HAPPY 2ND BIRTHDAY CAPTAIN MIS!!

(Right, so it's a day later than I'd been planning, but yeah. I predicted that.)

Those of you following me on my LJ know I was feeling vaguely nostalgic a few days back, when it occurred to me that my idiot child's second "birthday" was upon me. It still brings me no end of amusement when I think about my expectations that I'd be done with this story within a few months. My my, how true it rings, that old phrase: "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Anyway, that's enough of that.

So, in honor of Captain Miserable's entrance into the "Terrible Twos," I give you all your long-awaited updated. Thanks for all the support and love; I appreciate it much more than you know.


Disclaimer: Like I really need to be reminded of that lamentable fact….
Words To Watch Out For:

Nothing, to my knowledge.

More Of A Note Than Anything:

The title of this chapter comes from a Ben Franklin phrase. I forget the actual phrase, but the version I'm most familiar with goes as follows: "Fish and visitors stink after three days." Which is an accurate summation of the situation, really.


Captain Miserable Finds the Greener Grass

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Chapter Thirty-Nine: Fish and Visitors

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There were two things Saitou hated about being sick.

The first was the actual being sick part. He found nothing enjoyable about being miserable and achy and generally feeling like three day old shit. Granted, having Tokio take care of him was nice, but she hadn't been able to stay home with him for the duration of his illness. So she'd had to tailor her care around that, making him a shitload of soup and leaving it on the stove for him, ready to be heated and consumed; leaving water and aspirin and tissues within easy reach; and making sure that sunlight would not be able to get into the room, every day, before she left. She called him and checked up on him at regular intervals during the day, and made an effort to be home by six at the latest, which was an inconvenience for her, what with all the work now under way at the museum.

She'd also asked Nanao-san to come by the apartment whenever it was convenient for her and look in on Saitou, since the elderly woman was home all day and didn't mind helping Tokio out. It was weird for Saitou, having Nanao-san in the apartment, dishing out his soup for him and making sure he got his rest and generally fussing over him in a very grandmotherly way—by the time he'd been born, both of his grandmothers were gone, so he'd never known them. His sister remembered them, and Hiroaki had a vague impression of both, but Saitou had never met them. He imagined Nanao-san was probably what his grandmothers would have been like, especially his mother's mother. Nanao-san looked like a little old country grandmother, and Saitou remembered seeing a few of them as a boy—all she was missing was the kerchief tied around her white-streaked black hair, and the rolled up sleeves.

And the stocky build; she was a little too skinny to be the quintessential country grandmother.

Other than that, she had it down.

The second thing that Saitou hated about being sick was that he tended to forget things, since his concentration and retention were shit for a while, even after the worst of his illness was past.

Which was why he didn't remember that his sister and her family were coming for a visit, and staying with him, until he arrived at his building and found them standing before the elevators.

"Oh shit," he said, scowling and rubbing his forehead really hard in the hopes that the heel of his hand would magically break through his skull and kill him.

No such luck.

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When Saitou had first met his future brother-in-law, he had hated the man on sight.

Soma Toshiaki was studying to be a doctor. He was nice enough, decent looking, came from a good family, and went to a very good medical school.

He was also the single most annoying human being Saitou had ever met.

The man made Okita look like a fucking delight.

Saitou's older brother thought Toshiaki was a moron too, and it was perhaps the one thing the brothers Saitou agreed on, no qualifiers attached. They had ruined the family photos at the wedding reception by scowling in every single picture (or so Katsu had accused, and she still hadn't forgiven them for that, not that her brothers really cared), and Saitou had punched Toshiaki in the mouth at his niece Yukiko's christening when he had decided he'd had enough of his brother-in-law (Hiroaki had, upon being informed of the incident, shouted a very filthy word in front of the officiating priest and loudly complained that his little brother was always getting all the fun, which had resulted in his mother whacking him with her purse and his wife not speaking to him for a week).

Despite this, Toshiaki laughed the hostility off and called their relationship "very complex."

Saitou didn't think it was all that "complex": he hated Toshiaki, and the asshole was too stupid to realize it.

See? Very simple.

His mother was always on his ass about treating poor Toshiaki so horribly, saying that he was going to kill her from the shame of it all.

"Mom, he's a fucking idiot," Saitou would usually reply, and then yelp when his mother invariably whacked him a few times over the head with whatever she had handy—ladle, spoon, book, and once, a shoe.

(He still didn't understand how his mother, who barely reached his shoulder, could whack him over the head without fail every time. It was like she grew or something for the sole purpose of beating on him.)

If he got her upset enough, she'd call his father, and then Saitou would be subjected to Yuusuke's bellowing on how Saitou was an ungrateful boy and never listened to his venerable old father's wisdom, and it was at that point that Saitou suspected his dear, sweet mother actually hated him, because he was sure that if she loved him she wouldn't involve his lunatic father in anything having to do with him. And then his lunatic father would start a fist fight with his youngest son, just to prove he could still beat his ass, and Saitou would prove his father wrong, and Yuusuke would say that if it weren't for his training Saitou wouldn't have been able to beat him, and then Saitou would give up, kiss his mother good-bye and leave the house, his father yelling after him that he was an ungrateful boy and never listened to his venerable old father's wisdom….

…and next month he'd get to do it all over again.

His mother couldn't understand why he hated Toshiaki, and refused to accept "Because he's a fucking dumbass, Mom!" as a legitimate excuse.

"He's a doctor, Haji-chan," she'd say.

And Saitou would roll his eyes and say,

"Yeah? Maybe he gave himself a lobotomy and that's why he's such a fucking dumbass."

And then he'd get hit again.

His grandfather thought Toshiaki was a moron too, but he didn't necessarily see that as a bad thing:

"Yeah, well when he starts trying to be your buddy, get back to me," Saitou bitterly grumbled once, and Denpachi laughed and Saitou had left, pissed off at being laughed at.

And that was the crux of it, really: Toshiaki was always trying to ingratiate himself to Saitou, when all Saitou really wanted was to get away from the guy. He was annoying and an idiot and Saitou always felt like he was losing brain cells by the ton when he was forced into extended contact with his brother-in-law.

So of course, he was always stuck with the schmuck.

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"Yo, Haji!" Toshiaki cheerfully greeted, and Saitou ground his back teeth.

This was not good. This was very not good. Tokio had no idea his sister was going to be staying with them, because Saitou had forgotten that he'd been badgered into offering his place to them while they were in town. That this had been decided months and months and months ago was just going to piss her off worse. On top of that, Saitou didn't actually have any space for them, not with Eiji and the dog also in residence.

"You didn't meet us," Katsu said, frowning at him, and Saitou sighed wearily—Here we go, he thought dismally….

He looked a great deal like his sister, though she wasn't quite as tall (still taller than average—all of them were) or as lanky or as gaunt as he was. But she had the same narrow, amber eyes, and the same sardonic way of making people feel very small and uncomfortable.

Little wonder—he'd learned how to do it from her, after all.

