Winter Fireworks

Chapter 3: Birthday

By: Diana-Jae

Shuuichi awoke to the aroma of something sweet and warm filling his nose and lungs. Groggy eyes opening lazily, he reached over to where his bedside table was in order to pick up his digital cock and check the time, but, to his surprise, he felt nothing. Shifting his head to look off to the side, and finding nothing there, he slowly started to remember where he was and what had happened the night before.

Assuming that he had slept in a lot later than usual, he immediately rolled out of bed and walked towards Chiaki's room expecting to see his son in his room watching television and eating a bowl of cereal, which is usually what the boy did when his father overslept. So it was another surprise for Shuuichi when he opened the door to his son's room and found that the child's bed was already neatly made. His morning green eyes catching the electric blue numbers on his son's digital clock, he groaned.

He had slept in a lot later than he had thought, and if he didn't know any better, he may have thought that he found his couch more comfortable than his own bed. Shuuichi could not find an explanation right away that would explain why he had slept in so late and so well.

Blindly walking down the stairs and through the hallway leading into the kitchen, he was able to make out the figure of his son standing on a stool with his back towards him. Rubbing the back of his neck, he stopped where hallway met kitchen to take in the sight before him, his features twisted into comical horror. His kitchen was, to put it mildly, a mess. Various cooking-ware, utensils, and other baking paraphernalia were scattered on the counters, littered across the table, and piled up in the sink. Traces of flour and sugar could distinctly be made out on the floor and along the counter as well. He even saw a small puddle of milk on the counter beside the sink.

"What the hell happened in here?" he wondered to himself. He was not able to search for an answer when Botan's cheerful face popped up in front of him, causing the half-asleep man to yelp.

"Mornin' sleepyhead!" Botan's giggling mingled with Chiaki's childish laughter as Shuuichi, stooped over, clutched onto the dip of his sleeveless undershirt with a frightened expression.

"I'm sorry. Are you okay, Shuuichi?" Botan asked as she placed her bowl on a nearby counter to help Shuuichi over to one of the stools around the center counter. "I didn't mean to scare you, but it seemed like you were too engrossed at the state of your kitchen that you couldn't hear Chiaki and me saying good morning to you."

Shuuichi's scattered brain-cells finally reconstructed and his breathing reaching a normal point, he shifted his gaze to the blue-haired woman. "And so you thought that introducing heart failure would cure it?"

"I'll clean up this mess, Shuuichi," Botan replied laughing once more as she picked up the bowl she had set down a few moments ago. "How's yours going, Chiaki?" Botan asked as she dipped one slender finger into the creamy contents of her bowl to taste the batter.

"I'm done," Chiaki announced happily as he hopped off of the stool and ran to his father's lap.

Shuuichi placed his son on his lap and leaned forward to place a kiss on his son's forehead as he wished the child a happy birthday. "Are you excited about today?"

The boy squealed enthusiastically and began gushing about his uncles and aunties and the children from his kindergarten class that would be coming. "They're really going to like the cake that Botan made."

Shuuichi chuckled and peered into the bowl that the boy had been toiling over a short while ago. "Ah, so that's what you and Botan are making that's causing such a mess." He slid his amused gaze up to meet Botan's cheerful ones as she finished sucking on the finger that had dipped into the boy's bowl. "I did order a cake for him you know."

"Two birthday cakes never killed anyone," Botan retaliated, her smile growing as she stuck her tongue out at him.

Another laugh erupted from Shuuichi's throat, and jokingly admitted that he wasn't sure if she really were twenty-three or his son's age.

Botan had put on another face and was about to accuse him of insulting her when Chiaki piped in and told his father that he wanted him to go along with Botan and himself to the amusement park the following day. "It's Botan's birthday present to me," he added cheekily.

"I don't know, Chiaki," Shuuichi began skeptically, his eyes going back and forth between his son and his guest. "It sounds like it should only be the two of you if that's her present for you."

"Don't be such a bore, Shuuichi," Botan interrupted. "He obviously wants you to go, and I don't have the authority to tell him you can't go. Besides," she grinned, and to Shuuichi, almost idiotically, "as they say, the more the merrier, right?"

Favoring his son with a soft smile, Shuuichi rumpled Chiaki's hair and with fatherly amusement replied, "Hooked and sunk."

There was a moment of silence in the kitchen as Botan busily poured the two batters into their respective cake pans while Shuuichi placed his son on the ground where he was about to turn and skip to where Botan was standing when he stopped and pointed at the plate before his father. "Daddy?"

