Sorry this is so late! Between what's probably executive dysfunction and adhd (a rock and a hard place) Even though I think about this story all the time and open up the document at least once a day, I have a really hard time focusing long enough to sit down and make consistent progress. First of all Massive Thanks for the millionth time to OfMiragesandOtherFalseTruths for some minor corrections on the Korean in chapters 4 & 5. If you see any other mistakes of any kind everyone is free to point them out. It's crazy when I see how many international readers I have, major kudos to people reading outside of their mother tongue.

To all the Kise fans out there, I hope my first attempt does him justice, have mercy on me, I tried.

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"Hyperacusis is a problem that affects about 5% of the population and 50% of patients with troublesome tinnitus. It is defined as a reduced tolerance to everyday environmental sounds. The most common causes of hyperacusis are hearing loss, noise trauma [...], head injury, adverse reaction to some medications or surgeries, chronic ear infections and posttraumatic stress disorder. Hyperacusis can come on suddenly or gradually."
(Canadian Hearing )


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The SUV is packed full of presents.

Kise has to transfer a few bags to the front passenger seat just to climb into the back with him. Glitter, hearts, and tissue paper have completely overrun most of the vehicle; even the trunk area is laden with parcels. Kise was popular back in middle school, but it seems his fanbase has really expanded. It's truly no surprise that Kise works as a model. Even if his sister hadn't introduced him, he definitely could've been scouted through his own merit. He watches as the blond removes his hat and scarf without any sort of flourish, but Kise is the kind of person to make even hat hair look artful.

"Sorry about all the stuff Kurokocchi," He says sheepishly. "That's part of the reason Watari-san had to come get me. Waaah, it was crazy! There were even a few people from other schools waiting for me at the gates, before and after school."

Tetsuya tries to get a look at the driver, but the man doesn't turn to acknowledge his new passenger. Regardless Tetsuya is able to gleam that the man is likely in his late forties, judging by his graying hair and the crow's feet he can see from the rear-view mirror. Once they're both buckled in and situated, the vehicle smoothly rolls forward. He supposes Kise already gave him his address then.

"So Kurokocchi, how's your day been?" Kise is almost vibrating in his seat with excitement.

"It's been-" The radio is playing at a volume that necessitates him to raise his voice. "It's been decent."

"What happened? Did you get any valentines?" He prods, physically leaning closer as if to look for them.

"Just from Momoi-san, though Riko-senpai made chocolates for the whole team."

"Aw, that's so nice! Riko-san's your coach right? And Momoicchi sent me this really cute e-card, we should go visit her on White Day together! Oh, oh! I got a ton of really cool valentines this year! Kurokocchi you're not going to believe some of them!" He continues to gush as he digs around in all the bags on the floor. "I've already posted a few pictures of some on my official instagram and twitter! Some people even tagged me in pictures of valentines they couldn't send, my fans are so sweet! You should get Instagram so I can send you posts Kurokocchi!"

His friends have already made him download Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter; he can hardly be bother to log-in to any of them so another app to slow down his phone doesn't sound appealing. "Definitely not."

"So mean..." Kise mumbles, but then shrugs it off before using both hands to pull out the largest chunk of chocolate he's ever seen in person. "Catch!" It's hardly a warning when he's already tossed it, but Tetsuya still manages to catch it so he doesn't bother feeling annoyed by it. The bumpy texture of the grapefruit-sized sphere is surprisingly familiar, and now that he has the chance to examine it he realizes it's a basketball. It's definitely solid chocolate, and it has enough weight to it that he could undoubtedly do some damage.

"Isn't it amazing?! They even got the feel of it right! I'd rub it all day but it already started melting on my hands so I had to put it down. I don't even think I can eat it! Literally! A few people have suggested a hammer, but I'd feel bad about just smashing it…" That certainly is a conundrum. It would be quite difficult to just bite into it as well since it's far denser than a fruit.

Kise takes it back and thrusts a bag of sugar cookies into his hands. "These ones have my name stamped on them, isn't that neat?"

