How the Cookie Crumbles

Author's note: Up until now, I've been an out-of-practice Gundam Wing fanfic writer, but something about Pretear really appeals to me. This is just a funny li'l idea I had while watching episode four. There is a slight element of shounen ai in it, but when I say slight I mean slight. I've estimated the three junior Leafe Knight's ages as follows: Mannen's ten, Hajime's seven, and Shin's three. Watanabe is something of an original character, although ever so slightly based on a character of the same name from Excel saga. Watanabe is a very common name in Japan, the equivalent of Joe or John. Anyway, here it is.

Summary: Mannen likes Hajime. Hajime likes Shin. Shin likes cookies. During a trial separation, things go even more downhill…

"… bad influence. In conclusion, they've been spending way too much time together."

The three youngest Leafe Knights stared at their feet. Mannen was trying to keep his cool over taking the blame for that hair-dye-in-the-shampoo stunt that Kei had blamed on him. (He HAD been behind it, but that was beside the point…) Hajime felt ashamed that he'd been so easily suckered into that prank. How had Mannen managed to convince him that Kei would look better with green hair? Shin was wondering why he couldn't see his feet from under the hem of his trousers. He'd forgotten about how he's been bribed with a cookie to get Kei's special bottle of shampoo in the first place.

" WELL? What do you three have to say for yourselves?" yelled Hayate.

" We are very sorry and we won't do it or anything like it ever again," all three children replied automatically. They made the same promise once a week, now bordering on twice. The last time Hayate had heard that exact sentence out of those exact mouths was only two days before during the chili-peppers-in-Goh's-fudge-cake saga.

" Sorry isn't going to cut it this time! We need to take action! You three are going to be separated!"

Now they were starting to get worried. The three of them had been together, day in and day out, since they had been reborn. Now they were to be separated? Their little clique was so insular, they'd even developed something like crushes on each other. Mannen had been trying to disguise the fact that he was painfully infatuated with Hajime. That was part of the reason he kept coming up with these crazy schemes, he wanted Hajime to admire him. And it was fairly clear to everyone (except Shin, of course) that Hajime was infatuated with Shin. In fact, he spent so much time and energy fussing over the object of his affection that Hajime was the only one who didn't notice that Mannen was crushing on him, big time. Shin just wasn't thrilled with the whole concept of changing their routine. Would they be able to bear being apart? One thing was certain; no matter how uneasy they were about this plan, none of them were going to go against Hayate in a bad mood.

" So what should we do with them?" Sasame used the placating tone of voice he usually reserved for some of the really crazy people who called in on his radio show.

" I say a school. A boarding school. Preferably a strict one at least a thousand miles away," Kei spoke up in an injured tone. His now fluorescent green hair was hidden under a very fashionable (woman's) hat.

" No way! We'd need to send 'em to three different schools. Shin's kindergarten, Hajime's elementary, and Mannen's junior high. How much would that cost, do you think? We couldn't afford it!" Goh rubbed his temples. Just thinking about money made him feel sick. His newest waiting job paid abysmal wages and the tips were even worse.

" No, I don't think school is the way to go. They got all the schooling they needed in leafania. They'd get bored and cause even more trouble," Hayate rubbed his chin thoughtfully. " Here's what I suggest. There are four of us older Knights, we can take one each."

Sasame raised an eyebrow. Kei looked horrified. Goh looked confused.

" Sasame can take Mannen, Kei gets Hajime, and Goh takes Shin. Figure out what to do with them yourselves. If it's a long term solution, brilliant." Goh went from being confused to annoyed.

" Hang on a minute! We get one each and you get off scot free, right? You cheeky bas…"

" I've got the Pretear to take care of," Hayate interrupted. He hoped Goh would watch his language around Shin. The last thing they needed was a three year old cursing like a storm trooper. " Don't you think Himeno's enough to cope with?"

" Oh, come on," snapped Kei bitterly " you're just using this as an excuse to spend more time with your girlfriend. You are a bloody cheeky basta…"

" That's enough complaining! What kind of knights are we, letting those three monsters run around wild, causing trouble and draining the Leafe out of the citizens…"

" Is he talking about us?" whispered Hajime to Mannen.

" Yep," groaned Mannen " monsters, that's us, all right."

Shin examined his hands for any sign that he might be turning into a monster. Finding none, he tried hard to figure out just what the heck Hayate was ranting about.

" All right, all right, you've made your point, now shut the hell up, for God's sake!" Kei massaged his temples under his hat. One radioactive green curl slid out from underneath it. " What are we going to do with the little brats?"