"I forgot, Katsu," he said, rubbing his forehead; the headache that he'd had for most of his illness was back with a vengeance.

"Hajime, I emailed you last night and sent you all the information," Katsu said, frown deepening. "I had to call Aki to pick us up, and it took hours, because he had to get out of work early."

"What the fuck, Katsu, I forgot!" Saitou snapped, already incredibly annoyed, and it had only been a minute. "Fucking hells, it happens, all right?"

"Tch—probably didn't even check your mail," Katsu said in disgust, rolling her eyes and shifting the child on her hip higher. "Well? Are you going to let us just stand here?"

"You could have just gone up," Saitou shot back. "It's not like you don't know where I live."

"Toshi and I can't take all this up by ourselves," Katsu retorted, gesturing to the truly frightening amount of luggage they'd carted with them from Nara.

"Jesus," Saitou groaned, now vigorously rubbing the heels of both hands over his eyes.

And then his day got worse.

"—and I got like the best score of everyone, Tokio-oba," Eiji's cheerful voice said as the door to the building opened.

One bolt of lightning, come on, Saitou silently pleaded.

The gods deigned not to answer, with a lightning bolt or otherwise, so he glared at the roof and gave it a quick finger before turning around to face Tokio and Eiji, who had by then noticed the crowd in the lobby of the building and were eyeing Katsu and her family curiously.

"Hey," Tokio greeted him with a small, questioning smile.

"Hey," he said wearily. "I can totally explain this, but you're not going to like it."

Tokio's eyebrows rose, but before anything else could happen, Toshiaki said,

"Oh, you must be Haji's lady friend that Mom's been wondering about."

Tokio blinked, thrown off.

"Who?" she asked, puzzled, at the same moment that Saitou whirled around and snarled,

"Shut the fuck up, Soma, or I put my foot in your ass!"

"Hajime!" Tokio and Katsu snapped at the same time.

"He's askin' for it!" Saitou said, pointing at a sheepish looking Toshiaki. "Control your idiot, Katsu!"

"Stop being a jerk-off!" Katsu said.

"OI!" Tokio shouted, bringing attention back to her. "What is going on here?"

"That's my sister," Saitou grudgingly admitted, tossing his eldest sibling a baleful look she returned. "And that's her dumb fuck husband—"

"Saitou Hajime—language," Tokio said flatly, and he rolled his eyes.

"Like the boy hasn't heard me say worse," he groused.

"That is not the point—stop acting like a baby." She sent him a glare that would have blistered his skin off if it had been possible, then became the gracious hostess and went over to Katsu and Toshiaki and politely introduced herself and Eiji.

Saitou glared at the back of her head and sulked, hands shoved into his pockets.

That was about the moment he finally realized that his sister was missing two of her off-spring, and after looking around with a vague frown asked,

"Oi, Katsu? Where're Teru and Toshikazu?"

"They're around," Katsu answered dismissively, and Saitou raised an eyebrow.

"Sure about that?" he asked dryly.

Katsu sighed, exasperated.

"Yes, Hajime, I am," she said irritably. "Why don't you be useful and help Toshi with the bags, huh?"

"Hag," he muttered under his breath; Eiji heard him and snickered, and was rewarded with a whack to the back of the head.

"What're you laughing at?" Saitou demanded. "You're helping."

Eiji sent him a dismayed look.

"Aw what for?" he whined.

"For being obnoxious," Saitou replied, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and shoving him over to where his hapless brother-in-law was already loading himself down with bags.

"Teru! Toshikazu!" Katsu bellowed. "Your lazy uncle finally showed up, come on!"

"Show you lazy, you old witch," Saitou muttered, scowling, as he hefted up two ridiculously heavy bags.

Tokio heard him this time, and sent him a black look and slapped his shoulder—like hard, though.

"Ow!" he complained. "What was that for?"

"Stop acting like a child," she ordered, and he pulled a face that would have been a pout on anyone else.

Saitou, Eiji and Toshiaki split the baggage between them while Katsu herded her two oldest into the elevator with Tokio's help, and the group enjoyed (if by "enjoyed" one meant "suffered through") a very up-close-and-personal ride up to the 8th floor.

Saitou, of course, ended up between the wall and his brother-in-law, who looked at Tokio, then at Saitou, and grinned lecherously, wagging his eyebrows in perverted approval. Saitou glared at him:

"Boy, hit the button again," he ordered through gritted teeth.

"I did, Hajime-oji," Eiji replied.

"Do it again."

"Why?"

"This glorified coffin on a string might go faster."

"That never works."

"I can dream, can't I?"

They reached the floor, finally, and got off the "glorified coffin on a string," and Tokio led the way to the apartment, she and Katsu talking about woman-type things.

Saitou guessed, at any rate—he was far too busy trying to make his brother-in-law burst into flames through sheer will alone.

Nothing yet, but you never knew….

Tokio opened the door to the apartment, and they trooped in slowly, as Katsu had to help Teru and Toshikazu take off their shoes, which was a very long and drawn out affair because they were seven and four, respectively, and it was like some kind of rule that anyone under the age of ten had to take forever to do anything, even if it was something simple.

Once everyone had gotten into the apartment, and the bags were dumped on the floor, Katsu decided to lay into her brother, apparently because she thought it was one of her duties as the eldest sister:

"Hajime, how could you forget to tell Tokio-san we were coming?"

"I had the fucking flu for the last week and a half!" Saitou snapped. "You coming to Tokyo was kinda low down on the list of priorities!"

"You've known about this trip for months!"

"Knowing something and remembering it aren't the same thing!"

"Don't make excuses for being lazy, Saitou Hajime!"

Before Saitou was able to respond to that, his nephew launched himself at his uncle, and made excruciating contact with a very tender portion of the male anatomy.

"Hajime!" Tokio and Katsu yelled, horrified looks on their faces.

"Oh man, that hurrrrrt," Toshiaki said with a wince.

"Is he dead?" Eiji asked, expression appalled.

"I should be so lucky," Saitou was able to get out, sounding like he was about to cry.

Not that anyone would have blamed him.

Katsu grabbed Toshikazu by the ear and began scolding him, and the boy hollered loudly, saying he'd only wanted to say hi to Haji-ji. Tokio, in the mean time, helped Saitou to the bedroom, Eiji and Toshiaki right behind them.

"Here, lay down," Tokio said.

Saitou groaned and did as she'd said, then, rubbing his forehead, yelled,

"SHUT THE FUCK UP."

Katsu and Toshikazu instantly quieted.

"Savage," Tokio muttered.

"Do not start with me, woman," he growled, glaring at her.

"Might wanna put some ice on…you know," Toshiaki said, coughing into his fist.

"Toshiaki, go away," Saitou snapped.

Tokio glared at him (which he ignored), then sent Toshiaki a sheepish look.

"I'm sorry, Soma-san," she said sincerely.

Toshiaki grinned.

"Oh that's all right—after what just happened, he's entitled to be a little cranky."

"I'm in the fucking room, so could you not talk about me like I'm not here?" Saitou snapped.