He nods and Kise continues his display. He reaches by Tetsuya's feet for the next one. "This one is really cool, It's a picture of me! Careful, it's fragile." Kise holds out a plaque of chocolate wrapped in a plastic foil. Its transparency allows him to still get a clear look at it and It is indeed a value portrait of a chibi-style Kis. It's made with just four different shades of chocolate, but its simplicity allows for good readability.

"Aren't these so cool? Everyone was so jealous! Aaaah, I love my fans." Kise sighs in content and finally relaxes into his seat.

"They certainly are…dedicated…" Fans are frightening creatures. If he's being honest, this almost aggressive show-and-tell is a bit overwhelming, and the cloying smell of chocolate is on the verge of giving him a headache. Though thankfully Kise doesn't seem to be looking for his opinions, just his general reactions.

Suddenly, the blond turns to him with a conspiring smile. "Hey, Kurokocchi. You can't tell anyone, but this one is my favourite so far." He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a heart-shaped pink balloon. It isn't nearly inflated, but it's also not empty. "It's full of flour and it works like a stress ball. A girl in my class gave it to me, I forget her name and she's usually super quiet, but she has a fidget ring too. I think she made hers herself though – it's like, made out of metal and it has these little hoops attached- you have to see it, I'm bad at explaining. Still, it's super nice and it's like having that Kinetic Sand Murasakibaracchi gave me for Christmas, only portable, I love it! Here, try it."

He's never felt the need to stim so he doubts he'll be able to appreciate it as much, but he accepts Kise's offer to just to appease him. It's soft and does have a nice density to it, but ultimately it doesn't capture his attention beyond its novelty. He gives it back and Kise wastes no time to start squeezing it again.

"The only downside is that my manager probably won't let me carry it around, because people might get upset if I show that kind of favouritism. It'll be fine if I keep it hidden in my pocket though, right?"

He can only shrug. Even as a consumer he knows nothing about the entertainment industries.

Kise mimics the motion and pushes on. "Anyways, there's this new song I found that wanted to show you! I really liked the last artist you showed me, so," He puts down the balloon and pulls out his phone. He taps the screen a few times and the music that had already been playing cuts off abruptly for this new song.

"My phone is hooked up to the car with Bluetooth." He explains. "Anyways, what do you think?"

It's barely five seconds in, and no lyrics have been sung.

"The song hasn't started yet Kise-kun." He says tonelessly.

Kise is a good friend, and he's fun to spend time with, but he is best in measured doses. He can be exhausting because he wants every detail. While his lights can be just as talkative and excitable, they all understand that sometimes he just…can't engage. But Kise is the kind of person who thrives off of responses and isn't content with just talking at him, and he's almost literally physically incapable of sitting in silence.

Kise laughs to himself, but it sounds a bit …off. "Sorry sorry! I just really want you to like it, you have to translate it for me."

It's just an average pop song by another girl group. It's produced very well and their voices are pleasing but the lyrics are nothing special, so he says as much. "They're just singing about their ideal type of man, I'd have to listen a few times to give you an exact translation, and I'd rather not when you could just Google it."

At first Kise pouts in response, but suddenly he perks up as he likely gets an idea. "I was going to wait until we got to your house, but – how far are we Watari-san?"

"About five minutes. I can make it shorter." His voice is rough and deep. The man is responding to Kise, but for some reason he locks gazes with Tetsuya – his eyes are unfathomably dark, the ink of an unwritten story.

Wordless contempt.

Tetsuya feels sick.

He looks away.

Kise beams at the driver. "Alrighty, thanks Watari-san. So anyways, I…" Rather than finishing the sentence, Kise goes rifling through all the gifts again. He really hopes Kise doesn't doesn't plan on offloading some of these chocolates on him. Not only would that be rude, but he still has more than enough from the Ogiwara's.

Kise thrusts a red gift bag at him, on the side is a dog holding a paper lantern in it's mouth. "Surprise! It's for you!" He sings.

