakamichi eats fine. He has his days, but he's getting better at it. Don't worry, I'll tell you if something happens." His brother nodded, and reached for his tea. Unfortunately, he spilled it slightly when Onoda came crashing into the dining room, and dived into his uncle's lap, giggling like mad.

"What! What's wrong, Sakamichi!?"

"Monster is coming!"

"What!? Monster!?" He whipped his head to the screen doors to find Thomas crawling in on all fours, half his face and torso wrapped in Makishima rainbow colored three meter scarf. "I'm the scary scarf monster! Where did that boy hide!?"

Onoda hid his head in his uncle's tawny jacket, the cloth muffling his laughter. Makishima watched, a grin growing on his face as his brother's eyebrow lifted slightly. "Sakamichi, do you need help defeating the scary scarf monster?"

Onoda looked up, and he nodded, smiling brightly, but then he stopped, and shook his head. "No? You don't need help?"

Onoda raised his arms, waving eagerly, "Let's make scary scarf monster a friend!"

A soft fond smile blossomed on the man's face and he nodded. "Okay," His tone turned serious, "but this is very dangerous, Sakamichi. Are you ready!?"

Onoda also nodded, eyes intense, "Yes, Uncle!"

"Alright, let's sneak up from behind and take off the source of his power, the scarf."

Makishima wiped the table, his eyes on the drama unfolding. Thomas was playing the part of villain very well, shuffling in the corner and making the occasionally snort or growl. He made a couple of jerky movement that made Onoda squeak and hide behind his uncle, stifling his giggles. Finally, they were close enough that they could almost touch him.

Makishima drank from his tea calmly as his brother tackled Thomas, and Thomas reared up trying to wiggle himself out of his grasp, "Sakamichi, grab the scarf!"

Onoda responded to the command and dived in, grabbing the edge of the loose yarn, running around Thomas, unwrapping it recklessly from the so called monster's body. It made Makishima wince as the scarf's fabric was stretched and pulled.

Thomas made a big dramatic display of getting dizzy, and dropping to the floor when he was released from the evil scarf's clutches, his blonde hair in wild strands around his head.

Onoda jumped up and down, "We did it! We did it, Uncle!" He exclaimed, the scarf now half wrapped around his small frame instead.

"We sure did, Sakamichi!" He accepted the boy's hug, and then raised his hand in a happy high five.

Thomas jumped up, "You saved me, Sakamichi! You and your horse saved me! Thank you! Let's dance to celebrate."

Makishima snorted at the obvious poke of fun directed to his brother. He hadn't missed it either judging from the exasperated look on his face.

Makishima stood up, waited for Thomas' and Onoda's victory to subside, before he picked up his son, unwrapping the now ragged scarf from him. "Okay, it's naptime, Mister."

Onoda pouted, and Thomas let out a loud "Awwwwww!", but Makishima was not having any of that. His son had been playing with his uncles all morning, and he was definitely tired, even if he didn't want to admit it.

Makishima headed up to Onoda's room, but was stopped by his brother, "I'll take him." He volunteered, stretching his arms out to take Onoda. Before Makishima had processed the request, or rather, demand, Onoda had leaned out of his arm and was being carried by his brother up the stairs. Makishima felt a mixture of jealousy and pride. Jealousy because it was his son, and usually he had a naptime routine that his brother had uncaringly interrupted, but pride because it was his brother, who had fought tooth and nail against Onoda's adoption, that had volunteered to see the child to sleep.

It was definitely a welcomed change.

"You better watch it. He might start coming everyday to play mom." Thomas said from his sprawled position on the floor. Makishima maneuvered his way around him, and sat back down on the floor, picking up his tea.

"I'm serious. I caught him watching that princess cartoon the other day, claiming that he wanted to catch up with this season so he could find out what was influencing Sakamichi. What kinda idiot does that?" He sat up, and laid his head down on the table, looking at Makishima.

Makishima grinned lazily, "I don't know. You're the one dating him."

Thomas snorted, "Yeah, against my better judgment and speaking of dating.."

Makishima groaned, "Don't even..."

"Who is she? Or he? Or whatever. I don't know what you are actually."

"It doesn't matter what I am because I'm not dating anyone. It was just a team meet."

"Oh?" He raised a blonde eyebrow, "And is there anyone special on this team?"

Makishima ignored him, focusing on rearranging the teacup around the teapot.

"I knew it! I saw your hair all fresh and done up! You fixed yourself up for someone!" He stood up and posed triumphantly. "Who is he!? We have to approve of him."

"If I was dating someone, I wouldn't need your approval." Makishima responded defiantly.

"Oh hell, I don't give two cents about who you go out with, but if this turn serious then we need to know. Not just anyone is worthy of being family with my nephew."

Makishima didn't know whether to feel offended or grateful for the declaration. It was nice to know that his family was so protective of Onoda, but at the same time…

"Well, Sakamichi has you as an uncle, so I don't think we could stoop any lower."

Thomas' face turned to a mixture of a scowl and half a smile, "Holy shit, Maki, I'm impressed. Way to throw a guy under a bus, but you have to admit I am the best damn uncle in this world."

Makishima waved a hand, "Yeah, yeah, spoiling him to death is not equivalent to best."

Thomas dropped down to the floor again, "Hey, I'm just doing my job. By the time he hits high school, he'll be the ultimate ladies man. I'll teach him the ways."

Makishima looked at him, "Thomas, you're gay. Did you forget?"

"Doesn't mean I don't know what the ladies want."

"I think I'll move out of Japan to avoid you." Makishima replied easily, and started to gather the tea set.

Thomas smiled, "You suck. Anyways, what time should we come by next week?"

Makishima walked over to the kitchen, answering over his shoulder, "Probably around seven."

Thomas groaned, "Hell, who has a date at seven in the morning?"

Makishima called back, his tone exasperated, "It's not a date!"

"The lad doth protest too much, methinks." Thomas said, his voice teasing.

Makishima leaned around the doorway throwing a wet tea towel at the annoying man's face.

"Hey!"

"Anyway, thanks for helping out." Makishima called out from the kitchen as he washed the teacups. "This would be hard without you guys."

"Yeah, yeah. It's easy. Sakamichi is the best kid ever. I really thought that guy wouldn't warm up to him, but look at him now. He's almost as bad as you." Makishima assumed that he was talking about his brother when he said 'that guy.'

Makishima walked back into the dining room, and sat on a floor cushion, "What does that mean?"

Thomas picked his head up from the table and played with the tea towel, "Man, you are such a mom. I bet that you read the latest parent magazines and do you have your gravure collection in the safe or something? 'Cause I could see you doing that."

Makishima actually blushed, remembering that Thomas had once found his grand collection of Gravure. He would die before he would let Onoda find those. "They're… out of reach. Don't worry."

"Yeah. Good because it would be awkward to have to explain your interests to a six year old."

Makishima rolled his eyes, and then looked up to see his brother coming down the stairs.

He sat down next to Thomas, who beamed at him.

"Sakamichi is asleep." He said, "He told me your routine, by the way. So don't worry about that. "

Makishima nodded, "Thanks, I guess."

"You don't mind, do you?"

Makishima paused, looking at how pleased, how inexplicably happy his brother looked. A lot had changed for him since he made his relationship with Thomas public and stopped caring so much about what others thought of him. He smiled more often, and laughed easily. Onoda had helped too, showing him how joy really made the world a better place.