"Mm?"

"Don't forget to eat that." Chiaki paused and with a silly grin, he added, "Botan taught me how to make boo berry waffles, and she makes them really yummy."

The redhead looked down and found a plate with a pair of blueberry waffles delicately topped with a small scoop of butter and syrup and a glass of fresh orange juice staring back at him. He concluded that this was probably what it was that had brought him back to reality that morning.

Botan overheard the boy's declaration as she placed the two cake pans into the oven and whipped around to look at the boy's father. "Chiaki got up pretty early this morning so when I got back from my walk," Botan paused to look meaningfully at Shuuichi, who could not suppress a chuckle, "he helped me out with breakfast. Half of the credit should go to him."

Shuuichi's chuckles had died down into a smile as he continued to eat the waffles. Like his son said, the waffles were actually very delicious. He could not remember when he had a breakfast as good as that morning's. He mentally laughed as his mind began to wonder when Botan learned to cook because for all he knew, Botan was incapable of running a kitchen. There was a time when the young woman could not even distinguish a pot from a pan.

He also realized that he had been smiling a lot since Botan had arrived, a thought that somewhat bothered him yet simultaneously intrigued him. He was easily able to dismiss it saying that it was a typical effect after seeing a friend that you haven't seen or been in contact with for five years. He rested the side of his face on a propped hand as he continued to eat the waffles, his thoughts being dwelling on the feelings he had experienced in the last twenty-four hours. The conscious part of him thought that whatever magic Botan had brought with her to make him feel more alive, he hoped that after she left, it would still be there. His subconscious, however, was idly toying with the idea that maybe Botan wouldn't have to go back to France when the week was over because she, herself, was the magic that he hoped would linger.

Shuuichi looked up from his breakfast and watched with bittersweet delight at his son and Botan throwing bits of flour at each other's faces. He wondered to himself whether or not this scene would have played before his eyes if Juri were still alive. It wouldn't be Botan and Chiaki in identical aprons and wearing flour on their faces; it would have been his wife and his son.

By the time that Shuuichi shook himself out of his thoughts, it was too late, and he found his face and parts of his neck and shoulders sprinkled in flakes of flour. Chiaki was pointing a finger at him and laughing, and Botan was grinning madly while clapping her hands. "Ooh," she squealed, "I've never seen a redheaded snowman before. Have you Chiaki?"

A burst of laughter escaped Chiaki's tiny mouth as his voice declared that his father was a snowman. His laughter was cut short when Shuuichi bent over to pick the child up onto his lap.

"Taking sides against your father, Chiaki?" Shuuichi teased, his lips twisting into a cunning grin. "I am very disappointed." His laughter mingled with his son's as his fingers dove into Chiaki's sides and stomach in a tickling frenzy.

"Botan!" Chiaki shrieked in between his excessive laughter. "Make him stop."

The blue-haired young woman could not help but giggle at the sight. There was no doubt that Shuuichi loved Chiaki deeply, and she really had to hand Shuuichi a lot of credit. She knew it wasn't easy to be a parent at so young an age. It was a very heartwarming scene, and such as these made her almost wish she had a family of her own. Hands behind her back, Botan innocently walked up to Shuuichi, and her figure bent over and lightly touched a finger to Shuuichi's side. At the light contact, Shuuichi stopped with his attentions to his son and looked up. He did not miss the mischief twinkling in her lavender eyes, and a comical fear suddenly replaced his triumphant expression but a moment ago.

Chiaki had long ago scampered from his father's hold as soon as he felt him loosen his grip, and the boy exploded into another fit of laughter as he watched his father comically fighting to keep from falling from the stool on which he sat as Botan mercilessly tickled Shuuichi. Their escapade was only cut short when Hiei's figure walked into the kitchen, a big, brown paper bag in hand and wearing an expression that seemed to ask what the hell was going on.

He snorted and walked over to one of the counters where he carefully placed the paper bag on a spot that had escaped the damage the kitchen had endured. "I leave the three of you alone for two hours and there's already a reason to dial 911."

"Hi, Uncle Hiei!" Chiaki greeted. "Daddy started it."

Shuuichi gaped at his son and could only mumble something about the boy suddenly turning traitor. Shuuichi got off the stool and tying his hair back, he asked the other man when he had left.