Tetsuya reluctantly accepts it, but rather than opening it now he sets it next to him. "Um, thank you Kise-kun, but why?"

"Weeeell, I'm following D-Jin from this other K-pop group I've been listening to, and he was tweeting about S…Seo…llal? – did I say that right? - And I remembered you've mentioned celebrating a few times, and was thinking about how sad you were on Saturday so I thought it would be nice."

Oh.

"I…Thank you Kise-kun, that's very thoughtful. I'm sorry, I hadn't thought to get you anything." He makes an effort to genuinely smile but for some reason Kise still looks displeased.

Kise groans. "Kurokocchi you have to open it now!" He whines.

"Wouldn't it make more sense to open it tomorrow?"

"Kurokocchiiii, I wanna see your face when you open it!"

All of the yelling, the music blasting with enough bass to massage his muscles, and the sickly sweet stench of chocolate really is giving him a headache now. "Fine."

Kise claps his hands excitedly as Tetsuya reaches into the bag. At first he feels cool, smooth metal, a cylindrical tin with unknown contents until he pulls it out. He doesn't get the chance to read the label for himself before Kise blurts, "It's ginseng! I googled Seollal gifts and it was suggested, is that true?"

Tetsuya himself has no idea because the only other family they exchange gifts with are Mi-Suk and her daughter's family, the Park's. They usually just give them sake cups while Mi-Suk brings some kind of alcohol in exchange. Then the adults have a drink or two while he and Tae-Yeon sit and listen with juice or go for a walk outside until they go home.

Kise continues, "There's another box in there, I wasn't sure if you preferred loose-leaf or bagged so I got both. Soooo?"

"Thank you very much Kise-kun, ginseng is also very good for health. I'm grateful." He tries smiling again.

"No problem Kurokocchi!"

They drift off into a silence and Kise is still smiling at him expectantly.

He's…not sure what else Kise wants from him.

Though he could be reading his expression wrong…

He supposes if it's important, Kise will say something.

The blond jolts excitedly, almost bouncing in his seat as if physically struck by his next idea. "Um, do you want to make a stop at Maji Burger? I'll buy you as many milkshakes as your fridge can hold!"

Normally he would at least consider it, but he just wants to lay in bed right now. "Thank you for the offer, but I would like to go straight to my house. You shouldn't ditch work to mess around either, Kise-kun." Kise deflates all over again, but he seems to go right back to silently scheming, so Tetsuya is content to let him plot the next interruption. He uses the pause to peer out the window.

He's not too familiar with this route, but he's not lost; if he had to hazard a guess it would just be a ten minute walk from here. Not that he's in any particular rush to get home either. There's nothing waiting there for him. Aside from Nigou, he supposes, but as much comfort as Nigou provides it's just not the same as-

"I'm sorry Kurokocchi."

Tetsuya's head snaps back in the blond's direction out of sheer surprise. Kise apologizing isn't quite the thing that shocks him, but the quiet defeat in his tone is always a startling rarity.

The next bubbly pop-song starts playing.

"…Why?"

That model smile on his face has twisted into something rueful. "Like I said, you were really sad before, so I came to see if I could cheer you up. I know you don't like it when I just show up, but you don't respond to my texts much. Even Midorimacchi said this was too much, but I didn't think he knew what he was talking about."

"That's not true Kise-kun, I really do appreciate your time. I…It's not you." Now that he thinks about it, perhaps he has been acting rather aloof, and it's not all that surprising Kise has taken it personally considering their past interactions.

He watches as Kise fumbles with the balloon, pinching and poking at it absently as he stares out the window. "It's okay Kurokocchi. I know I'm not Aominecchi, but I was still hoping I could do something…it seems like I've only been bothering you though…"

"No Kise-kun, I apologize." Tetsuya insists. "I haven't been very fair to you. I've been…distracted lately, but I'm always very grateful that you take the time to visit. If I wanted to see Aomine-kun, I know where to find him. I really am thankful that you've gone through so much trouble for my sake."

The look it puts on Kise's face.

