Rei glanced up from the dishes he was half-done drying in the dojo kitchen as he heard the icy winter wind rushing in and then the distinct sound of the front door being slammed visciously shut. Loud, angry, unintelligible protests in a very foreign language ran throughout the wooden hallways. Thick, heavy boots clomped up stairs, purposely being raucous. Another door was torn open and slammed shut with unneeded force.

Kai's back, Rei thought, a slight smile on his face. He went back to his dishes, making a mental sticky note to fix something for Kai after dinner this evening.

Takao, Max, Kyoujou, and Hitoshi came in in a much quieter fashion than their captain.

"Honestly, I don't know what his problem is. I mean, it wasn't that bad or anything," Rei heard Takao complaining. He rolled his amber-gold eyes. "Not that bad" meant, in Takao-speak, that it was some horrible publicity stunt gone even worse than it was when it began.

"Maybe his problem is the fact that you threw his blade to the rabid fangirls," he heard Max suggest. Rei sighed, shaking his head slightly. He swore the kid was getting less mature every day.

"I can't believe that you did that!" he heard Kyoujou squeak. The voices were getting much nearer to the kitchen now, their shoe-less feet making very little noise on the floor.

"Nor can I, really." Ah, there was Hitoshi and his blessed sanity. "I mean, a little immaturity I can handle, and the fact that he puts up with you when you act like a five-year-old on a daily basis says a lot about his tolerance. But honestly, that was going a little too far."

They entered the kitchen, slumping around the just-wiped-down kitchen table. "Hi, Rei," Max offered.

"So...movie didn't go exactly as planned?" He fought down a smirk. Hitoshi caught it and mock-glared at the teen but said nothing. Rei's smirk morphed into a genuine smile as he saw the torn, messy clothes and many bloody scratches the other boys sported on their faces and necks. "I gather Dranzer wasn't the only thing the fangirls got their hands on?"

Takao and Max shot him horrified glances, and he chuckled. "What do you guys want to eat tonight? Anything you want - within reason," he said firmly after seeing the all-too-familiar glint that Takao's eye often aquired when in a particularly excellent, often expensive, restraunt. He watched the World Champion wilt.

"Hey, can we put up different requests?" Max asked, raising a gloved hand. Rei shrugged.

"As long as it's nothing too elaborate."

"Cool. A cheeseburger is okay?" he asked hopefully. Rei nodded - thank Buddha American food was easy enough to make. He looked at Kyoujou and Hitoshi, knowing that Takao was still pondering what dish he wanted.

"Just some rice with an egg roll, if that's okay," said Kyoujou, smiling when Rei nodded.

"I have a date, actually," Hitoshi said, pushing himself up from his seat. "I need to go get ready."

"Whaa?" Takao said, his older brother's words snapping him out of his "Food-Zone". "You seriously have a date?"

Hitoshi smirked enigmatically and left.

"I hate it when he does that," Takao grumbled before returning to the far more important matter of his stomach and the food that would briefly reside there. "Okay, so can I get some sushi - anything'll do -, a coupla bowls of some of your famous really awesome soup, a few salads, and then that really awesome cake you made for my last birthday?"

"No," Rei said firmly. Max chuckled. "Just sushi, or just a bowl of soup, of just a salad. I'm not up to making a five-course meal tonight."

"Alright, alright," the slender Japanese black hole rumbled, propping his face in his hand. "Uh...I'll just have some rice balls...but can I have miso with it?"

Rei sighed, giving in just once. "Alright, fine. Now..." He picked up the sponge he had used to do the dishes and tossed it half-heartedly at Max. "Get out of my kitchen!"

"When'll dinner be ready?" Max asked as he, Takao, and Kyoujou were shoved with bodily force out of the kitchen. Rei tapped his lips in thought.

"Well...the dishes will take all of five minutes, and your food is really simple to make, so you'll be done in about ten or fifteen minutes. Takao, Kyoujou, yours'll be about twenty. That okay with you guys?"

The teens nodded in agreement and scampered off somewhere...well, Max and Takao did the actual scampering, dragging a protesting Kyoujou behind them. They ignored his pleads to just have some peace and quiet with his laptop, drowning the poor boy out with their chatter...something about the living room and red paint. Rei should've done something to stop it, and he would have three years ago...but now he knew it was like trying to stop a tsunami with a feather.

Smiling slightly, he returned to the dishes, mind focused on the task at hand.


Rei sighed, putting away the last newly-cleaned dishes. He glanced over at the clock on the stove - nearly one a.m. He sighed - Hitoshi had come back an hour before - after his six-hour date, which Rei thought was ridiculous until he realized that Hitoshi was actually old enough to go to nightclubs and such - and thankfully had helped him scrape the remnants of the red paint that had been splattered on the walls of the training hall by the World Champion and his entourage. Well, okay, so Kyoujou hadn't really taken part. Sad as it was, Rei just couldn't find it in him to deprive them of their food.

After they had eaten and profusely apologized, Rei attempted to have them clean up the titanic mess. Unfortunately, Max and Takao somehow got into a mock-wrestling match which ended with two broken lamps, a split end table, and a large crack on the DVD player. Rei had then sent Kyoujou home and locked the two other bladers in their rooms with a master key given to him by Hiroshi.

That had been three hours ago. He had spent the remaining two on his own on his hands and knees, scrubbing the red off of the floor, vacuuming up the glass shards from the lamps, attempting to place an estimate on the cost of the DVD player, and scouring the phone book for a place he could call tomorrow to get the split end table repaired. Honestly, those two were nearly more trouble then they were worth - the fact that he was able to take all these events in stride and move on proved he had been around them for far too long.