He smiled gently, "No. Not at all."

His brother looked sheepish for a moment, before Thomas spoke up, "So, Maki here wants us to come at seven in the freakin' morning next Saturday. Please tell him to not date men who are morning people. Trust me, they are not fun. I know from experience."

His brother looked confused, offended and surprised, "What? Dating, Yuusuke? And what do you mean not fun? I make breakfast for you and sometimes bring it to you in bed! How is that not fun?"

Thomas grinned at him, looking years younger, "Oh, it's fun. Just not at six a.m.! Sheesh! Sometimes you should just stay to cuddle, you know."

His brother turned bright red, the flush reaching all the way up to his ears.

Makishima rolled his eyes again. This particular couple made him do that quite often.

His brother coughed awkwardly, before turning his attention back to his previous question. "So, uh…are you dating? Someone I… I mean, someone we know?"

Makishima glared at Thomas, who was looking very nonchalant, "No. It's not a date. We're training for a race in three months. The other climber and me are… working on our rhythm."

"Oh, another climber? Is that why you fixed your hair? " His brother asked, also nonchalantly, as if picking up clues from his boyfriend, but he was looking smug.

Makishima sighed, exasperated. "No. I needed to get it done, all right? Now, are you two ready to go? You're a bad influence on Sakamichi."

They both looked indignant, but his brother nodded, "Yeah, we'll be taking off now. We have to do some shopping."

Thomas stood up, and reached over and picked up the ragged scarf off the floor, rolling it into a ball, "Yo…Sorry about this. When I saw it in your closet, I knew it would make a great prop. That thing is freakishly huge."

Makishima reached over and plucked the scarf from his hands, "Yeah. I got it and don't just go through my closet."

Thomas stretched out his arms and walked to the front door closely followed by the other two men. They quickly put on their shoes and coats, ready to head out the door.

"Hey, so, question for you."

Makishima glanced at Thomas, "Yeah?"

"Since you're going to be gone awhile next Saturday, I was thinking we might head to Tokyo. Show Onoda some stuff there."

Makishima frowned slightly, "Yeah, sounds fine."

Thomas and his brother glanced at each other triumphantly, and Makishima wondered at the exchange. "Okay." His brother started, "I guess we'll see you Monday and tell Sakamichi bye for us."

Makishima nodded, and watched them get into their car, drive down the steep hill and out of sight. He sighed, weary and tired, and headed back into the house, thinking that he might want a nap too.

Makishima realized that he made a grave mistake.

When he had allowed his brother to take his son to Tokyo, he did not expect them to take his son to Akihabara. Makishima himself had only visited the place once, and that had been exhausting.

He regretted everything right now.

"And, Mama, they had huge stuff all over the place! I saw a real Hime! She gave me a kissy! I really love Hime alot! Uncle Tommy said that I can buy Hime stuff! He got me this and this…" Onoda was taking out merchandise out of his ears it seemed. Shirt, books, DVDs, and a cute pink hat that Makishima was almost 100% sure was meant for a girl.

"Uh…" Makishima started, clearly helpless. "That's great, Sakamichi… So…you had fun?"

Onoda nodded furiously, and went back to all the stuff piled on his lap. Makishima glanced up at Thomas who was preening like a mother duck, and to his brother, who was reading one of Onoda's comic books with a rather intense frown.

Makishima nodded his head to the kitchen to Thomas, who looked confused, but nodded.

"Hey, Sakamichi, can you put all this stuff in your room? I need to talk to your uncles."

Onoda looked up at them, still buzzing with enthusiasm, and nodded, "'Kay, Mama!" He started to stuff things back into the large shopping bags, and Makishima ushered the men into his kitchen.

"Akihabara!? Really?" Makishima hissed quietly.

His brother looked guilty, but Thomas was the opposite. He unzipped his jacket showing off the bright pink shirt he was wearing, "What? Sakamichi really likes this cartoon. I thought he would like more stuff about it." He said, pulling out the shirt slightly to look at it, "You should've seen him though. He was like a little tornado. He was crazy in a couple of those stores. Seriously. But we made sure he didn't see anything bad or scarring." He glanced at his boyfriend, who was scratching his face awkwardly, "This guy was as paranoid as ever, but Saka was sure a hit with some cosplay ladies though. Some kissing went down for sure."

Makishima rubbed his head, "That's not the problem. I wanted to take him there when he was older. Certainly not at six years old! What if he wants to go back?"

Thomas waved a hand, "Oh, yeah, I told him I could take him back anytime. He seemed really excited. Hey! We should go to karaoke sometime too, because Sakamichi has the cutest voice ever."

Makishima rubbed his forehead, exasperated. "Let's just not take him back there. Not for awhile. Alright?"

They both nodded briefly before Onoda came running into the kitchen, "Mama! Uncle Maki! Uncle Tommy! Look! Look!" He was wearing the same shirt and the pink hat. Thomas dropped to his knees, "Ah! Sakamichi! We're twins! We are twins! We match shirts."

Onoda jumped up and down! "Yeah, yeah! We should buy Uncle Maki and Mama Hime shirts too!" Thomas looked back at his boyfriend and Makishima with an evil grin, "I totally agree Saka-chan! Then we'll all be twins! Let's do it next week. How does that sound?"

Makishima groaned and wanted to strangle Thomas for doing exactly what he had just agreed not to do.

His brother laughed into his hand, and Makishima bumped him with his shoulder, "You're gonna have to wear one too, you know. There is no way your 'Tommy' will let you get away with not participating."

It was satisfying to see his face pale.

Onoda was cheering with Thomas, and then he asked, with the biggest pleading eyes and in the sweetest voice, if they could sit down and watch Love Hime together.

His brother reached down and picked up Onoda, flicking his hat gently and walking to the family room, "Yeah, I need to find out what happens to Kotori in summer camp. I hope she's able to get closer with Arimaru-kun."

Makishima and Thomas shared a surprised look, before following him, identical smiles wide on their faces.


Day 217

He got the call a little after midnight.

It was like a strike of lightning.

"Yuusuke-san! It's Mako! Sakamichi is terribly sick. I had to take him to the hospital!"

The world stopped on its axis, and despair gripped his heart so hard that it might've stopped.

"What? WHAT!? Why!? What happened? Is he okay!?" His voice rose into desperate notes.

"I found a rash. All of sudden he got a fever and then he started throwing up. It just- It just happened so fast. I'm sorry! I'm… I think… I'm sorry! He started throwing up and I knew I had to take him to the hospital."

Makishima scrambled out of the bed, tripping on the sheets, and dropping the phone. He cursed loudly, angry.

He picked up the phone again, "Which...which hospital? Do you know what's wrong? Is he okay, Mako? Mako, did you do some-…"

"No! I didn't! It's an infection of some sort. I swear, I didn't do anything wrong. We don't know what it is yet. I called your parents because you weren't picking up. They're heading here now. Are you…Are you coming?"

Of course he was coming, "Y-Yes. I'm heading there now."

Makishima clicked the phone closed and rushed out of his hotel room. He pounded on his brother's room next door, not stopping until Thomas opened, looking panicked. "What is it? What's wrong, Maki?"