"Really?" He looks genuinely stunned.

Tetsuya honestly didn't mean to make him feel like this. It's just easy to be so dismissive of Kise because he always comes back but…that's such an awful way of thinking. As soon as the revelation hits him he feels disgusted with himself. He would never treat anyone else like that, so why...

Kise is glowing like a match in a cave, eyes blown wide and glittering with unshed tears. It's like the embers of a bonfire; a kindling of hope that's threatening to grow at the slightest of encouragement. "I…no. Maybe we all take you for granted. We often say hurtful things with the expectation that you'll laugh it off." It never would've killed him to respond when Kise sends a proper text, and in hindsight it was rather conceded to expect Kise to message him first today when he was just as capable.

"Eh? No no no, I know you guys don't mean everything. We're just kidding around, and we pick on Ahomine too." He's grinning again and even chuckles to himself, but something still doesn't sit right.

"We don't mean any of it." Tetsuya corrects firmly. Kise is staring at him so intently that he's not sure if they've ever really seen each other like this before. This is clearly the time to really lay himself bare to Kise. If he really wants to impress upon him just how much he appreciates him, he'll have to be open and honest right now. Just the thought fills him with a deep discomfort.

He doesn't like lying and he doesn't plan on lying to Kise, but saying the unfiltered words of approval that he knows Kise is waiting for is just too…

The idea terrifies him for some reason.

'As overbearing as you can be, we all like you just the way you are. I admire your perseverance. The way you always work harder when you miss the standard you set for yourself. I like all of your messages because it's interesting to see what you're up to, and it means you're thinking about me. I'd reciprocate more of your enthusiasm, but I can't, and it's not your fault I'm like this, and I don't even know what would come pouring out if I weren't anymore, so please don't suffer for my shortcomings.'

The thought of saying any of that out loud just fills him with terror. The words lodge in his throat like fishhooks and it feels like something is actually tearing when he manages to say, "You are one of my treasured friends, and I'm sorry I made room for doubt." It's hardly everything he had wanted to convey, but even that much felt like it had taken a chunk out of him. He feels vulnerable, and it's not something he's fond of.

But it's worth it, because Kise is positively radiant. Aside from Murasakibara, Kise is the one who needs him the least in order to shine. Kise could never be his light because he's too bright. He would be erased completely by his presence, become almost entirely redundant if he learned how to pass like him. He hopes his past behaviour wasn't due to some kind of unconscious petty insecurity, but he wouldn't put it past himself either.

Kise is legitimately crying. Very real, round Studio Ghibli tears are rolling down his red cheeks and he looks completely unaware of them. It's awful he can reduce someone to actual tears with just a few nice words. It makes him feel slimy. He doesn't want that kind of power over anyone.

"Please don't cry." Tetsuya whispers, but Kise shakes his head vigorously.

"I-I can't! Kurokocchiiii! That was too nice! I'm supposed to cheer you up, b-but- you- I-" He dabs at his face with part of his scarf, somehow still conscious of his makeup. "I'm so happy!"

'You shouldn't be.' Tetsuya thinks to himself.

He sighs. Friendship is a two-way street, and he should start reciprocating it. He really has no idea if he's supposed to just hold his arms out or just grab him like Kise himself would, so he settles for asking. "Would you like a…hug?" The word tastes strange.

Kise wastes no time lunging at him, yanking his seatbelt to the limit in order to nuzzle his face into the crook of Tetsuya's shoulder. "Am I dying? Did we crash?" He mutters wetly.

Is really he that discouraging?

Kise has his arms thrown around his neck, he's almost being strangled by his tight grip and he's not sure what to do with his own. Hesitantly rests his hands over the blond's shoulder blades and every few seconds he gently gives him a pat, though he can't help but think of it as tapping out for mercy. He both sees and feels the car roll to a stop just by the front of his house, but Kise shows no signs of unlatching. He supposes Kise has earned this much for his loyalty so he endures it in silence, though he is greatly relieved when Watari pointedly clears his throat.

"Kise-san, we've arrived."