"Eiji, would you mind getting me a bag of ice and a towel?" Tokio asked wearily.

"Sure," Eiji said, still looking quite horrified.

"I sure hope you weren't planning anything special tonight, Haji," Toshiaki said with a lascivious grin.

"Get lost, Soma!"

"Going, going," the man said, holding both hands up and retreating.

"Not far enough," Saitou muttered bitterly.

"Hajime," Tokio said in disapproval.

"If I ever get a hard-on again, it'll be a miracle," he said, rubbing his forehead harder. "Never mind have children."

Tokio sighed, then leaned over and laid her head on his chest.

"Eiji'll be back with the ice in a little bit," she said, kissing his chest.

He didn't reply, instead threading his fingers through her hair and sighing.

When Eiji returned with the bag of ice wrapped in a towel, Saitou sourly accepted it and, grimacing, settled it down over his crotch.

"This sucks," he said darkly.

"Yeah," Eiji said solemnly, settling down on the bed next to Saitou and putting a hand on his guardian's head.

Tokio smiled faintly, then leaned over and kissed Saitou and ruffled Eiji's hair.

"I'll get your sister settled in," she offered.

"'Settled in'?" Saitou parroted, horrified. "Tokio, they can't stay here. We don't have room for them!"

"Well they can't stay with your parents," she replied. "You told me they were still staying with your brother because the renovations on the house weren't finished yet. Which means your brother's is out too."

"Or they could stay at a hotel," Saitou replied.

Tokio sent him a scandalized look.

"Hajime!"

"What? Look, we don't have the space for them!"

"It's just a week," Tokio argued. "We can deal for a week. And I am not going out there and telling your sister that her own brother is tossing her out."

"Fine, tell her to come in here and I'll do it."

"Hajime!"

"What—? Ow!" Saitou yelled when Tokio smacked him. "What the hell, woman?!"

"How could you say that?! That's horrible!"

"What's horrible?" Katsu asked, peeking into the room. "You okay Hajime?"

"Fucking awesome, how do you think?" Saitou returned, glaring at her. "Mind keeping your spawn under control?"

Katsu glared at him.

"He just wanted to say hi, jerk," she said. "As much as you hate children I don't understand why you adopted one."

"This one's never tried to sterilize me," Saitou shot back, jerking his thumb in Eiji's direction.

"That's enough, Hajime," Tokio said, whacking his arm again, making him hiss and glare at her.

"Oh is that how you keep him in line?" Katsu asked dryly, looking amused.

"Ha ha ha," Saitou muttered; Eiji gave his head a sympathetic pat.

"Hajime and I were just deciding on how to accommodate you all, Katsu-san," Tokio politely said.

"Not here, we're not," Saitou said.

"Hajime—"

"Tokio, I didn't have you, the boy or the dog here when my sister first told me about this," Saitou interrupted, talking over her. "I had the space for five extra people—I don't anymore."

"Your sister is not staying in a hotel," Tokio snapped.

"We don't have the money for that," Katsu agreed, leaning against the door jamb, arms crossed over her chest.

And it was only because of the way she was standing that Saitou noticed the little soup bowl sized swell that hadn't been there when he'd seen his sister last year:

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" he asked, incredulous.

"What?" Tokio and Katsu asked in surprised unison.

"You're knocked up again?" Saitou demanded. "Son of a bitch, Katsu!"

"You noticed?" Katsu asked, her shock on her face.

"Of course I noticed! They pay me to notice shit! What the hell, Katsu! Three kids isn't enough?"

"Well I don't see you having any!" Katsu snapped, glaring at him. "At least Mom and Dad will be able to enjoy their grandchildren before they die! They're lucky they didn't have to depend on you, or they'd never get any!"

"Go to hell!" Saitou snarled.

"Oi, keep it civil," Tokio advised, sending him a warning look.

"She started it," Saitou grumbled.

"She's pregnant."

"Her son tried to neuter me."

"You've survived attempts by far more capable sources," Tokio said dryly.

"Feh—your bat-shit insane father never got as close as Toshikazu did," Saitou muttered. "Kid could give him lessons."

"Your sister still needs somewhere to stay, Hajime," Tokio reminded him.

"We don't have the space," Saitou repeated, his patience wearing thin.

"We can deal for a week," Tokio replied.

"Tokio—" Saitou began.

Tokio turned to Katsu, smiled and completely ignored him:

"It'll be a tight fit, Katsu-san, since space is at a premium, but I think with a little moving around, you all should be able to fit in Eiji's room."

"Where'm I gonna sleep?" Eiji asked.

"In here with us," Tokio replied.

Saitou and Eiji sent her matching looks of horror.

"What?!" they shouted in unison.

Tokio, again, ignored them. She rose and went over to the doorway and ushered Katsu out, so as to share her ideas on making everyone fit with the older woman.

Saitou and Eiji watched them walk out, and then Eiji sent his guardian a distraught look.

"Was she serious?" he asked.

"Yes," Saitou muttered, scowling.

This was going to be a long week.

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A few hours later, Saitou wasn't in as horrific a mood, though he was by no means in a good one.

He was still sore, but able to walk without assistance, so that was one good thing.

About the only one, though.

Eiji set up a sleeping bag he'd borrowed from Soujirou on the floor of Saitou and Tokio's room, on Tokio's side of the bed, next to the sliding glass doors, and dragged Hachi's bed over to that side too. The result was that Tokio either had to use Saitou's side or the foot of the bed if she wanted to get into the bed or out of it.

Eiji's bureau was also moved into their room, to make space for Eiji's sleeping bag, which Teru and Toshikazu and the youngest child, Goro, were sharing; the children's parents had the fold-out couch.

"This feels weird," Eiji said, frowning.

"Tell me about it," Saitou muttered.

Their door wasn't exactly closed to Eiji—if he ever needed them in the middle of the night, he was free to rouse them, and their bedroom had sort of become the gathering point for everyone, since there wasn't an actual living room to speak of. But the adults had their privacy and Eiji had his, and that was gone now that they were sharing a room.

For Eiji, that meant he couldn't read his manga when he should have been asleep, or play with his Nintendo DS (a gift from Tokio's parents, who had decided Eiji was as good as their grandson and acted accordingly), without his guardians finding out.

For Saitou, that meant he wasn't going to be getting laid.

And yeah, he wasn't really in any position to be thinking about that currently, but he wasn't going to be out of commission the whole week.

A week without sex was very not cool, as far as he was concerned.

"You'll live," Tokio informed him when he made complaint.

"If you call that living," he groused, scowling.

"Hajime, it's a week," she said, amusement and exasperation in her voice. "It's not forever."

"Might as well be."

"Stop that," she ordered, swatting him. "One week won't kill you."

He made no further comment, since it was useless to continue the conversation; she wasn't taking it seriously. He decided to just wait a few days, see how seriously she took it then—Tokio enjoyed their more intimate activities as much as he did, even if she fancied herself above admitting so. She'd be singing a very different tune soon enough, though.

Saitou knew his woman, after all.