"Sakamichi! Something's wrong! He-"

His brother came to the door, his frown heavy on his face, "What?"

"Sakamichi, he-"

It was sinking in. The fact that his precious little boy was in a hospital, sick of something, and Makishima was a sea away from him. His heart was in his throat, and wanted to both get on a plane out of Korea and crumple in a ball and cry.

His brother clutched the door frame, his eyes wide for a moment, "My god. What is it? Yuusuke, what happened?"

"I don't know!" He said desperately, and felt his knees weak with despair. "I need to go, though."

His brother nodded, "Of course. We can get a flight home. Let's go."

Thomas eyes were watering and he bit his lip, "I'll stay and run the show, but please, please keep me updated. I'll head down as soon as it's over." He pulled Makishima in a tight hug, "I'm so sorry, Maki…" He whispered, "I'm so sorry."

He stepped away, and turned to hug his boyfriend. Makishima's brother kissed him lightly on the forehead before grabbing his shoes and jacket, still clad in his pajamas. "Thomas can bring our stuff later. Let's get to the airport."

Makishima ran into his room and grabbed his shoes. He stumbled in and looked for his wallet and passport, but his eyes were so wet that he couldn't see anything. He called out to his brother, leaning over the bed. He came in and ruffled with some stuff on his desk before gently helping him out the door. "Yuusuke…" His name sounded so pained, and Makishima looked up at him. "Sakamichi is going to be fine. He's…He's strong. He'll be-"

Makishima said nothing, as they left the hotel.

The trip back to Chiba was much too long for Makishima's heart. It was a two hour flight and the moment they landed, Makishima called Mako. She didn't answer the first two calls, and by the time she did, Makishima was furious and desperate, anguish and worry in every bone in his body.
"Mako, goddamnit, why didn't you- how is Sakamichi?"

Mako babbled for a moment, then there was static, and a calmer voice came on the line. "Yuusuke?"

"Dad!? What's going on? Please, tell me he's okay, please."

"Where are you? Are you in to-" His father sounded too calm, and too put together. Makishima hated it, "I'm here. Tell me! How is my son?"

His father sighed, "He's alive. He has scarlet fever. That's not the issue though. Sakamichi has pneumonia. The infection attacked his system so rapidly. You need to get here now, do you understand me?"

Makishima felt the air in his lungs give out. Yesterday afternoon, before he had left for the showing in Korea, Onoda had complained about a sore throat, but Makishima was too busy preparing for his first overseas show that he had dismissed it. What the hell was wrong with him? This was happening because he hadn't payed attention to his very reason for living; his beautiful, joyful child. This was his fault. His fault. He didn't deserve to call himself a father.

"Yuusuke, listen to me. You need to get here now. Get in the car and get here now."

He dropped the phone, nodding to no one in the airport lobby. His brother clasped his shoulder, "Yuusuke! Sit down. You look pale. Sit…Sit down."

Makishima found himself on the lobby chair, and he distinctly heard his brother talking on the phone he had dropped on the floor.

"Yuusuke, I'm getting a taxi. We're heading to the hospital."

Makishima nodded. Yes the hospital, where Onoda was in pain and in danger because he had been blinded by his success to heed his son's warning. He felt like shit, which was an accurate description of himself because that's what he was.

Wicked thoughts started spiraling endlessly in his mind, like heavy rusted chains attaching themselves to his very heart, drowning him in self hate.

He hated himself.

His brother came back to him, touching his shoulder lightly, carefully as if he would break if handled too roughly. It was close to being true. "Come on. Let's go."

He steeled himself, anger fueling his actions, bitterness making his teeth clench.

His parents were there when they finally arrived, faces showing worry, and Mako, whose face was red, tears streaking down her cheeks. Makishima was so angry at her, and he knew he had no right, he knew that this was not her fault, but he wanted to lash out at her. He instead ignored her presence.

His father's face was unusually calm and Makishima hated that too. He didn't react to his mother's quiet encouraging murmur, even if he desperately needed to be supported. He was shutting down.

"How is he?"

His voice sounded so strange in his own ears, hollow, and void of any of his normal pitch.

His father glanced between his two sons before forcefully making Makishima sit down. He reacted badly, "Tell me." He seethed, dark rage in every punctuated word, violently flicking the hands away. "Now! Tell me now!"

His father's face tightened, but his eyes were soft and sad.

"We don't know, Yuusuke. He… His lungs are…."

"What! I can handle it! Just fucking tell me already!"

His father's jaw tightened more, and his mother came up and spoke in that low warning tone that he was trained to listen to.

Her eyes were misty, but she spoke clear without a tremble.

"He is not doing good, Yuusuke. His immune system isn't fighting the infection fast enough. The antibiotics that they are putting into his system is both for the fever and the pneumonia. The doctor told us…" She hesitated for just a moment, blinking away the tears that were filling her eyes "That Sakamichi has to fight… in these next few hours. If he can… If he can… If he can survive in these next few hours, he'll live. He'll be….fine."

She didn't press on, didn't say the 'if not…'

Even so, to Makishima it was a blow too heavy, her words stabbing right into his soul. Pain exploded in his core, mixed with hate, anger, bitterness, and a sinking helplessness.

"Fuck." He said, clenching his fist so tight that he felt his fingernails bite into the flesh of his palm, and he welcomed the stinging pain, "This isn't happening. Not to us..."

Onoda couldn't…He couldn't… It was not fair that Sakamichi would come into his life like this, give him all this and then…then...

No. It wasn't happening. This was not happening. This was just a stress dream. He would wake up soon. He would get up out of bed and trudge half asleep over to Onoda's room. Onoda would be awake, just laying in his bed waiting for Makishima to come get him. He would exclaim, so proudly, so excitedly that he didn't have an accident that night and jump up with excitement. He would laugh at Makishima's bedhead like he always did. He would run around his room, full of energy, excited about the new day, happy he was alive. Alive.

That's what this was. A dream, no, a nightmare. That's what this was. It had to be. His son could not…he couldn't…

No, he would wake up soon and take this dream as a warning. Don't ignore anything your son says; he is all that matters, he is all you care about.

Makishima waited, staring hard at the clean white tiles of the floor, obviously a hospital floor. He waited for those floors to disappear, but they didn't go away, because this was not a nightmare. This was real and his son was dying.

Dying.

And it was his fault.

He suddenly couldn't breathe and he distantly heard his family trying to talk to him, but he didn't care. His mother suddenly squeezed his arm and told him that the doctor was coming, and Makishima turned dry eyes to see him.

The doctor's youth was stolen by the heavy worry lines on his forehead, "Are you the guardian of Makishima Sakamichi?"

Makishima nodded his head tensely, unable to speak, because if he opened his mouth he would only scream.

"As was explained to the grandparents of the child, Sakamichi is in a grave scarlet fever is not an infection that is particularly dangerous, this strain is extremely strong. The infection attacked his immune system fiercely, and as we brought him in to check his condition, we realized that the pneumonia had already set in. We are inducing the antibiotics into his system for both the scarlatina infection and the pneumonia. Unfortunately, the inflammation of his larynx and tonsil is giving him some difficulty breathing. We went ahead and proceeded with non-invasive ventilation to restore his oxygen level, but I do need your permission," He paused and glanced around to the tense faces watching him, before returning to Makishima's, "If Sakamichi's state worsens, we need an all clear from you, the guardian, to put him on life support, induce coma or restart his heart if it would come to that."