"Starting from tomorrow, that's your responsibility."

"… I'll come and get you in an hour, okay?"

Mannen stood outside the video game arcade with a bag full of quarters. Sasame couldn't think of anything better to do with him, and he had to go to work now. It was only a temporary fix, he could figure out something long term later. And a ten year old could easily spend a day, never mind an hour, at the video arcade, right? Perfect! With this in mind, Sasame ran the rest of the way to work. This babysitting lark was easier than he thought!

What he failed to notice was that the arcade was closed during school hours. So now Mannen was alone and with no means of entertaining himself. He was missing Hajime something chronic. If Hajime had been there, he could have come up with any number of madcap ideas, just so he could hear Hajime say he was awesome. For the first time in his life, Mannen was lonely.

And feeling this despondency, he set off down the street. He didn't notice that he was getting dangerously close to the girl's junior high. And it was nearly lunchtime.

Hajime spun around in the chair for the hundredth time, sighing deeply. He'd been there since nine o clock, when Kei dumped him in an unoccupied cubicle next to his own and told him not to move, under penalty of death. He could at least have given me a game or something to keep me from getting bored, thought Hajime sourly, he works in a games company after all. Gotta have a few spares. Sighing again, he spun the chair.

" Hajime, for good's sake, keep it down! I'm trying to work!" yelled Kei from next door. Kei was no fun at all. Hajime missed his two best friends, especially Shin. They could do nothing for an entire day and they wouldn't get bored. Just recently they'd spent the whole day in the Awayuki's garden lying in the grass, staring at the sky. " If Mannen and Shin were here, we'd have snuck out the window and we'd be doing something fun right now," thought Hajime bitterly. Like the time they'd snuck into the zoo by having Shin distract the ticket lady while they crawled under the gate. And the time they got all that free ice-cream when Mannen delivered a bunch of flowers conjured by Shin to the girl behind the counter and pretended she had a secret admirer. And what about how Hajime'd flooded the cinema so they could sneak into that Sailormoon film. Ordinary schoolgirls changing into super heroines, what a laugh.

" Nuts to this," he thought suddenly, " I'm getting out of here."

Goh was half walking, half dragging Shin along. Why did kids have to walk so damn slow? He had to be in work in ten minutes, it was twenty minutes away, damn Hayate, damn him to hell…

… he ground to a sudden halt outside the park. This would be safe enough, right? Goh knelt down and took hold of Shin's shoulders to have a straight talk with him.

" Okay, Shin? I have to go to work and you have to stay in this park until I get back, okay?"

" Why?"

" Never mind why. This is important. You have to be really careful. Stay away from roads, and the ponds, lakes, rivers, anywhere there's water, pretty much. And don't take candy from strangers!"

" What's a strang…"

" And if a stranger wants you to go with him, or her, don't! In fact, don't even talk to any strangers!"

" But what's a stra…"

" Keep your wits about you. Do you understand?"

" No…"

" Good! I'll see you later!"

With that, Goh took off as fast as his legs would carry him. Shin watched him leave, then settled down under a tree to wait until he came back. As it happened, in the branches of this particular tree was a six year old boy named Watanabe. He was a fairly average looking boy, with black hair that flopped into his blue eyes. If there was only one thing you could say about him, it's that he was impulsive. He tended to fall in love quickly and passionately, and his tree-climbing stunt was an effort to pick flowers for a girl he had a thing for. He'd been up there for ten minutes before the branch started cracking. With a yell, he tumbled out of the tree.

Shin heard the yell and looked up, saw the boy heading for a nasty fall, and reacted with a quick spell that caused a mattress of vines to cushion the boy's landing. When Watanabe opened his eyes, expected to be missing a limb or two, he found himself looking into the most beautiful green eyes he'd ever seen (for the time being, at least.)

" Are you okay?" asked Shin. It hadn't crossed his mind that this could be one of those strangers Goh had warned him about. Watanabe felt faint. He needed a hook…

" I'm fantastic! You saved my life!" (He didn't know that Shin had conjured the flowers that broke his fall, but since he was there that was the assumption.) "I have to repay you somehow… oh, here!"

Watanabe handed the boy a cookie. Shin immediately made this boy his new best friend in his own mind. Watanabe was delighted with himself. Now for the real clincher…

" Okay, you accepted my cookie. That means you're my boyfriend now."

He closed his eyes, waiting for the slap, punch, tears, screams or hysterical laughter that usually came after that statement. Then cracked one open when he realised none were coming.

" Okay!" said Shin, wondering what a boyfriend was.

Will do chapter two. Heh, rhyming.