He slowly pulls away sniffling, wiping at his face; and miraculously despite such intense crying he still looks rather put together, which is completely unfair.

"Thanks Kurokocchi…somehow you ended up comforting me instead…" He says sheepishly.

"It's alright Kise-kun, I'm glad I could help." Even though he caused the problem in the first place.

He gathers his things (double checking it's actually his gift from Kise that he's picked up,) and opens the car door. "Happy Valentine's Day Kurokocchi! And happy New Years!" Kise shouts while he climbs out of the vehicle, and he's immediately bombarded by wind.

He almost has to shout in order to be heard over the music and the rushing air. "Thank you for the ride Kise-kun! Watari-san! Happy Valentine's day and Seollal!"

Kise is still shouting fare-wells and waving his arms wildly as he closes the door. Even as he walks to his porch the SUV remains idling on the side of the road, and it's not until he works the front door open and steps inside that they drive away. He'll really have to be conscious of how he interacts with Kise in the future.

The house is dark and silent, as expected.

"I'm home." He whispers to himself as he turns on a light. While he unzips his jacket he notes that Nigou hasn't come running, so he reasons that the dog must be sleeping somewhere. He toes off his boots and puts them away before heading towards the kitchen to put away the tea. He had also planned on finishing his homework there with a snack, but just as he steps inside he's startled to find it's already occupied.

His first thought is an intruder, but this figure doesn't react in the slightest to his arrival. As his eyes adjust to the lack of illumination he manages to identify the mysterious being.

His father is just sitting there in the dark. He's still wearing his usual work clothes, a white dress shirt and black slacks, so he must have come home early for some reason.

He's hunched over the table in his chair, bracing himself on the surface and his clasped hands are resting against his forehead. If he hadn't known any better he would have assumed his father was praying. Tetsuya is unable to see if he had been doing anything prior, but right now he's holding himself perfectly still. His face is well shadowed and his hands further obstruct his view, so Tetsuya has no idea what kind of expression he's is making or the look in his father's eyes.

Without any clear cues he's unsure of how to proceed. Give him some space or take a closer look?

The hum of the fridge is one steady note, and it only re-enforces the feeling that he's looking at a pocket of frozen time.

The first step is to get his attention.

"F…Father?" He whispers, but his voice is lost in the vacuum. It's all in his head, but the atmosphere is so tense it's suffocating.

Hesitantly, he takes a step forward. "Father." He repeats a little louder.

Still no response.

Should he try once more? Get a little closer?

Maybe he's being ignored.

Maybe he's just not trying hard enough.

He breaks out into a cold sweat, dread blooming in his gut and spreading like ivy, coiling tighter and tighter around his lungs.

Fight or flight.

Fight or flight.

"Fa…father?" It's hardly audible to his own ears by the time it squeezes past the lump in his throat.

Quietly, he backs out of the room.

The tension stays in his shoulders even as he slips down the hallway. Every time his bags crinkle a spike of anxiety shoots through him like a jolt of electricity. Only when his bedroom door closes behind him can he begin to relax, and he sinks to the floor on shaky legs while leaning back on the door.

What…was that?

He's not sure why he felt so nervous. There was just something inexplicably eerie about that moment, something in the air that just deeply unsettled him. He's caught his father in the middle of a pensive state before, but usually he's brought back to awareness as soon as he calls. He's never found him in this unresponsive trance. At most his father probably would've shouted in surprise like anyone else, but the thought of getting any closer just filled him with apprehension. He doesn't like being unable to read people and his father's moods are a bit hard to grasp on a good day. No matter the cause, adrenaline is still plucking a fine tremor in his nervous system so he takes a moment to breathe before his heart starts palpitating. It's regretful he can't get into the kitchen right now, because a cup of tea definitely would've been nice.

'You're overreacting, pull it together.' Nothing even happened, so he has no reason to be like this. 'You're fine.' He holds in a deep breath, and releases a shuttering sigh.

He's fine.