Makishima just nodded again, understanding, but not truly grasping what he was saying. "Y-Yes. Save him, Just… Just save him."

The doctor nodded and turned, but Makishima reached out and grabbed his white coat, "Wait! Let me see him! I need to see him." The doctor was shaking his head, "No, the patient is very weak at the moment. It wouldn't be a good ide-"

Makishima yanked the man closer, and hissed at him, "Now! I need to see him NOW!"

The doctor grit his teeth and glanced over the Makishima family, who were quietly watching. "Alright, but only you Makishima-san and only for a few minutes. We need the room clear in case anything happens."

Makishima released him and then followed him down the hall.

Makishima took a deep breath and then entered the room that the doctor had disappeared through.

Onoda wa laying there. His son looked so small and weak, so fragile in the large bed. Makishima carefully walked over and kneeled by it, as if praying. The doctor had a nurse come in and check his pulse, and then take some reading of those cursed machines showing how slow Onoda's heart really was beating.

There was a rasp, an inhale of breath, and then:

"Ma-ma?" was said, weakly, almost inaudibly.

His eyes were mostly closed, squinting at him as if the light was blinding him. Makishima reached forward and clung to his hand, and then swallowed hard because Onoda's hand was cold and moist with sweat, "Y-Y-Yeah, I'm here, Sakamichi, I-I'm here."

His eyes fluttered closed, his lips under the mask tinged blue, he murmured something, and Makishima leaned over to him to hear it, "Hu-hurts, Mama. Hurts..." Tears were gathered at the corner of his eyes, hanging cruelly on his eyelashes.

Makishima inhaled shakily, and tried to take the despair from his face. He would do anything, anything to stop the pain, to trade places with him. "I know, Sakamichi, I-Do-don't talk, Sakamichi, do-don't ta-" He couldn't even speak, the words so hard to push out. Onoda was so weak that the hand in Makishima's hold only twitched in response, his pinky curling around Makishima's and he held onto that fact, focused on it.

Onoda whimpered, a sound of pain, and Makishima was so angry at everything, at the hospital, at the infection invading his son's body, and most of all, at himself for being so goddamn useless.

"I'm here. I'm here. I'm here. I'm here..." He kept saying, whispering, praying it. He would do anything to stop this.

"Ma-" The name was cut short when a violent cough erupted from him, and the mask was coated with breath and saliva. His eyes shot open and Makishima could see the pain and suffering there. He could see that his beautiful, wonderful, joyful son was begging for it to stop, begging for Makishima to help him.

The eyes closed and Onoda coughed again, harder than the first time, and something in the room started beeping. He glanced down at the hand in his and lost his breath at the blue fingernails.

He was slipping.

"Help!" He shouted standing up and taking a step back, but not letting go of his hold on Onoda's hand, "Someone! Godda- SOMEONE COME HERE NOW!"

A nurse came rushing in and Makishima glared at her. She checked the machine that was beeping and gasped, dropping her clipboard with a clatter, and Makishima's heart sank. She ran out of the room yelling some sort of code.

Makishima was breathing so hard, it was as if he couldn't catch his breath, like he didn't have lungs, the pain making his entire body hurt.

He leaned over Onoda again, and gripped the hand hard in his palm, "Sakamichi, I- I-"

The doctor rushed in with three nurses in tow and he also checked the machine, and yelled out quick authoritative words to the nurse who suddenly sprang into action.

Makishima was blinking his dry eyes, not understanding why they were so dry when he was in so much pain, "Sakamichi, I love you, I love- Please don't…" Onoda opened his eyes wide and he stared at Makishima, those blues so deep and full, tears streaking down, "Promise ME! Promise me you'll be fine! Pro-" He was pushed away, and his grip on his son's hand loosened, and Makishima growled out a curse, "No! I'm not leav-" He turned to look at his son again, "Promise me you won't die, Sakamichi! Pro-" It was such a selfish request, but it was the only thing that could keep him hanging on. Onoda held on to his promises like a life line. Makishima was well aware that he was not strong enough to let go, to recovery from this sort of loss, that he couldn't be like Onoda and ever be happy after watching his boy's smile fade. Someone was shoving him back, and he ripped himself from their grasp and leaned over the bed where the doctor was taking off the mask. Sakamichi was panting, his hair wet with sweat, his eyes screwed tight with pain, lips blue, so blue now, tears now falling so heavily down. "Promise me. Please, please…"

Onoda opened his eyes, and they looked so bright, a flash of steel, a sudden burst of willpower, but as soon as it came it went, the light fading fast. Then he nodded, so slightly, so miniscule, that if Makishima wasn't hovering right there he would have missed it. He felt the tension drain right out of him and he wilted. He let the hands push him back and out of the room. He promised. He promised and Makishima held onto it tight. The door closed in his face and he just stood there, staring wide eyed into the door's deep ugly brown, his eyes still so dry. Why wasn't he crying? Was he a monster?

He felt a hand on his shoulder and tensed, his whole figure seizing up as if electrocuted.

He whirled around and punch into whoever was there. It was his brother, whose eyes were so red and wide, tears stained into his face, "YOU! This is your fault! If we hadn't gone to Korea, I would have been here! I would have-" He didn't know what, but if he hadn't left, this might not of happened, "It's your fault!" He was smacking desperately against his brother's chest and he did nothing, just stood there, blinking away his tears.

Makishima knew it wasn't his fault, knew that even if he was here, that this would have happened. He knew that his son dying was no one's blame, but his own stupid, unintentional overlook.

If his son died, it was because he wasn't good enough to keep him.

He finally crumpled to the ground and someone, he didn't know who, hugged him, and he felt another pair of hands grab him, and then he was so warm and covered. There were murmurs soft and quiet in his ear, his mother encouraging him, 'Be strong. He'll fight. He'll fight. My grandson will fight.' His brother's clutching arms and heady scent of his father's cologne surrounded him.

They sat there, and finally he felt the tears gather in his eyes, and fall, drip down his face, and the dam broke inside of him. He clutched onto anything he could find and wept. He wept bitterly and without shame.

'I don't want to lose him. I don't want to lose him.' He kept repeating over and over again, and the warmth tightened on him.

It felt like hours, but it must've have been mere minutes, before he was picked up off the floor and taken to a bench in the hallway. They were all touching him; his father's hand on his shoulder, his brother's leg pressed against him, and his mother's hand clutching his. It was more contact than they had had in years, and it was so comforting now, so sacred.

They waited and waited, and time seemed to slow to a stop. His thoughts were so fierce and evil, and every time the choking fear made him gasp, his mother gripped his hand and his father tightened his hold on his shoulder. No one said anything, as they sat there, and waited for the answer to their question.

Finally, finally, the door opened and the doctor came out with his brow wet with perspiration and his eyes tight. Makishima yanked himself from his family and stepped forward, asking without saying anything.

"Your son has a very stubborn heart. We lost him for a moment, but he came back. He passed through. He is out of the danger zone. He'll make it. He made it."

Makishima nodded slowly and his knees gave out. He sank to the the floor, this time not from despair, but from relief. He made it. He made it.

And despite the tears streaking down his face, he smiled because Sakamichi always kept his promises.