Dinner was a chaotic affair. Not that this was somehow different from other, past dinners when his sister and her family were in town and had been forced on him (because it really wasn't), but with space at a premium, this year seemed especially bad.

And then there was the whole Tokio-almost-punching-Katsu-in-the-throat thing.

Okay, fine, maybe not quite that bad, but still pretty catastrophic.

It began when Katsu made the tactical error of treating Tokio as if she were as hopelessly un-domestic as he was.

Really. Bad. Move.

Saitou loved his sister (not that one could tell this automatically by watching them interact…), but Katsu was a rather overbearing personality in large doses. Or even small ones. She had to be in charge of everything, something he suspected stemmed from her being the oldest. It was why she micromanaged his life for him while she was in town, and why they fought so often, and why Saitou preferred talking to her once or twice a month, if that.

It was also why he wasn't at all surprised when she elected herself in charge of dinner and relegated Tokio to mere helper without asking.

"I couldn't ask you to cook, Katsu-san," Tokio said stiffly, standing tall and tense before Saitou's sister. "You've just finished a very long trip, and you must be tired."

Katsu waved her off and walked around her to the fridge, and Tokio visibly bristled.

"I'm cooking," Katsu said. "You can help if you want."

Tokio's eyes narrowed and a muscle in her jaw started to jump; Eiji tugged on Saitou's sleeve.

"Hajime-oji, Tokio-oba looks real mad," he murmured.

"She's all right," Saitou said dismissively, waiting for Tokio to send his sister to hell and wondering why she hadn't yet; she didn't even let him get away with talking to her like that, and as far as he was concerned, he was really the only person on the planet who had the right to, not that he would.

It always led to her telling him to go drop dead, which ultimately led to some of their worst fights, after all….

"Katsu-san, I'd really rather you didn't," Tokio said, clearly fighting to be polite.

"My family eats a very particular diet, Tokio-san," Katsu said, not bothering to turn around and look at her.

"I can accommodate you," Tokio returned.

Katsu looked over her shoulder, expression plainly stating that she rather highly doubted that, and Saitou frowned, not liking the expression even a little.

"I'm sure," Katsu said, tone tinged with condescension, "you could, Tokio-san."

Tokio's back straightened even more, enough that Saitou honestly believed she was in danger of snapping it. Before she could open her mouth to say anything—or leap on Katsu and deliver brutal death, which was the one he had his money on—Saitou curtly said,

"Katsu, sit the fuck down."

His sister sent him an annoyed look.

"I'm cooking, Hajime," she snapped.

"Not in Tokio's goddamn kitchen you're not. Sit. Down," he repeated, voice deadly.

She glared at him, but backed down and surrendered the territory, and Saitou waited until she was occupied with her youngest to go over to where a still very stiff Tokio was jerkily going about getting a meal started. He walked up behind her, put his hands over hers and said,

"Don't you ever let her talk down to you again."

"She's your sister and a guest—" Tokio began.

"I don't care," he interrupted sharply. "Fuck her. You live here, not her."

"Hajime," she said, voice quiet and disapproving.

"No, Tokio. You talk back. And if she gets offended, tough shit. If you don't say anything she'll think it's all right to walk all over you, and the hell I'm going to let that shit happen."

She was quiet for a moment, then leaned her head back enough to look at him.

"Thank you jerk face," she said with a tiny smile.

"You're welcome pain in the ass," he said, kissing her forehead. "Guess what else?"

"What?"

"You're not cooking."

She frowned.

"But your sister said—"

"Too late, I'm ordering take-out and she's just going to have to deal. No way am I letting you cook for her after she tried to pull that shit."

"Child," she said with a sigh, and he grinned and nosed her hair, hands moving from her hands to her belly.

"If it bothered you so much you wouldn't be here," he said smugly.

"I plead insanity," she said dryly.

"Mean," he muttered.

"Go irritate your sister," she ordered, and he smirked and nipped her ear before moving toward the phone.

"With pleasure," he said deviously, making her laugh.

Katsu was quite annoyed, as he'd known she would be, when he informed her that he'd taken it upon himself to call up a place and order, among other things, soba for dinner. Toshiaki rather meekly convinced his wife one night wouldn't hurt anything, and she grumblingly agreed, and Saitou got both soba for dinner and the knowledge that he had succeeded in absolutely pissing his sister off by not letting her get her way at all.

It was really enough to make him fairly glow with pride in his handiwork.

Saitou was ready to go against tradition and every teaching his mother had drilled into him by denying Toshiaki and Katsu and their children first crack at the bath room in favor of his "pack," but Tokio convinced him he'd been petty enough for one night, and he allowed his houseguests to go ahead, though not graciously.

Tokio then insisted Saitou take Eiji with him, to save time, since Eiji had school tomorrow and it was already late. This was another deviation, as Saitou and Eiji typically completed their ablutions separately, but since Tokio had a point Saitou held his peace and took the boy with him. It wasn't terrible, necessarily, since Eiji appeared to enjoy the extra one-on-one time with his guardian, and Saitou didn't especially mind having the boy with him.

"Oi, Hajime-oji?" Eiji asked while Saitou washed his hair. Saitou grunted. "How come you an' Katsu-san fight so much?"

"'Cause she's a harpy," he muttered.

"What's that?"

"A woman who has a bad temper and thinks it's her god-given right to make everyone else around her miserable."

"Oh. Tokio-oba said Katsu-san's just tired and cranky from her trip."

"Che—hag was born cranky," Saitou muttered. "Close your eyes."

The boy did as ordered and Saitou rinsed the shampoo out of his hair, then swiped his hair back off his forehead the way his mother had done for him when he was a kid.

The truth was Tokio was probably right; Katsu was generally okay, until she started telling him he was doing everything wrong and basically making him feel like he was lucky to have made it this far on his own without maiming himself with a towel or something. Plus, she was pregnant (for the fourth time—and Tokio had thought he was kidding when he said Katsu got knocked up every other year), and pregnant women tended to be moody and hormonal, or so lore went.

But he was still irritated that his sister had tried to dominate Tokio. He knew it wasn't a conscious thing, that it was just Katsu's personality, but that didn't change the way he felt about it. He didn't like that his woman had been disrespected in his home—that she had been disrespected by family was worse as far as he was concerned. He was also irritated with himself for not realizing sooner that Tokio would never have dared talk back to his sister, even though she would have been within her rights. In Tokio's mind, Katsu was a guest and should always be treated like one, and above all she was his sister. Having observed her with her brother, he should have been expecting her to be hesitant to say anything outright to the woman; she and Morinusuke treated each other with a much higher degree of regard and respect than he and his siblings practiced among each other. On top of that, this was her first meeting with Katsu, and Tokio was pretty uptight about making a good impression when she met his family. It had been supremely dumb of him to expect her to treat Katsu the way he did.

She might be his tribe and speak his language, but Tokio was far more civilized than he could claim to be, at heart, and he sometimes forgot that.