"About two hours ago. I went home to wash up and grab some chips, dip, and uhh…" he paused to dig through the bag he had brought with him, "…candy. You know, for the kids." Hiei shrugged as he reached up to one of the cupboards for a glass. "I didn't really know what to buy. I met Yukina at the store though, and she said she'd be here with more things in a couple of hours with Shizuru and the ape."

"That ape's going to be your brother-in-law."

"What the hell happened in here anyway?" Hiei asked, choosing to ignore Shuuichi's last comment, as he trudged towards the refrigerator for a carton of milk.

"Botan was teaching me how to make boo berry waffles, and she's making me a birthday cake."

"This actually doesn't taste too bad," Hiei commented as he took a piece of the waffle that Shuuichi hadn't finished into his mouth. "Five years ago, you couldn't tell the difference between teaspoons and cups."

"I don't know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment," Botan replied, nervous laughter wrapped around her answer.

"It's meant to be a compliment," Hiei said tersely, his words the only thing that belied his indifference.

Botan beamed proudly, quickly explaining that living off of pizza and take-out became disgusting after a while, therefore, learning how to cook soon became compulsory.

"Is that why you get so bent about taking walks in the morning?" Shuuichi intervened, the teasing most evident.

Botan merely harrumphed as she threw a hand towel lying on the counter at his head.

The heavy odor of the barbecue smoke was really getting to Yuusuke. He and Keiko had been the last of the group to arrive but still early enough to set up for the event. Thus, he was assigned to flip the hamburgers out in the patio while his wife helped Shuuichi and Shizuru in the kitchen. Yuusuke's eyes scanned the rest of the yard and found Hiei at the other end setting up the Astro Jumper while his twin was in the den tinkering with the cotton candy machine. Kuwabara, being the tallest, was probably in the front room putting up the colored crepe paper and other decorations that was in need of his height. As for Botan, he wasn't quite sure as to her whereabouts. She had disappeared after she had finished putting helium into the balloons.

He was actually quite surprised to find out from Shuuichi when he arrived that Botan had stayed the night there after being deprived a room at The Ritz. But with Botan's luck, especially if Botan still had any feelings for their red-haired friend, and Yuusuke thought so without a doubt, he should have expected it. That didn't bother him, of course. He knew Botan, and she wouldn't do anything to jeopardize Shuuichi's relationship with his son for her own feelings. What did bother him, though, was the way he thought Shuuichi felt. He saw the warm expression that he favored Botan with earlier that day when she came into the den lost in a cluster of balloons. He exuded the same brightness that he sported back when Juri was still alive. Yuusuke's relationship with Shuuichi might have grown in five years, but his bond with Botan was greater, and if Shuuichi showed any interest in Botan only to replace Juri, Botan may not take it quite well, and Yuusuke wouldn't just sit back and take that. But on the flipside, he thought, Shuuichi might feel something for Botan as Botan, but it wasn't exactly safe to say that just yet.

Yuusuke was taken out of his thoughts when his eyes had wandered down and captured Chiaki's bright green eyes staring intently up at him. He gave a small yelp of surprise; Chiaki was definitely Shuuichi's son for the redhead was the only one with the strange ability to catch people unaware.

"I really like Botan," Chiaki said through the lollipop he was greedily sucking on.

Yuusuke made a face at his comment, his mind immediately connecting the child's statement to his previous thoughts. "What?"

"She gave me a lolli," Chiaki offered innocently as he popped the candy from his mouth.

"Ah, I see." Yuusuke expertly flipped a hamburger patty while covering his nose with the sleeve of his shirt. "Did you want anything in particular?"

"In par… cooler?" Chiaki asked.

Yuusuke chuckled. "Did you need something?"

"No."

Yuusuke burst out in laughter. Ah, but how he wished now he could remember his own childhood. "You better get back inside, Chiaki otherwise you'll smell like smoke before your friends get here." He paused and looked covetously at the candy in the boy's hand. "And while you're in there, why don't you ask Botan to get me a sucker?"

Chiaki popped the lollipop back into his mouth again and nodded and then ran back through the sliding door and into the den of the house.

"Oh God," Botan breathed as she plopped her petite frame into a chair in a corner in the kitchen. "You've got to be like Superman or something, Shuuichi. I don't know how you're able to cater to the needs of all the children and still have so much energy to spend."

Shuuichi's expression merely shaped into that of amusement as he dared to comment that the young woman ought to be used to it since her career as a fashion designer entailed that sort of pressure and ability to manage accordingly.

"Yes, but my designs and my employees don't run around every passing minute of the day nor do they suffer from sugar highs," Botan retorted in defense for herself.