Onoda is under for the rest of the day. Makishima stayed in the room, sitting listless in the chair. He hadn't eaten or slept a wink, and he didn't plan to until his brother forcefully pushed a cup of hot steaming ramen into his hands and sat down with him, "You need to eat and rest."

Makishima deflated slightly, "I- I know. I just…"

His brother nodded, "I know. I'll sit here and wake you up if anything happens. I promise."

Makishima sighed and then dipped his chopsticks into the cup, eating quickly even though he hadn't realized he was this hungry.

"I'm sorry."

Makishima glanced up at him, but he can't speak because his mouth is full of noodles.

His brother was looking awkwardly at the hospital bed. "I love Sakamichi, too. I was so angry at myself for taking you away from him. I was-" He coughed oddly into his hand, and quickly looked up to make sure Sakamichi hadn't wakened from the sound. He hadn't, of course. He turned back to Makishima, "You know...If he needed anything, like a kidney or heart or new lungs or whatever, I would give it to him. You know that, right? I really love Sakamichi."

Makishima swallowed the hot food in his mouth, and his body burned at the feel of it going down his throat, but the warmth in his belly isn't from the soup. It was from his brother's words. "Yeah…." He started slowly, a typical awkward Makishima reaction, "I know. I-I'm glad. It's good to...uh know that. I'm glad." And he really is. He knew that Onoda was now more than just Yuusuke's adopted son, more than the kid that Yuusuke felt pity for and took in. Onoda was more to all of them. He is a piece of the puzzle that they hadn't even known was missing, until it was here, and now that they had found it, it was a vital part of their life. Tonight was proof of how much Onoda meant to not only him, but to his parents, his brother, and even Thomas across the sea.

He was family.

His brother looked pensive for a moment then he coughed again, trying to clear his throat. "Um I know I never tell you… but Sakamichi makes me want to say it. So…"

He reached out and clasped Makishima's shoulder, "Uh… I feel that way about you too. Just so you know. I would do the same for you. So… yeah. Uh…. I love you."

It was awkward and quiet but sweet, and Makishima found himself embarrassed by his brother's shy affectionate declaration. Of course he loved his brother. He loved his sister and his parents, but they never said it out loud and it was so strange that his brother, the most uptight of them all, was the one to say it first. It was so strange, in fact, that Makishima started to laugh. It shot out of his mouth and his brother looked so appalled. "Hey! I'm pouring my heart out here!"

Makishima snorted rudely, "I know. You have got to be the most awkward person ever. How does Thomas put up with you?"

His brother stretched out his legs, looking less awkward at the mention of his lover, "He's American. He doesn't really have a problem saying things like that."

Makishima smirked, but the warm sensation filled him up, much like the way that Onoda's words did. It was so good to know that his son's love had taught this grumpy, moody man to say things like this. "I feel the same too. I do." He said, also turning a dusty red because it was still embarrassing, but he should also say it. "I love you too."

His brother scratched his face, eyes averted, but an incriminating flush covered his ears and he muttered something. "Kay, well now that that's all cleared up, uh, you should eat and sleep. I'll stay here and wake you up if anything happens."

Makishima wanted to protest, b

ut his now warm full stomach and the sense of trust was making his mind heavy. He really didn't think he needed sleep, but he doesn't want to be tired for when Onoda wakes up. He laid down, having to bend with the limited space on the bench, but his eyes were tired. More tired than what he had thought, and after a couple of long uncomfortable minutes, he fell into sleep.

When he woke up, he can't tell if its been hours or minutes. His brother was reading a catalog in the chair beside him, and he stretched out his long sore limbs, about to ask how long he'd been out when he spotted a woman at Sakamichi's bedside, He automatically thought it was a nurse, so he catapulted out of bed and staggered over to her, still slightly groggy.

"Hey," He croaked out, "Hey, what's wrong? What's going on?" Makishima started, just a little worried. He looked down at his son, still heavily medicated, and felt tears well up. He blinked them away because there was no reason to cry. Onoda is just fine. Just sleeping. He wasn't going anywhere.

The woman turned, a wide pale face, and honey chestnut hair. She looked surprised, but it was quickly taken over with a pleasant smile, "Oh! I'm not a nurse. I didn't mean to intrude. I just wanted to know how he was. I saw him in the emergency room and I was so worried because he looked terrible. His nanny was so distressed. I'm so glad he's alright." The mention of Mako made Makishima feel slightly guilty at how he had treated his friend. Mako had done everything right and it was because of her quick action that had saved Onoda. He should thank her soon. He owed everything to her.

But, it was odd that this stranger is here and that she inquired about his son's health. "Oh." Makishima said, "That's… kind of you to care."

The woman nodded, "I know it's a little weird for me to be checking up on him. It's just I have a son his age. When I saw this boy, I was reminded of my own son." She looked down at Onoda, her hand gently folded over the boy's small one, "I can't be the greatest mother because I'm sick so often, but I can't imagine how hard it would be if I had to see my son like this. I'm so glad he is okay." She shook her head and changed her topic, "Is this your son?"

Makishima nodded, moving over to place a thin hand on Onoda's forehead. He feels warm and alive, and it was so good to feel that, "Yeah. His name is Sakamichi."

The woman patted the hand she was covering lightly. "He seems like a wonderful boy. You know, he was in pain and sick when he came into the emergency room, but when he saw me looking at him, he smiled so brightly as if he didn't want me to worry. That was just like my son. Akira is always thinking of me. We are very fortunate to have children, aren't we?"

Makishima nodded again, still a little off kilter with interacting with the strange woman. She seemed airy and light, giving off the same sort of vibe that Onoda gave off in her sunny smile. She stepped away from the bed, and bowed to Makishima. "Thank you for allowing me to visit. I hope perhaps one day our children can meet and become great friends."

She smiled that blinding smile and, after glancing at Onoda, she walked out the door.

"She asked if she could visit. I didn't see a problem with it. I hope you didn't mind." His brother spoke up from his chair, standing up to join Makishima at the bedside.

"No. It was weird, but she was nice, I guess." Makishima responded, and lightly reached over to grab the hand that she had held, "I guess Sakamichi just draws people in."

His brother nodded in agreement and they stood there watching Onoda sleep. His brother told him that their parents went back home, but they would be back this afternoon to visit. He also told him that their sister is coming as soon as the weekend hits.

"I'm going to get a soda. I'll be right back." His brother said and turned to the door.

Makishima called out after him, "Hey, you don't have to stay. You can go sleep and stuff. I'm okay now."

His brother actually looked offended, "I'm here cause I want to be. I mean Sakamichi can't take care of you right now so I guess I have to do it." He gave him that cocky half grin, and Makishima scowled at it, "I don't need you to take care of me." Makishima replied tersely. He said it, but he didn't know how he would be if his family hadn't been there for him last night. He did need them to care for him.

His brother rolled his eyes, looking like an annoying older brother for a moment, before simply replying, "I'm staying. Kick me out by force if you want me to go home." He didn't wait for Makishima's no doubt cheeky response and left out the door.

Makishima settled back down, turning his gaze back to his son. He looked asleep, despite the tube in his nose and the IV in his arms. The doctors told him that they had to perform invasive ventilation and that he was going to be medicated for awhile. Onoda's immune system had picked up steam and started to fight the pneumonia fiercely. The scarlet fever had started relenting after that. Both were fairly common, and rarely lethal, but together they had given everyone quite a scare.