As soon as Eiji was all set, Saitou sent him to bed, with dire threats to his person if he found the boy not in his sleeping bag when he reached the room. He doubted the threat worked—Eiji was used to hearing them at this point, and repetition did tend to dull the potency of things—but by now it was force of habit more than anything.

Not that he wasn't sincere in his promise of swift retaliation should the boy decide it was safe to ignore him, of course….

Saitou finished and left the bath room after donning his sleep attire. He grunted a good-night to his sister and brother-in-law, and (very carefully) submitted to good-night hugs and kisses from his niece and nephews before entering his bedroom—now his sole and very cramped refuge—and shutting the door. Eiji and Hachi were laying on either side of Tokio, Hachi with his head on her stomach and Eiji with his head on her shoulder, one of her arms slung around him while they played Sudoku on his DS together. At his entrance, Hachi had opened his eyes and looked over, ears pricked forward and alert, and Saitou smirked faintly, noticing that the hunted look on the dog's face disappeared upon realizing who it was; when his niece and nephews had realized he now had a dog, they had tormented the poor Akita until it had run into his and Tokio's room and hidden under the bed to the best of its ability. Tokio and Eiji looked over too, and Tokio smiled at him; Eiji went back to his game once he saw who it was.

"Everyone settled in?" Tokio asked.

"Yes," he said, walking over to the bed and staring down at Hachi, who looked up at him, ears pressed back, before carefully rising and vacating the spot next to Tokio, who was smiling and desperately trying to keep from laughing.

"Here Hachi," Eiji said, patting the space next to him, and the Akita looked over at Saitou and waited for his nod before he settled down next to the boy, his head on Eiji's stomach, gaze on Saitou.

"I find it a little frightening that he listens to you as well as he does," Tokio said as Saitou stretched out next to her.

"He knows who the head of his household is," Saitou replied, reaching over to rub the Akita's head before putting an arm around Tokio and absently ruffling Eiji's hair in the process. "Put the six there," he added.

"Where?" Eiji asked.

"There," Saitou said, pointing at the spot.

Eiji immediately did so.

"Oi!" Tokio said, sending him a wounded look. "How come you didn't give him the third degree?"

Saitou smirked and rubbed her belly through her sleep shirt; he'd much rather slip a hand under the shirt to touch soft, warm skin, but that wasn't appropriate in front of the boy.

"He knows who the head of his household is," he said smugly.

"Oh shut up you obnoxious jerk," Tokio murmured, pushing his smirking face away from her own and making Eiji laugh.

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away, then leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"You like that I'm obnoxious," he said, still smug.

"Whatever lies you have to tell yourself," she replied, sticking her tongue out at him.

"That is a very unfair retaliatory tactic, Chiisai," he said with a speaking look, and she blushed.

"Why?" Eiji asked, expression curious.

"I'll tell you when you're older," Saitou said, and Eiji pouted.

"You always say that," he complained, and Saitou gave him a warning smack on the head before immediately rubbing the sting away, to show he wasn't actually annoyed.

"Get used to it, then," he said, and Eiji's pout deepened but he didn't say anything else about it, and the three of them finished the game before Saitou invoked his right as head of household to order the boy to sleep.

Eiji kissed Tokio good-night and hugged Saitou; it was a fairly new affectionate gesture from his ward, one that had surprised him but one he submitted to with few qualms. He had mentioned to Tokio that in another year he'd have to put a stop to it, as it wasn't an appropriate gesture between men, but she had been surprisingly vehement in her protests. No amount of arguing would make her change her mind, and he'd finally decided to stop bothering to try to. He'd also decided he might just play it by ear.

The boy and the dog vacated the bed and settled down in their respective places, and he and Tokio settled down under the sheets, Tokio burrowed into his side as was her custom. He reached over, flicked the lamp on his bedside table off and plunged the room into darkness. Then he reached down, took hold of the arm draped over his chest and lifted it up so he could kiss the underside of her wrist before settling it down on his chest again, his hand over it. She returned his affection by leaning up and kissing the side of his neck; he felt her smile against his skin and smiled in response.

Not a bad way to end a crap day, he decided.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

The next morning was less pleasant.

Tokio had thought Saitou was overreacting. She had been a little irritated that he hadn't told her his sister was going to be in town, but since he'd been sick she'd decided to cut him some slack; he was only now beginning to make any headway on all of the paperwork he'd missed while he'd been out, and he wouldn't be all caught up for a while yet. He had been understandably occupied trying to unravel the truly horrifying amount of red tape he'd been unable to attend to while sick.

It was a tight fit, eight people and a dog in one two-room apartment, but since it was only for a week, she didn't mind. And his sister had gotten Tokio's back up a little (okay, a lot), but Saitou had backed her up, and she had been delighted with it, despite outward appearances. It had meant a lot to her that he had reinforced her position in his life, and that he'd done it in front of his family.

As a result, she had been willing to qualify the day, hiccups aside, as a success.

The next day, however, was an entirely different story.

She had been sound asleep, dreaming about locking Enishi in Kamatari's office with the effeminate man in retaliation for something or another that he'd done to piss her off during the course of her dream, when she suddenly felt as though someone were watching her. The unsettling feeling immediately pulled her out of her dream and sleep, and she opened bleary eyes to find herself nose to nose with Toshiaki, who grinned upon seeing her awake.

"Morning Tokio-san—" he blithely got out, before Tokio reacted the way any woman would have when found face-to-face with a, for all intents and purposes, strange man.

She screamed and threw herself back from him as much as she was able to, Saitou's warm bulk blocking her escape the way it was.

Tokio's shriek ripped Saitou from dead sleep.

"What?" he snapped, sitting up and ready to kill whatever it was that was trespassing in his territory.

"Yo Haji," Katsu's husband cheerfully said, complete with smile and wave. "I was just askin' Tokio-san where the frying pan was."

Saitou stared at him.

"Get out," he said finally, his disbelief clear in his voice.

"Yeah, I'm gonna make break—"

"No asshat—I mean get out," Saitou interrupted. "As in, get out of our room."

"But the frying pan—" Toshiaki protested.

"GET THE FUCK OUT."

His brother-in-law beat a hasty retreat for the open door.

"What about the frying pan?" he asked a moment later, poking his head back in, only to have a very angry Saitou grab his face and shove him out of the room before slamming the door shut.

He turned back to the bed, scowling darkly, and found Tokio with an arm draped over her eyes, her other hand clutching her chest over her heart.

"Fucking idiot," Saitou growled, walking back to the bed and sitting down. He reached over and grabbed Tokio's wrist and pulled her arm off her eyes. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," she said with a sigh, opening her eyes and sending him a sheepish look. "He just scared the ever-loving hell out of me, that's all."

Eiji's head popped up on Tokio's side.

"Is it morning?" he asked, and the two adults looked over at him.

"I'm sorry sweetheart," Tokio said unhappily, only now realizing she'd likely awakened everyone in the apartment with her scream, if not the entire floor.

"Go back to sleep," Saitou said to the boy.

Eiji yawned and rubbed an eye.

"Okay," he said sleepily.