He stands on unsteady feet and tries to focus on distracting himself. As he looks through the gift bag again, he's pleasantly surprised to note that Kise actually bought a rather high quality brand despite his limited knowledge of tea. He's already starting to think of a return gift, and while nothing specific comes to mind, he's certain Kise would adore something handmade. His best skills are calligraphy and quilting, but it's fortunate he's skilled with handicrafts in general, so he should be able to make something practical. He quietly resolves to look online for ideas later, but for now he has homework to do.

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He spends about four hours in his self-imposed isolation. He has his headphones on and is reviewing his answers to some assigned questions when he's certain he's smelling food. It's a thick, savoury smell that's been slowly slipping into his room until he can no longer deny that his father has to be cooking, so it should be safe to eave his room. He can picture it now, his father sweeping around the kitchen clad in that same baby blue bunny apron. Normal.

He stands from his desk and walks towards his door cautiously, he feels the knob warm in his grasp as he stands there indecisively. The sound of something clanging – a pot or a pan, it's unimportant – is the final push that allows him to turn it. He opens the door with a quiet creek, creeps down the hallway that's once again flooded with the smell of soup. There is light spilling out of the kitchen this time so he enters far less timidly, and just as he pictured, his father is moving with a frantic energy. His hair is held back by a red bandana and his eyes are tired, but they're present and bright. He spots Nigou sitting under the table, but he must have previously been dozing there because he simply raises his head in brief interest before resting them back on his paws.

"Hello Father." He takes a seat at the table, but he's a little mystified when he still receives no answer. His father just continues chopping scallions into smaller bits, the sound of blade against cutting board and the crunch of onion is all the noise his father makes in response. Rather than apprehension he feels annoyance this time. "Father." He says almost sternly.

The reaction is immediate. The man jerks violently in shock, the knife flying out of his hand sends bits of vegetable rolling along the kitchen floor, and the knife itself hits the ground with a jarringly loud clatter; though it's preferable to his father's foot being impaled, as it had so narrowly avoided. His father whirls around to face him and it looks like he lost a few years from his lifespan as he clutches his heaving chest. "Shit," He puffs out.

While he catches his breath, Tetsuya himself works on calming down as well. He hadn't been expecting such a drastic reaction, but it also isn't the first time he's startled his father this badly.

"Excuse my language, but shit…" His father repeats, closing his eyes and leaning back on the counter. "When did you get home?"

"A few hours ago. I said hello, but you were a bit busy, so I just went to my room." He idly wonders how long it would take for his father to report him missing if he just didn't come home one day. If he would notice he didn't come home one day.

He barely catches Nigou sneaking towards a piece of food, and manages to snatch the morsel before he has a chance to eat it. He has no clue if dogs can eat onions and he's fairly sure Nigou himself doesn't either, but unlike him Tetsuya would rather not find out through trial and error.

"Oh…sorry about that." His father mutters as he crouches down to help clean up. It's unclear which incident he's apologizing for.

After a quick scan Tetsuya feels confident that between the two of them, they've cleaned up all of the mess, but he keeps a grip on the dog just to be sure he doesn't find any for himself. His father groans as he stands back up, now towering over Tetsuya, who keeps his fingers tangled in fur as he stays seated on the kitchen floor, leaning back on a table leg. "Um. Sung-Hwang and Tae-Yeon stopped by maybe two hours ago. Mi-Suk is unwell, so they didn't stay long, but they dropped off a pot of Tteokguk and a bottle of rum." His father even waves a hand towards the simmering soup but he's still stuck on Mi-Suk's condition.

"Is Mi-Suk-san going to be alright?" His fingers dig deeper into Nigou's thick coat, but he's still mindful of his strength.

"Oh yeah, they said it's just a cold, nothing to worry about kid." His father resumes cooking, picking up where he left off with the onions after washing the knife.

These things always starts as 'Just a cold.' But perhaps he's just worrying too much, just projecting his experiences, fears, and regrets onto Mi-Suk and her family. It likely is just a common cold, and Mi-Suk will bounce back despite her age.