Makishima gripped the small fingers in his hand and his chest felt tight. It came, all of a sudden, that Onoda had almost died last night, almost left him. It hadn't even been a year and already his son had been at death's door. What could he have done to prevent it? Could he have done anything? He had to take better care of Onoda's immune system, fill him with vegetable and proteins and vitamins, constantly keep his hands clean, and keep him away from sick people. Onoda was only six, and here he was, in a hospital bed, and no matter who told him otherwise, it was his fault. Two mornings ago, Onoda had told him of his sore throat, that he was feeling "icky" but Makishima had been so busy, so stressed because of the Korea showing. To hell with the Korea showing. To hell with his career if it meant that this would happen again.

"Hey."

His brother came back into the room, closing the door quietly, "Hey, Yuusuke, there's someone here to see you?"

"What? Who?" Makishima looked at him and his brother grinned in response, "Go talk to 'em."

Makishima shook his head. "I should stay."

"It'll be okay if you step out for a moment. They're a loud person so you definitely don't want them in here. You need it. Just be outside the door. I'll stay."

He didn't even want to step away from the bed, but his brother was giving him that 'I know better so listen to me' look and Makishima sighed, "Who is it?"

"Your friend. The loud one."

Tadokoro? What was he doing here? How had he heard about this? "Alright. I'm just going to say hi. I'll be right back and call me immediately if anything happens, got it?"

"I will. Go. Take a break, Yuusuke."

Makishima shambled out the door, lingering for a moment before actually walking out and closing the door behind him. He looked around the hallway for the sizable hulk of Tadokoro, but he was quickly assaulted by something.

Something grabbed him around the waist with a loud cry.

"Sho!" Makishima exclaimed, and lifted his hands up to peer at who had him in a vice like grip. "Jinpachi!? What…What are you doing here? Why are you here?"

Toudou looked up and Makishima felt his breath catch at the unshed tears he found there. He looked devastated. "I heard!" He cried out, still hugging Makishima tightly, "Thomas called me last night and told me what happened. I had to come see you two. Your brother told me that Saka-chan is well just now and I was so relieved. I am really so glad, Maki-chan. I just- I wanted to come and… help you if I could. How-" He loosened his grip just slightly, "How are you?"

Makishima shifted in his grasp, but doesn't fight it. While he isn't really affectionate with people other than Onoda, the hug felt nice and it was also nice to know that Toudou was so worried for them. They had been friends/rivals/something-more-that-Makishima-still-didn't-really-understand-yet for almost a year now, and the warmth of Toudou's figure pressed up against him and his obvious unshed tears made his heart clench affectionately. Then he frowned, "Wait, Jinpachi, did you-" Toudou had moved to Hakone a month prior. Why was he here almost three hours North? "Did you come from Hakone!?"

Toudou took a step back, "Ah. Yes, Maki-chan. I did. I got the call from Thomas around 1:30 or so last night, and I took the earliest train here this morning. I just came from the station. I was so worried since I didn't hear anything from anyone for hours and of course I wasn't going to call you. I was worried, but, oh Maki-chan, I am truly, truly relieved that he is alright."

Makishima could see it; Toudou fretting like a nervous wreck waiting for the train to bring him here. What a strange man he was. "You didn't have to come, Jinpachi. You could've just called." Toudou reached out to grab his hand, "But, Maki-chan, you need friends and support during this time! I simply had to come! Unless," He shrunk back a little, "Unless I am bothering you, Maki-chan. If that is the case, then I will promptly leave! I didn't mean to intru-"

"No. I-" His words caught in his throat as he interrupted the man, "I'm glad you came, Jinpachi. I guess I needed something like you." Toudou practically glowed under the words, and not for the first time in their friendship, Makishima wanted to hold him. He didn't give into the impulse, and he didn't have to though, because Toudou leaned forward and embraced him again, sniffling into Makishima's night shirt. "I was frightened for you. I am so glad that he is well."

Makishima didn't really return the hug, just letting his arms hang loosely at his side, but he did smile into the man's dark hair, thankful that he had met him that fateful day at the playground.

"Ah. Sorry, Yuusuke?"

The men jumped as the door behind them opened and the eldest Makishima poked his head out. Toudou pivoted away from him and wiped his face, "Oh! Ah, well, hello. How are you!?" His voice was a bit high. Makishima felt his own ears hot, but he turned to his brother whose face was smug, "Yeah? What is it? Saka-"

"He's awake, Yuusuke. Drowsy but awake."

Makishima took in a breath and quickly stepped into the room.

Big blue eyes looked over to him, and a tired smile beamed from his pale face, "Mama?"

Makishima was at his side in a second, grabbing his little hand, "Saka-" He breathed out, his voice wobbly from the emotion,"Sakamichi… Hi. Uh… I-" He had so much to say, but he couldn't get the words out. Oh how wonderful it felt to speak to him, to see his bright eyes looking at him. "I-" What could he say? That he was sorry? That he would be better, be more vigilant, and always listen to him? Could he promise never to let this happen again? That he loved him with all his heart and soul? He wanted to say all those things, but his heart was in his throat and tears were blinding his eyes.

Onoda blinked up at him, his smile still full despite how tired he looked. He was the first to speak, "Uh, hi. Mama…" He began weakly and hoarse, "Mama, I dreamed of you."

Makishima's emotions had him so wound up that he let out a quick desperate laugh at that. Of course Onoda would dream of him. It was so simple for him. Makishima leaned forward and lightly pressed his lips to Onoda's warm forehead, a quick kiss. The first one initiated by Makishima and Onoda's eyes were wide. "I-I love you, Sakamichi."

Onoda's beam brightened and his hand turned over to grab Makishima's. "I love you too, Mama. I love you more than anything ever."

Onoda had made it. He was alive and he would get well. Makishima was so thankful, so grateful for that gift. He had another chance and he would make sure that he did everything to make sure that Onoda lived a long happy life.


Day 271

Death was not something that Makishima was too familiar with. He was very young when his grandfather had died, many years ago, and while it was sad, he didn't truly feel affected by it.

Now, though, with the traumatic experience of Onoda being so close to the other world, death was suddenly so real and frightening.

He believed that Onoda knew death better than him in that sense. He didn't understand how Onoda could be happy at all when he had seen when his mother went, when Makishima himself knew that he would never be okay if Onoda died those months ago.

Which is why standing here before this grave meant so much more than it would have felt before.

Onoda's mother's grave was clean and swept. Onoda beaming happily in the hot summer heat. He looked so proud in his clothing, black and crisp. Makishima hated that particular color on him. It didn't suit him at all.

He was sweltering in the sun, but as uncomfortable as it was, he couldn't find himself wanting to leave.

He remembered the promise that he had made with her, that day when he had seen Onoda again after those months of separation. He couldn't imagine how hard it must've been for Onoda's mother to leave him in the orphanage to be taken care of. What would he do if he was in her shoes, struggling to make ends meet, knowing that either way, his son would suffer? To make a decision between his happiness and his well being? What was more important?

Onoda gently reached up and grabbed his hand, and Makishima looked down at him, being forced out of his thoughts by the soft touch.