Tokio patted the bed.

"Come on," she said, and Eiji grinned sleepily and crawled up next to her, snuggling against her side.

Saitou watched his ward make himself comfortable, then decided that since he was already up, he might as well go out and break his foot in Toshiaki's ass for daring to violate his sanctuary (he was also very pissed off with himself for not realizing his sanctuary had been breached, and beating on Toshiaki would make him feel much better, he knew). He rose to do just that, but was stopped when Tokio asked,

"You aren't staying?"

"I have to see an idiot about his brutal death," he replied, and she rolled her eyes.

"Hajime, come back to bed."

"It won't take long, trust me," he said.

"I'm sure it won't, you crazy, but he'll still be there later. Besides, the bed gets cold without you. Please?"

He considered his options: warm bed and warm Tokio, or killing Toshiaki.

Both were alluring options, for entirely different reasons, though the former was dulled considerably by the fact that there would be no fooling around, since the boy was not only in the room with them, but in the same bed.

In the end, though, he supposed Tokio had a point, and besides that, she was a much more pleasant diversion than Toshiaki. So he joined his ward and woman again, and after a moment, Hachi's head appeared at the foot of the bed, pleading gaze on Saitou. Man and dog silently eyed each other for several minutes in silence. Then Saitou relented:

"Come," he said wearily, snapping his fingers, and the dog leapt up onto the mattress and curled up at the foot.

Beside him, Tokio laughed quietly, and he slipped his hand back under the sheets, this time giving into his preferences and continuing on under her sleep shirt. The feel of the warm, soft skin of her belly under his fingertips was extremely gratifying.

"Some way to start the day, hmm?" she asked, nuzzling his cheek.

"Get used to it," he murmured, kissing her forehead. "Normal, everyday life as you've known it is official over for the duration of the Soma family's stay."

She sighed and kissed his cheek; he only settled down more comfortably beside her and nuzzled her temple.

"Go back to sleep—if Soma tries to ask you about the frying pan again, I'll Gatotsu his ass out of the apartment." he murmured, and she laughed quietly.

"Thank you Hajime," she said, her amusement clear in her voice.

He buried his nose in her hair and decided to try and relax and enjoy being curled up in bed with her before the alarm went off.

Sleep just wasn't going to be happening for him after the wake-up call he'd gotten.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

By the third day, Tokio was reluctantly coming to the conclusion that Saitou had been right.

Not that she'd ever say anything out loud to him, of course, but….

She, Saitou and Eiji had taken to waking early (so as to avoid anymore surprise wake-ups by in-laws wondering where the frying pan was hiding today) and having a quiet breakfast together before their guests began waking and their time together died abruptly. Tokio was surprised at how much it bothered her that their routine had been interrupted. She missed waking up to Saitou's amorous advances (even if she didn't always accommodate him); she missed making breakfast with Eiji and having him watch her put his bento together; she missed listening to her boys argue about some ridiculous thing or another; she missed going to take Hachi for his morning walk with Eiji and sometimes Saitou, who was usually smoking placidly, eyes restlessly roving and making sure his "pack" wasn't in danger; she missed coming home and being able to relax, either alone in her room or with Eiji, or, if he was home, Saitou; she missed cooking dinner with Saitou; she missed his and Eiji's always entertaining homework sessions; she missed being able to straddle the man in the privacy of their room whenever she felt like it (which was often, she realized now); she missed being able to sprawl over him, warm and naked and happy, and not having to worry that it was inappropriate or that Eiji might come in at any moment.

She missed, in short, her life as it had been for the past two, almost three months.

Good gods, had it really only been three days?

And did they really have four more to go before things returned to normal?

Saitou wasn't taking it any better than she was; her Wolf, she had quickly learned, did not like his schedule fucked with, and he was liable to get very cranky if anything interfered with it. It was something about him that amused her immensely, the way he demanded that everything in his life adhere to his established routine. He was flexible, mind, but only if there was absolutely no way he was going to get exactly his way.

Child.

But much more than her or Saitou, Eiji was the one suffering the most, the one most affected by the upheaval Katsu and her family caused. That was never more apparent than the third morning, when they were sitting at the table, eating breakfast and trying to ignore the strangeness of eating a full half hour earlier than was their norm.

They had finally reached a semblance of normalcy when the door to Eiji's room opened, and Toshiaki—completely naked—stumbled out, bleary-eyed, and slurred a nearly indecipherable "Good morning" that never quite made it to their ears, since shock and horror had set in by then, before continuing to the toilet. The three watched in utter, silent revulsion, unable to not look despite not wanting to; it was like a car wreck on the side of the road. Once Toshiaki had disappeared, they all looked at each other, no one quite able to articulate…anything, really. Saitou took one look at his breakfast, then groaned and pushed it away; Tokio had a similar reaction, pushing her plate away with a grimace. Eiji, in the meantime, was completely distraught by the implications of Toshiaki's au natural state:

"I'm never sleepin' in that bed again!" he blurted.

"Course you aren't," Saitou muttered, making a face, "I'm burnin' the fuckin' thing as soon as they leave."

"Sheets too," Tokio added in a quiet, rushed voice, taking a sip from her tea cup, the only thing she could consume without cringing.

"Feh, definitely," Saitou said.

There was a pause, and then Eiji quietly asked,

"Can we skip breakfast?"

"Yes," both adults quickly said, rising.

"Good," Eiji said, jumping up and helping them clear the table.

When Saitou mentioned it to Katsu ("Oi, you mind keeping your fucktard husband clothed while he's in my house? I could have died happy—deliriously happy—not knowing what the idiot was packing."), the older woman immediately apologized, clearly embarrassed to have caused Tokio and Eiji any discomfort.

"He sleeps that way," she explained.

"Didn't need to know that, thanks," Saitou said tightly, glaring at her.

"Don't be such a baby!" Katsu snapped.

"I saw your husband's dick and balls against my fucking will, I'll be a baby if I want to!" Saitou snapped back.

"Okay, okay!" Tokio said loudly, putting her hands on his shoulders. "Katsu-san, we'd just really appreciate it if Toshiaki-san wore some…pants, at least, around the house."

"I understand, don't worry, it won't happen again," Katsu assured, and Tokio nodded, smiling, and looped her arms around Saitou's neck.

"Thank you," she said, resting her chin atop his head.

He grumbled, but not loud enough that she could make out what he'd said, so she didn't say anything or retaliate.

Katsu watched them, then smirked, and Tokio silently marveled at how much brother and sister looked alike when they did that.

"Gods bless you, Tokio-san, for putting up with Haji."

"Fuck you," Saitou muttered, and Tokio knew his sister was being treated to one of the nastier looks in his repertoire.

"Hajime," Tokio said in warning. "Be nice."

"No," he said petulantly, and his sister's smirk widened.

"The Wolf will play nice or he's going to be very unhappy," Tokio warned.

"I already am," he snapped, crossing his arms over his chest.

Tokio smirked and kissed the top of his head.