Or she'll die.

Either way, he is powerless to change her fate, so perhaps his father's flippant attitude isn't so misplaced.

"Y'know," His father's voice snaps him out of his thoughts. "Tae-Yeon was disappointed when I said you weren't home. I think she had something she wanted to give to you today." He has a suggestive lilt to his voice though Tetsuya is unsure of what conclusion his father is trying to lead him to. Tae-Yeon is nice, but they really don't talk much even when they're alone.

"It's probably my copy of No Longer Human, I lent it to her a month ago. I asked for her opinion of it when she returned the book, so she was probably hoping to discuss it." He explains.

"…Mhm." His father hums in disbelief, pouring some of the batter of whatever type of Jeon he's making into a pan. Tetsuya doesn't see the point in pursuing this topic any further when his father has clearly up made his mind about it. So he just doesn't respond and things go silent. The air between them feels uncomfortable, and even the sizzle of the pancake and the bubbling of soup sounds rather stagnant, like white noise on loop. His father clears his throat.

Nigou settles back down onto his side with a muted thump, resigning to the loss of potential scraps. Tetsuya begins to absently stroke his back.

His father breaks the silence. "So…Um, receive any confessions today?"

He can't help but sigh to himself at the new choice of conversation. "No, but I received some gifts from a few friends."

"Oh, that's too bad. And your team even won that big tournament too …athletes are usually fairly popular."

"I prefer it this way."

"Ah."

...It's awkward again. He should say something.

"…I thought you were going into the office today." He says lightly. He keeps his eyes trained on Nigou, the way his fur tangles between his fingers, its contrast of black against white.

"Hn. I was planning on it but...I changed my mind at the last moment this morning. I'm still on leave so they weren't expecting me anyways." So if he chooses to read between the lines, yesterday his father decided to work for the sake of not being home. He doesn't feel hurt by this hypothesis, but rather a humorous sort of kinship if he substitutes an office for a basketball court. He's more curious as to what changed his father's mind. By the time he usually gets up for work, both he and his mother are already long gone so she couldn't have said anything to him. And how long had he been sitting there?

"Did something happen?"

His father sighs, and Tetsuya listens the scrape of cooking utensil against pan. "…I just…got tired. I spent the day resting though, so don't worry I'm fine." Tetsuya knows very well that what constitutes as 'fine' can vary greatly, but he also knows that voicing any concerns will yield nothing so he doesn't inquire any further.

It goes quiet again.

Nigou yawns, limbs trembling as he stretches before going limp.

…Well. It feels like they've met the day's quota in terms of idle conversation. It hasn't been too long, but he's already starting to feel sore from sitting on the hard floor without any sort of cushion. Nigou hardly stirs as he separates himself and staggers to his tingling feet. He's about to walk through the doorway when his father calls after him. "Oh, wait." Tetsuya does as he's asked and watches as his father sets down the spatula to reach into the fridge. He's quick to retrieve what he's looking for, and once he shuts the door Tetsuya is able to see the small plate of strawberries he's holding. "For Halmeoni."

Oh.

His feet have stopped tingling but he can't feel his legs as he walks over to accept the plate. "Thank you." He murmurs before calmly fleeing the kitchen.

It's ice cold in his hands.

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I actually did not progress as far as I thought I would this chapter, story-wise at least, but I did say this is going to be a long read even ignoring my slow updates. I know I say it every chapter, but there are always new readers to thank so just know that I'm super grateful for your support, even if you don't review, follow or favourite. Idk what happened but this story really took off last chapter, and it really helped me. This was supposed to be posted in October believe it or not, but I suddenly felt discouraged from writing and ended up not doing much for a few weeks. I even (not seriously) contemplated deleting this story a couple times, but re-reading all of your kind words helped me get back into it. So I really owe you guys one, and appreciate all levels of support.

There's some bonus info on my Tumblr berry-cat7, so take a peek if you're bored. Sorry if there are errors, I wanted to get this posted before I get my wisdom teeth removed, wish me luck ;-;