He rung out the washcloth he had been using on the dishes from dinner and made his way into the laundry room behind the kitchen, where he threw it into the washing machine, which he then set and started. After starting up the dryer as well, he extinguished the lights and closed the door behind him.

The dojo was silent now, save for the familiar gentle thrumming of the clothes in the washer and dryer. He loved being up this late - or rising before the sun, not that he'd been doing that much lately. He switched on the coffeepot and placed the old-fashioned kettle on the stove, taking out a box of herbal teabags he had picked up at the supermarket yesterday. The combined sounds, hissing stove, rumbling coffeepot, and gentle thrumming of the laundry very nearly put him to sleep.

They did, in fact, as he found half an hour later when the shrill whistle of the kettle jolted him awake. He held back a curse, leaping for the kettle, and praying that he hadn't awoken anyone. He switched the coffeepot off just before the timer went off on that too, breathing a sigh of relief. He eased the kettle off the stove, grabbing two light creme mugs out of a cabinet with one hand. He poured the boiling-hot water from the kettle into one, dropping in a teabag.

He set the kettle down again before picking up the coffeepot and pouring a full cup of black coffee. He then placed two slices of bread in the toaster and pulled out the boysenberry jelly and margarine and waited. He nearly dozed off again, jumping up and biting his tongue when the toaster popped, the noise like a bomb in the relative silence of the very-early-morning dojo. He stood, snatching a mathing creme plate from a cabinet as he passed, and laying the toast on it.

He smiled, remembering the first time Kai had missed dinner, just after the team had been formed. Not sure what to do, he had waited up for the Russian enigma until around three in the morning, when he had slipped in through the back door. He had offered a pate of food, which had been coldly turned down. He had then been icily - when was the teen not aloof and cold then?- informed that Kai was not a fan of dinner, and that heavier things weighed down the stomach and heart and digestive system if they were eaten right before bed.

The next time it had occured, Rei had simply made a slice of toast for him and left it on a covered plate before going to bed. The Russian teen had eaten it, and the ritual just grew from there. Rei noticed that Kai used only boysenberry jam on his bread of biscuits or muffins or whatever the team was having. He saw that Kai very often indulged in black coffee - something Rei disliked in general - on late nights or just before he turned in for the evening. He realized that Kai ate his toast with margarine...and so every time Kai was out late, or missed dinner for some reason, Rei would, without fail, make two slices of toast with thinly spread margarine, boysenberry jam, and one cup of black coffee.

The herbal tea was for him, actually. Kai had promised a day off for the team months ago, so Rei was hoping he would be able to sleep past five in the morning, when he usually arose. Unfortunately, he needed something to put him to sleep and keep him there past that time, as his body was so used to the rigours of Kai's rather intensive - though effective, Rei would admit - training. Unfortunately, no such effect seemed to have appeared in either Takao, Max, or Kyoujou.

As Rei slid the silver knife over the slice of toast, spreading the margarine thinly, his mind wandered to the mystery that was Hiwatari Kai. Even though he had been with the team for three years, they still knew virtually nothing about him. They knew his grandfather was a sadistic bastard, that he had been raised in some sick, twisted version of Hell that would make even Satan weep for mercy, and that his "friends" were possibly psychotic...but other then that, they had no real information about the teen.

And yet, even knowing that he knew next to nothing about the gorgeous teen - and yes, he was gorgeous - he still found himself inexplicably drawn to him. As in drawn to him. He rolled his eyes with a sigh. He was such a lovesick, daydreaming idiot. He picked up the plate and cup after putting everything else back in its proper place, balancing his lukewarm tea on one arm, and made his way up the back stairs, the master key dangling from his fingers. Dropping the tea off in his room, he made his way down the hallway, quietly unlocking Takao and Max's rooms so they could "escape" the next morning. When he reached the end of the hallway, he put the plate and cup full of coffee down on the floor outside of Kai's room. Even though he was as silent as he could be, the plate slipped as it neared the floor and fell the remaining half-inch, landing with a klunk that seemed to reverberate in the still hallway. Rei winced, standing up. He turned to go when he heard the door open behind him.

He turned to see a disheveled, shirtless Kai - luckily his crimson eyes were bright and alert, so Rei knew he hadn't awoken him.

"You took longer than usual," the usually silent teen remarked. Rei blinked. Had he been...

"Were you waiting?" he asked, keeping his voice down so as not to wake the others.

Kai, however, had no such qualms about his sleeping teammates, speaking in a perfectly normal voice. "Yes."

There was an uneasy silence in the hallway for a moment before Kai bent down to pick up the plate and cup. He smirked - not smiled, Rei noted, smirked - at Rei. "I've been wanting to ask you for the longest time: how the hell do you know this?"

"What?"

Kai nodded down towards the plate. "The food, the coffee...it's not like I ever told you."

Rei gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Eh. I have a bit of a photographic memory - I kind of automatically store away stuff. I don't even realize it, it just happens."

"Hn."

Taking that to mean that the conversation was over, Rei turned to leave, but nearly jumped a foot in the air when a cool hand closed around his wrist. He turned and amber-gold eyes met surprisingly warm, sincere crimson. "Thank you."

Rei fell asleep that night with visions of those crimson eyes firmly in his mind.


A/N I was reading through the chapters today and I couldn't stand the errors any longer...so I went through and fixed everything. :)