"Sweetheart, this is child's play compared to what I'm capable of," she said, tone amused. "So be a good little Wolf, please."

"Feh," was all Saitou had to offer.

Katsu chuckled.

"Brat," she teased, tone affectionate.

"Hag," he shot back, and Katsu threw back her head and laughed.

"Still no manners, eh Haji-chan?" she taunted, and Tokio bit back a smile; clearly, Saitou had learned how to be obnoxious from his sister. "I expect you drive poor, sweet Tokio-san to drink."

"Only now and then," Tokio said, unable to resist teasing Saitou a little.

"Ho ho! You're made of stronger stuff than I am, then, Tokio-san," Katsu said, eyes dancing mischievously, a smirk of utter deviousness on her face. "My little brother's quite the hell-raiser. You'd think being a police officer would do something about that, but not our Haji-chan."

"I hate you," Saitou muttered, and Tokio laughed and hugged him.

He was such a baby, she thought with equal parts affection and exasperation when he complained later about her joining his sister in tormenting him.

"Oh shut up," she said, swatting his arm. "I've said worse things to you."

"You didn't mean any of them," he said churlishly, glaring at her.

She raised an eyebrow.

"Really? And wherever did you get that idea from?" she asked mildly, and his expression changed from petulant to unpleasantly surprised.

"What?" he demanded, a little too loudly.

Tokio took immense pleasure in not answering his questions the rest of that evening.

Silly Wolf—what his sister had done to him was downright sweet by comparison.

The next morning was worse than the previous one, something Tokio had believed impossible.

The three of them had gotten up as usual and were getting put together. Eiji was pestering Saitou about something or another when Tokio left the room in her robe to wash her face and brush her teeth. She was in the middle of the second task when the door opened and Toshiaki, eyes more shut than open and hair sticking up in all directions, appeared. Tokio was relieved to see he was wearing a pair of boxers; they weren't pants, fine, but they were covering all the necessary bits and that was what she cared about.

He shuffled in and gave her butt a pat, which caused her to choke in shock—possibly on air, possibly on toothpaste, possibly on her toothbrush, she wasn't really sure which was the right answer.

What in the name of all that was good and holy—?!

She heard him slur "G'mornin' Katsu," but it didn't quite compute. She couldn't believe he'd done that. She would admit that Toshiaki could be thoughtless, but he wasn't stupid: the man knew better than to treat her in any manner with even the potential to be inappropriate—Saitou would kill him without a single quibble.

She thus concluded that Toshiaki didn't know it was her and not his wife, as he apparently had thought. Resolved not to make an issue out of it, she went back to brushing her teeth…

…and noticed that Toshiaki was standing before the toilet, and it sounded like something of the liquid variety was being poured into the bowl.

She promptly spat into the sink and fled, wiping her mouth with the sleeve of her robe.

She'd take a cavity over staying in there another second, goddamn it….

Her boys looked up when she bolted into the room and slammed the door shut.

"What the hell was that?" Saitou asked, staring at her like she'd gone insane.

"Nothing," she said, leaning back against the door.

"Your cheeks are red, Tokio-oba," Eiji said curiously.

"What's wrong with you?" Saitou demanded. "If you say nothing, woman, so help me gods," he added with a glare when she opened her mouth.

"Uhm, well, I was brushing my teeth, you know? And—well—that is—your brother-in-law sort of…he, uh—came in while I was brushing my teeth and he—he—uhm, used the toilet?"

Saitou and Eiji blankly stared at her in silence for a few moments. Then Saitou asked,

"What?"

"Yeah," Tokio said with a nod, knowing that "What?" actually meant "Are you serious?"

"Gross," Eiji said, expression twisted in distaste.

"Yeah," Tokio agreed, her nod far more emphatic this time. "Very yeah."

Saitou, expression thunderous, got up and made for the door, and Tokio had a sudden vision of Toshiaki being flung off the balcony to his death.

"No!" She threw her arms out and planted herself before the door.

His displeasure visibly grew.

"Tokio," he said, tone warning.

"Hajime," she said in the exact same tone.

"He's asking for it," he said.

"No," she said. "He was half asleep and didn't even realize I was there—" (Which is absolutely true, she silently added, deciding Saitou didn't need to know the other bit or she'd be meeting the rest of his family at Toshiaki's funeral) "—it was just a tiny little misunderstanding, and I'm not letting you beat the poor man senseless when he wasn't even aware of what he did to deserve it."

He glared at her, but she remained firm, and he finally let out a snort of disgust and relaxed. She sighed and lowered her arms.

"Thank you."

"If I can't kill him I'm picking on him," he warned.

"As long as you do it nicely," she said, vaguely amused when he rolled his eyes.

"Uh-huh," was his dry response.

She walked to him and hugged him, and was pleased when he hugged back, even if it was reluctantly. She leaned her head against his chest and sighed. Eiji rolled his eyes and muttered something about them being schmoopy before he slipped off the bed and onto the sleeping bag he was using, apparently deciding to leave them to their schmoopy-ness. She smiled and nosed Saitou's chest; he idly rubbed the back of her neck in response, his other hand warm on her lower back. She suddenly remembered Toshiaki's touching her ass, and decided Saitou ought to reaffirm his ownership (as he'd once oh-so-humbly called it) of said backside. So she reached back, grabbed the wrist of the hand at the small of her back and pushed it lower. He looked down at her, clearly surprised.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

She smiled up at him. "Just keeping with tradition," she said blithely.

He eyed her oddly for several moments, then shook his head.

"You're a very strange woman, Chiisai," he said, nevertheless sounding amused by her strangeness.

She only smiled wider up at him and leaned up to kiss him; he obligingly leaned down to meet her halfway.

"You taste like toothpaste," he said, and behind him, Eiji groaned.

"You guys are so gross in the mornings," the child said despondently.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

"Why do you hate me?" Saitou asked despairingly.

"Oh stop," Katsu replied, rolling her eyes. "I don't hate you, you ahou."

"The fact that you brought your fucktard husband says different," Saitou muttered petulantly.

"Hajime, what was I supposed to do, leave him home?"

"Uhhh, duh?"

Katsu again rolled her eyes at her little brother and went back to watching her husband and children run themselves ragged in the neighborhood park; she and her brother were sharing one of the benches off to the side.

"If I hated you, I wouldn't have agreed to spend all of tomorrow with Mom and Dad like you asked me to," she pointed out, grinning when her husband grabbed their daughter and swung her up into the air, making her shriek with laughter.

Beside her, Saitou shifted, scowling slightly.

"I guess," he mumbled. "Still say you should have left him home."

"And travel from Nara to Tokyo with three hyperactive kids under the age of ten by myself? Dream on, Haji." She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and smiled.

My baby brother, all grown up, she thought, amused. Sort of, she added, seeing the pout on his face.