"I suppose the ability comes with being a parent then." Shuuichi paused momentarily to flash his friend a grin. "You'll know the feeling the moment you become a parent yourself, Botan."

Botan said nothing for a moment before finally allowing herself to laugh nervously and then pointed at the cake, which Shuuichi was carefully placing candles in calculated areas. "I could take that into the dining room if you'd like."

The redhead offered her a grateful smile as he excused himself to retrieve his camera and some matches he believed to be in his bedroom. He was halfway through the hallway when he realized he forgot to ask Botan to do the favor of gathering Chiaki and the other children together so that his son could finally blow the candles and serve the cake, but just as he was about to re-enter the kitchen, a short conversation between a little girl and Botan made him stop short.

"I'm Miori."

"Hi Miori," Botan bubbled. "You're wearing a cute dress."

The child giggled. "My mommy bought it for me yesterday in the big shop place, and she says that I have to take care of it because it comes from the Fuya collection."

Shuuichi heard Botan's laughter and immediately understood that the little girl had meant Furuya instead of Fuya. It seemed that Botan not only specialized in adult fashions, but she also had an eye for designing children's clothes. Miori skipped over to the bowl of fruit punch where she helped herself to a little more, and just as she was about to scamper past the sliding doors leading into the yard, Botan had stopped her and inquired the whereabouts of Chiaki.

"Oh, he's in the jumper thing," the child replied, referring to the Astro Jump that had become popular with the children rather quickly.

"Could you do me a favor, sweetie, and ask him and the other kids to come into the dining room for a little while so that Chiaki can blow the candles and give you all cake?"

The little girl burst into smiles and nodded goofily. "Sure, Mrs. Minamino."

Botan nearly choked on the oxygen she was breathing, if such a thing were even possible, at hearing who the child thought she was. "No. You've got it wrong, Miori. Actually, I'm not…" She was never able to finish what it was she had intended to say because the little girl had already pranced out of the room, humming to herself.

"…Mrs. Minamino," she finished to herself.

Shuuichi continued to stand just a short distance from the kitchen archway, stunned just as Botan was after hearing Miori refer to Botan by the name that indicated she was affiliated to Shuuichi by marriage and to Chiaki by blood. Pondering upon this event some more, he merely shook his head and decided that he would not bring it up with Botan for he felt that she had been embarrassed enough that day. She was already doing so much to help out, and besides, he really wasn't bothered by the little girl's mistake at all.

In fact, it was almost as if his subconscious was subtly hinting that perhaps he even liked it. Waving off his inner thoughts as silly and unrealistic, Shuuichi turned back around and headed towards his original destination. It seemed he needn't tell her to gather the children for she already seemed to be doing what he intended for her to do.

Hiei raised a brow as he heard the uncontrollable laughter and giggles exploding from the mouths of Chiaki and Botan. Turning his head over his shoulder for a moment to look towards the living room from where he was currently helping Shuuichi with moving the table to its regular spot, a comical expression of complete disbelief overtook him. Chiaki and Botan were running about the living room throwing party confetti and bits of wrapping paper from Chiaki's opened presents at one another. Finding footing on the armrest of a plush armchair, Chiaki jumped off of it into Botan's arms, who then laughed as she caught the boy and fell to the floor. More laughter ensued, and Hiei shook his head as he looked back at Shuuichi. "Furuya's either really in touch with her childish side or she really likes to entertain the antics of your son."

The redhead chuckled as he peered off to the side to see what it was that Hiei had been watching. Seeing no one there, he merely shrugged and wondered aloud if perhaps it was a little bit of both.

Chiaki had just completed tearing the tissue paper and shredding the wrapping paper and ribbons off of the presents atop one side table that he had plucked off one by one according to size, and he and Botan were supposed to be placing them into trash bags, but the two had somehow managed to digress from their original task and used it as an excuse to create more of a mess instead.

The party had ended well over an hour ago, and the Minamino residence was, more or less, beginning to return back to normal. For the most part, the furniture were back in their regular positions and places, and the decorations that had been hanging on the walls and ceilings had been taken down with the exception of the balloons, which were still floating along the ceiling though now not so much in a disarray. Keiko and Yukina had managed to bring the kitchen back into shape with the exception of a few stools and chairs that were still scattered her and there, which they didn't really care to put back.