"Mama?" He said, and Makishima was about to reply when he realized that Onoda was not looking at him, "I miss you a lot, Mama."

Makishima swallowed hard and blinked his eyes. The sun's glare was unforgiving, and it was causing tears.

"But, I 'member you telling me that I would be happy if I was a good boy and always smiling! I tried very, very hard! And Mama came! Just like you said."

Makishima closed his eyes, listening to Onoda as he spoke to the grave, to the memory of his mother.

"I really am happy! Super, super happy!"

Makishima clenched the hand in his grasp tightly, and it felt like it always had, warm and strong, soft and alive.

"I love you, Mama. I miss you too, but I'm happy. Thank you, Mama. You always keep promises, so I will too."

And then he tugged at their connected hands, and Makishima crouched down. He tried to brush away the slight wetness of his eyes. He had cried more in this last year than anytime in his entire lifetime.
"Yes?"

Onoda smiled, that wide grin full of sheer joy, "I love you too, Mama! I promise to be a good boy! Okay?"

Makishima caved to the rolling affection in him, and picked Onoda up quickly, and he giggled in response, "I know, Sakamichi. I love you too and I promise to always be there for you. I pro-" He choked as emotion caught the word in his throat, "I promise."

Onoda smiled, hugging him around the neck.

The moment passed and they decided to leave. Makishima put Onoda down, and they both faced the grave and bowed. Makishima, from the bottom of his heart, was thankful. He owed this woman everything.

They started back to the street, careful not to step on any graves down the narrow pathway of rocks. They stopped, though, when a man walked their way. He was clad in an expensive business suit and his dark hair shone in the hot heat of the sun.

His face, however, was grim and lined with weight, but there was something very familiar about him. He didn't smile when Makishima moved aside.

"Excuse me." He said, his voice a strong rumble.

Makishima nodded at him, making sure that Onoda was also out of the way. Onoda was smiling brightly, and the man paused and stared at him.

"Hi!" Onoda said, waving a hand as enthusiastic and polite as ever. The man just stared at him, and a moment passed before he looked up, "Is this your son?"

Makishima flinched by his abrupt tone, but quickly nodded, "Yes."

The man looked back down at Onoda, and Onoda looked up at him, his eyes so bright in the summer sun, a smile on his face despite the grim setting.

Another moment passed and Makishima felt like he was the intruder. "Uh… Excuse me." he said, gripping his son's hand a little more tightly. The man seemed to wake from his trance, and he started. "Yes. I apologize." He glanced briefly at Makishima, but his eyes were very distant. He nodded his head curtly, and his hand reached out and he patted Onoda's head, and looked surprised at his own action. Makishima could relate, remembering that he did something similar the day he had met his son. Something about Onoda made you want to reach out and touch his light.

But then again, this was a strange man and Makishima frowned at the hand.

The man stopped abruptly and pulled back his hand, lips a thin line, and he looked apologetically at Makishima. "You have a good son. You must be proud."

Makishima, taken by surprise by the compliment, simply nodded dumbly. "Y-Yeah, I am." He said. The man bowed stiffly and turned around and left, leaving the Makishimas with confused looks on their faces .

Makishima finally just shook his head and squeezed Onoda's hand before speaking to him, "You ready?"

Onoda nodded eagerly, skipping slightly in his enthusiasm.

They started off, but Makishima for some unknown reason, glanced back at the man. He saw him stop before the grave of Onoda's mother and bow.


They were sitting on the grass under the trees in their backyard just finishing lunch. There were still little clumps of rice scattered all over because Onoda could not sit still. His mood was entirely too happy for a day that he believed was supposed to be somber. Then again, he should probably follow Onoda's lead since it was his son who had lost someone before.

Makishima wondered about the man that had visited Onoda's mother's grave. Who was he? A relative? A brother? Some family member? An Onoda?

"Mama?"

Makishima glanced up from his thoughts as Onoda called him, "Yeah?"

Onoda came skipping up to him and sat down on the blanket spread out on the ground, "Why do people die?"

Makishima sputtered then his face tensed at the question. What to say to that? Makishima had not a clue on how to answer that. He didn't know why people died and that had never been mentioned in any of the books he had read.

"Saka-" He started going on again.

"I heard the pretty ladies at the hospital say I was really lucky 'cause I didn't die. I think I'm really, really lucky 'cause I have two mamas, but one mama died, so she wasn't lucky...right?"

Onoda's train of thought was so hard to comprehend sometimes, so innocent and good natured of the world that Makishima just wanted to protect that in him. As long as he lived, he wanted Onoda to keep that.

He blinked several times, and stared at the horizon, the hot sun blistering through the trees. It was getting too hot to stay out here, and Makishima wanted to use the excuse of leaving the backyard to shield himself from these questions because he was not ready.

But he stayed, and after a moment, he pulled Onoda into his arms, tucking him under his chin. His son was so warm and alive. Alive and that meant so much more to him now.

"I-" He began, staring hard at the sloping ground of the hill, overlooking the district. "I don't know why people die, Sakamichi."

It was sad, really, that he couldn't answer this question, that he couldn't do this. "Nothing lasts forever…" And it was true, nothing could last forever. He had felt the end of it all that night at the hospital, "But, I guess that makes everything seem so much more precious. We have to take advantage of every day…" He had no idea what he was talking about, but his heart knew what he meant. For some stupid reason, he had been under the illusion that death was something that happened to other people, that he was immune to it, untouched by it. Had Death chosen to remind him that it can come at anytime?

He wrapped his arms tight around the son and closed his eyes. Onoda shifted in his grasp, "So…" He said, his little voice soft, "like when Hime is on TV?"

Makishima's eyes popped open and he frowned, "What?" How had that come up?

Onoda squirmed and leaned back to look at Makishima, "Uh, when Hime is on the tv, I want to stay and not do anything else, but watch Hime because it is on for only a short time. If I go to the bathroom, I might miss something important so I have to pay attention."

The comparison was so vague and so simple that Makishima wanted to say no, that life was not liken to his favorite tv show, but Onoda looked so proud that he merely sighed and smiled jaggedly.

"I guess. This is our tv show, and there is an end, but it's not ending anytime soon. So, while we're here, let's make the most of it."

Onoda got that determined look on his face and nodded so hard that his chin bumped into his chest. That look triggered a memory of the man, how the man's eyebrows tightened into a V, much like Onoda's did when he got that flare of will power.

"Okay, Mama! I'll be really good!"

Makishima wanted to smile at the comment, but he felt hollow. Could that man be Onoda's father? And what of it? Did he know? Did he know that Onoda was his son when he laid eyes on him? Did Onoda know?

"Sakamichi, do you remember your father?" Makishima asked, and he frowned because even though he asked, he didn't want to know.

Onoda cocked his head, pursing his lips as he thought, "Ah, Mama told me that everyone has a papa, but I never seen him."

Makishima adverted his eyes, the question leaving him before he could think on it, "Do… Would you ever want to meet him?
Onoda shrugged, "I don't know…. Maybe, I think? All my friends have papas 'cept me."

Makishima clenched his teeth, feeling so guilty. Should he marry and find a suitable mother for Onoda?

Makishima couldn't help the grimace that crossed his face at that idea. No, things were fine like this, and he did not want to marry. He only wanted his son to be happy.