She had been surprised to find Tokio living with him—he hadn't told their mother about that. About Eiji, yes—and she had been charmed by the boy the first night, all her worries about her brother's ability to raise children firmly put to rest upon watching the two interact—but she had thought Tokio was living elsewhere. She had been surprised by the discovery, but pleased, and she knew their mother was going to be equally pleased; the family had been worrying that Tokio was just another in a long line of women their Haji-chan wasn't really serious about. She was curious and a little amazed that he hadn't taken her to the house yet to meet the family (how had their mother not yet demanded Tokio's presence at dinner with the family?), and a little smug over the fact that she was the first of the family that got to meet the mysterious Tokio that their youngest boy appeared so enamored with.

She liked Tokio, from the beginning. It was abundantly clear that not only could the little woman handle her brother, she had him wrapped around her little finger. They fought a lot, but she had realized quickly that it was harmless bickering. She had also been amused by the woman's tendency to tease Saitou, something that had gotten his back up when Katsu had been around to hear or see it—appeared her baby brother didn't want his older sister to know that his woman teased him.

She snorted softly, smirking.

Silly baby brother.

"So what do you want me to tell Mom?" she asked conversationally.

"About?"

"Tokio-san, ahou."

He frowned.

"Huh?" he asked, and she rolled her eyes.

"Do I tell her that I met Tokio-san or is it a secret?" she asked.

"Whatever you want," he said dismissively.

"She's gonna pitch a fit, you know," she warned.

"Good thing I won't be there to hear it, huh?"

"Like that'll stop her from calling you and demanding you bring her to the house for dinner."

"House isn't done yet."

"Will be by next week," Katsu said with a grin. "And once Mom hears you've been living with Tokio-san for months now, she's gonna get the house back together in record time so she can invite her over and meet her."

"Feh." was all he had to offer, but it didn't sound very confident, and her grin widened.

"What's her family like?"

"Her mother's nice. She's like Tokio, tiny and elegant. Her old man's a bastard. Her kid brother's all right—he's MPD, Traffic, in Nerima Ward. Old man's MPD in Nerima, too. Criminal. She's got a nut job little sister in Shinjuku, singer in a band. Sister and the old man aren't close."

"I guess I'm going to have to wait to meet them," Katsu said with a sigh. "Honestly, Haji, do you have to rattle shit off like you're giving me a report?"

"Fuck you, I'll tell you however way I damn well please," he muttered back.

She rolled her eyes and shoved his shoulder as hard as she could; he shoved back, though not nearly as hard as she knew he was capable of.

"I remember when I was taller than you," she said, leaning her head on his shoulder. "You were a lot cuter when I could torture you and you couldn't do anything about it."

"Hag," he said, then kissed the top of her head.

She grinned nostalgically—it was a sort of family secret that as a kid, Saitou had been a veritable sweetheart with his mother and sister, obediently acquiescing to their every whim. Katsu had taken advantage of that shamelessly when she'd been younger, dressing her baby brother up like a doll for her amusement and the amusement of her friends, for example. By the time she'd thought of slathering makeup on him he'd wised up and refused to let her talk him into doing anything. Once he'd hit ten he'd stopped being affectionate, and it had taken a lot of nagging to get him to hug and kiss either his mother or his sister. She'd been caught off guard by how sad it had made her once he'd stopped—she hadn't realized how much she really adored his little-boy affection until it had stopped.

"Haji, remember when you used to come to my room in the middle of the night because you said there was a shadow monster in the closet that wanted to eat you?" she asked, grinning.

He sighed.

"Yes," he said wearily.

"You used to hog all the covers," she added, and he snorted.

"You snored," he said, and she elbowed him in the side.

"Did not," she said.

"It sounded like the train was going through your room," he said, and she heard the grin in his voice.

"Jerk," she said. "I should have let Aki deal with you."

"No way," he said, sounding amused. "You just loved taking care of your baby brother."

"I liked you better than Aki," she said, smiling. "You were of a much better disposition as a baby than he was. He laughed more, though. You were a tough crowd to get laughing as a baby."

"How do you remember this crap?" he asked, sounding vaguely impressed.

She shrugged.

"Just do," she said, grinning when she remembered how he used to sit in her room with her and her friends and listen quietly while they talked about boys. He had been popular with her friends because he was such an agreeable and, to be fair, cute kid.

She reached up and rubbed a few strands of his hair between her fingers.

"What are you doing, crazy?" he asked.

"Remember how I used to put you to sleep?" she asked, grinning.

"No," he said, sounding curious.

"I used to stroke your hair. Remember how you used to have it long? I think Dad finally made Mom take you for a haircut when you were five. She cried. I was so mad when it happened, too—you had really thick, soft hair, and you loved it when Mom or me stroked it."

"Huh," he said, sounding thoughtful. She looked up at him and found him watching Toshiaki and the kids, face relaxed.

My baby brother, she thought and felt the urge to laugh.

Her "baby brother" was 31, a grown man in his own right. He had a job that paid well, and came home to a nice woman who knew how to keep him in line and a bright little boy who knew when he was full of shit and wasn't afraid to call him out on it and a dog that knew who the alpha male was.

Looked like he didn't need her fussing over him anymore, she thought ruefully.

"You went and grew up on me, Haji-chan," she said with a sigh.

He scowled at her.

"Could you stop with the Haji-chan shit already?" he asked irritably, and she laughed and slung an arm around him and hugged him.

"Brat," she teased, giving him an affectionate squeeze.

"Hag," he shot back, smoothing the back of her hair down.

My sweet baby brother, she thought with dry amusement.

Ah, well; she'd make him pay later by teasing him in front of Tokio.

Being older than him didn't mean she had to be more mature, after all.

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Preview of Chapter 40: Putting the "Fun" in "Dysfunction":

When Saitou told Tokio that his mother had asked (read: demanded) that he bring Tokio and Eiji to the house, his Chiisai promptly went crazy.

Er.

--

"Man, she's cute," Hiroaki said, tone admiring. Abruptly, his expression turned lascivious: "She's a tiny little thing, though—how you haven't torn her in half yet cleanin' the gutters, I have no idea, little brother."

Tokio's jaw dropped, Saitou twitched—but violently—and Eiji frowned.

"Why would Hajime-oji tear Tokio-oba in half cleaning gutters? We don't have gutters."

"Well Eiji-kun, when a man and a woman love each other very, very much—"

"Hiroaki if you finish that sentence I'll hurt you a hell of a lot worse than I was planning on!" Saitou bellowed as a deeply embarrassed Tokio clapped her palms over one very confused Eiji's ears.

--

Tokio took one look at the picture of baby Saitou in her hand and thought she might die from the utter cuteness of it all: not only had he been delightfully chubby, he'd had baby curls.

"Oh gods you were adorable!" she said, shocked and possibly a little love struck—would their babies have baby curls too…?

"Told you," he said smugly.

--

There was a long pause, and then Eiji said,

"I still don't understand why you'd tear Tokio-oba in half cleaning gutters, Hajime-oji."

Tokio let out a sound that was half sob, half hiccup, and Saitou closed his eyes and laughed.

"I'm killing my brother tomorrow," he said, still laughing, wondering if today would be the day he finally catapulted off the deep end into the Chasm of Insanity.