"Daddy!" Chiaki came bounding into the room causing Shuuichi to avert his attention from the table to his son as the boy jumped into his father's arms. Shuuichi did not fail to notice how his son and Botan both wore gift ribbons atop their heads and had balloon strings tied around their wrists. Laughing mentally in amusement, he asked his son what it was he wanted.

"I want to go with Botan to the park."

"At this time?" Shuuichi asked hesitantly, at the same time looking at Botan, who seemed oblivious to his parental worry. The moon was already most evident against its dark velvet surrounding when the party had ended and the Minamino residence was slowly turning back to normal. Keiko, Yukina, and Shizuru were putting away the last remaining food from the dining room and kitchen while Kuwabara and Yuusuke began deflating the Astro Jumper, leaving Shuuichi and Hiei to arrange the house to the way it looked before things were moved around.

"Can I? She just wants to show me the fireworks."

Shuuichi blinked and looked at Botan who wore the same silly smile on her features. It wasn't until a moment later when he realized that the annual winter festival was being held, and looking at his watch, he remembered that the fireworks display was going to go off in a few minutes. The festival had been completely wiped away from his memory when he had married Juri despite the fact that the park only minutes away from his home held a spectacular view of the city below and the fireworks' splendor could easily be seen in that spot. Shuuichi was surprised that Botan still remembered the festival, and he concluded that she must have deduced that the view would be great after she had her walk there this morning because she had never watched the fireworks anywhere else but in the city itself.

Shuuichi offered his son a lop-sided smile as he set him down on the ground. "Go get a jacket, and I'll meet the both of you out there in a few minutes."

Chiaki skipped to Botan's side happily and immediately took hold of the young woman's hand. Botan giggled at the gesture as she gently squeezed his tiny hands in hers and walked him up his stairs to go and retrieve a sweater.

Hiei, who had been there the whole time, looked at Shuuichi dumbly. "And you're going to just leave us here? Jackass."

Shuuichi chuckled. "I was going to tell you and the others that you're all welcome to abandon what you're doing now, and we'll all go see the damned fireworks. Chiaki really wants to go, and I'm actually wanting to go and look at it myself." He offered Hiei a sheepish smile, who only threw back a smirk, a knowing look reflected in his crimson irises. Hiei was to Shuuichi what Yuusuke was to Botan, and the elder Jagashi twin was beginning to wonder if there was anything at all Shuuichi was not telling him about Botan. He and Shuuichi had been especially close since Shuuichi had arrived to Sapporo, and there wasn't really anything either could hide anymore without the other being able to detect it.

"Whatever, man. My sister's right about you though. You do spoil Chiaki." He laughed as Shuuichi threw curses at him.

Author Notes: I don't really care this time around to put my own little rant just because I don't know what to say, and I'm stressed over a paper that's, unfortunately, due tomorrow. But I will anyway just because there are a few things that ought to be mentioned.

1. The title has been changed. When I uploaded this, I think I was on a Teen Titans hype, and I remembered the title "Ferris-wheels and Fireworks" and that's what I ended up writing for the title. I discovered this mistake, so I edited a portion of the first chapter to fit the title, but now since I no longer need it (seeing that I reverted the title to its original form), I have revised the first chapter again. It's very minor though. I wasn't thinking, obviously, because its original title was "Winter Fireworks." Sorry for the mix-up.

2. I've also changed the chapter titles just because the ones from before were kind of cheesy. Hehe. Sorry about that.

3. Chiaki didn't sound very child-like in the first chapter so I tried to make him more kid-ish here. I don't know how well I managed to do that.

4. This is, by far, the shortest chapter for this fic. It was meant to be longer, actually, but if I had continued it to how I had originally planned to write it, I would have never stopped, and you all would have been bored. Therefore, what I meant to write, which really doesn't have any relevance, will be summarized and condensed in the following chapter. It will actually have a point then.

5. I have yet to do re-read and do any kind of revisions so if there's any grammatical errors or loop-holes, I do apologize.

I don't think that there's anything else to comment about on the fic itself, but I do, however have a different announcement. Haha… I'm so ashamed. The site, which has been on hiatus for a while, will be back up soon. I already have the html and layout done so all I need to do is upload it. There's still a couple of bugs I have to fix up, and I'm waiting for the messageboard that will be coupled with the site to be finished before I upload anything. Besides, I've been really pressured the past week because of my essay. I really do hate writing. Haha. Anyway, do expect it to be up within this month though.

Update on this fic will come at random, I'm afraid, but I will try to get out the next installment asap.

Standard disclaimers apply.