"Does that make you sad, Sakamichi? That you don't have two parents?"

Onoda shook his head, "Uh.. Last year I had no parents, and now I have Mama, so I'm happy."

He beamed up at Makishima, and tugged at the strands of hair, "I love you, Mama! Really, really!"

Makishima brought Onoda close again and squeezed him tight. He was so thankful for everything and it was a lesson that Makishima had to learn. "I love you too. Really, really."

They stayed like that until Onoda, being a little boy, started to fidget, and Makishima let him go. He stood up and peered over to the house, "Ah, Mama? What time is it?"

Makishima glanced at the turquoise watch on his wrist, "It's going to be elev-"

"Sho! Hime! Hime!" Onoda shouted and took off to the house, "Mama! Hime is on! I gotta- I gotta go!" He yelled, and after tripping not once, but twice, he ran into the house like a maniac.

Makishima sat there, so surprised, because his son had yelled out what he always said, and a bright flame burned in his chest because of it.

He stood up suddenly because Onoda yelled at him from the window, "Mama! Mama! Hime is on! I have to watch! We have to pay attention, 'member? Please, come!?"

Makishima snorted in laughter, amusement on his face because his son was so ridiculous as he went to the house.

No, they were not invincible, and no, their time on this earth was not infinite. That didn't matter. All that mattered was each and every moment. And from now until the end, he would appreciate every single one.


Day 365

Makishima sat on the bench in his backyard, shifting his legs slightly to accommodate himself more comfortably. The twinkling lights above were just like the ones in that March night, a little more than a year ago, when he had contemplated everything in his life.

Though the sky seemed the same, the man beneath them was vastly different.

Makishima Yuusuke was a father; now having the experience of an entire year under his belt. He felt very accomplished that he had not done too terribly. Onoda was happily in school, and while not excelling in his classes, he was not one to give in to the math menace.

Makishima had survived the most difficult time of his life; seeing his child in a hospital unable to do anything for him. His family had welcomed Onoda into the fold like he had always been there. When he asked, rhetorically that night, for purpose, and meaning, he hadn't known that this was the answer. He could have never guessed that his salvation was in the form of a small bright eyed child.

The sun was creeping over their hill, and the dawn of November 10, Day 365, began with a bright orange flare.

Makishima opened the thick notebook in his hands, and thumbed through the pages. They had gotten ragged and some of them were stained. Each day, he could see the emotions that Onoda influenced. 364 pages.

It was an idea that he had stolen from Onoda, to mark the passing of time with drawings, or in his case, fashion designs. It was the story of his life in the last year.

The pages weren't all full, some had just a spastic blotch of color that he had been inspired by that day. There was a lot of yellow, because Onoda shone that color like the sun. There were blues and green, his designs turning long and billowy, of the warmth he exuded to his family. As the pages went on, the dark black pages of the time in the hospital appeared and Makishima went over them quickly.

There was still plenty of pages left, and it was good to see that this was just still only the beginning. That this was only one year, and that he, no-not he- that they had many of these books to fill.

He stood up and yawned. It was so early, but he couldn't sleep. He trudged back into the house, and as if his feet knew better than his mind, Makishima found himself in Onoda's bedroom, seated in the yellow and red chair in the corner.

He looked around the room, at Onoda's budding collection of anime merchandise that was starting to grow at an alarming rate, because his family seemed to not know how to do anything in moderation. It was funny how much they loved the boy and he remembered his father's words, now seeming so long ago, that a child meant new life, a second chance. Onoda had brought their family close again. He broke down barriers that no one had known existed.

Onoda sniffled from his bed and shifted around. Makishima frowned and leaned over to check on him.

The boy yawned, and squirmed on his bed, looking like an animal burrowing in his mouse pyjamas. Makishima couldn't help the chuckle that left his lips and Onoda rolled over.

Makishima grimaced because it was only six o'clock and Onoda didn't need to wake up for another half an hour.

"Mama?" He said, rubbing his eyes of the sleep.

"Yeah?" Makishima replied quietly.

"Mmmm. Hi! I mean, go-good morning." He yawned again, and sat up, looking in the direction of Makishima's voice. "Did you have a good sleep, Mama?"

Makishima paused as the boy opened those bright eyes of his, and smiled sleepily at him.

Makishima felt his heart catch in his throat. It was the same eyes that had looked up at him the moment they first met, when they were both at their rope's end, and had crashed quite forcefully, so wonderfully into each other's life. That first moment had led to this.

Makishima blinked in the rising sun's light, sudden wetness filling them, and smiled crookedly, "No. Not really. Move over."

Onoda frowned and scooted back against the wall, and Makishima climbed into the bed, folding himself to fit the small area. Onoda was beaming as he settled in close, and he was warm and giggly. "Mama, you're too big for my bed!" He said, "Too tall!"

Makishima grinned, "I think you are the one taking up too much room, Sakamichi."

"Nuh-uh, nuh-uh." Onoda replied, snuggling into Makishima's arms, and letting out a pleased breath, a warm puff of air into Makishima's night shirt. And again, it was just like that moment when the affection pierced into his hard shell that night, and Makishima tightened his arms around him.

"Sakamichi, do you remember the day we met?"

He felt his son nod against him, and smiled, "Yup, I 'member. I was at the mama swings and you came to look for your phone."

"That's right. Good job. And what happened after that?"

Onoda took a deep breath, and started on his long winded recounts, the ones that Makishima often had to sit patiently through, but this time he wanted to hear everything.

The sketchbook sat on the yellow and red chair, and the sun was slowly growing strong with each passing moment.

And though this year had its ups and downs, had moments of unbelievable joy and moments of unbearable pain, Makishima was never so thankful for living, so thankful for time, and never had he been so thankful for the future.

Because the future was this, snuggled in a bed too small, listening to his son go on and on, the sun beaming down its bright light.

Here was purpose. Here was life.

And Makishima was finally, truly happy.


LONG Notations:

Thanks to everyone who jumped on and stayed along for the ride. This was definitely very different from what I usually write, but I couldn't stop myself. Thanks for the support, I certainly would not have have continued if not for the sweet and constant support from readers. Once again, Thank you for your love!

Apologies:

I'm ashamed because I had a lot of stuff I was going to throw in there, with Arakita , T2, Shinkai, Izumida and even stinkin' Sugimoto. I SPARED you.

2. I never named Makishima's brother. I hope you didn't get confused in the parts he was in. I was waiting for sensei to reveal him,

(Which he did recently… SPOILER* His name is Ren Makishima and he IS a fashion designer and he is not gay :( END SPOILER*)

I guess I'll go back one day and fill it in. Sorry for their subplot. I had a dream that Onoda was being spoiled by his gay Uncles and I couldn't get away from it.

ENDNOTE:

I have an adjoining couple of one shots coming up but I think that'll be it. If you have an idea that you would like to be written, or want to write something, go right ahead and contact me! I might make that a reality!

Upcoming One shots:

Turn Back Time (Or Reason to buy a Shotgun)

Summary: None of his parenting books had ever taught him how to scare the living daylights out of fools attempting to date his son. Perhaps, this is where he would have to improvise.

Safe

He couldn't fight every demon, and wipe away every tear. The harsh reality was that the world was cruel, and Onoda had to grow up in it.