Disclaimer: Don't own.
Hm, just a thought I had about stereotypes, and it escalated from there. If you were Hiromi…would you watch?
KaRe, TakaRomi, innuendos and hints. But that's about it.
It had started off by pure accident. A developed photograph where Takao, Max, Kyouji and Kai and Rei stood. Kyouji was waving his arms in protest to the hold Takao had on his neck, Max was giggling, clothes a bright blur. The remaining two seemed unaware of the ruckus. The Russian, arms crossed, one eye focused on something out of frame. The neko-jin, one hand tugging on his braid, and slanted eyes focused on Kai. She dismissed it as nothing. In fact, she didn't even notice the way they were so naturally unaware of the rest of their team.
It wasn't that she had a fear of phone calls, she just rather she didn't have to be the one to call Kai whenever he was missing and they couldn't find Rei to do it for them. What bothered her was that they never noticed that Rei was always also gone whenever Kai went missing. It bothered her that it took months before she realised that nine times out of ten, Rei would answer, and those nine times there would always be a mutter of annoyance from a darker tone of voice. She realised with a frown that no one answered the tenth time.
She, along with the team, always saw tournaments and training camps as an excuse for travelling and sightseeing. They would always, always, without a fault reserve four rooms in advance. Two singles, one room for two with separate beds, and a double room. She was slightly disturbed by how no one ever questioned it. How no one ever noticed it, or thought anything of it. Not even when there were only single rooms available and they always reserved five. How could it have become such a natural habit that not even Takao blinked or questioned it? She realised with terrible awareness that if they would ever change their living accommodations, the whole team would crumble as the natural balance of it was ruthlessly disrupted.
It was her firm belief that unless invited, one should never step inside another's home, even if it was a mere room. She knew she wouldn't want anyone inside her room. Apart from perhaps Takao or one of her girlfriends. But still, were they to barge in uninvited when she wasn't there, she would be bothered by it, very much, especially if it were Takao. Girls were still familiar in some sense. But surely someone must have noticed that they always had a spare futon too much, always extra linen and covers in the closet. That the double one wasn't in the attic and hadn't been there for a very, very long time. It was when she hesitantly ventured into Kai's and Rei's shared room she realised with a start how, why, that was.
They didn't actually share a travelling bag, they each had separate, but the one time they had all been forced to share a room in a youth hostel in Amsterdam she fully realised for the first time just how unorganised men could be. Rei's kimono among Kai's clothes, Kai's face paint in Rei's toilet bag, and on it went; toothbrushes, underwear, hair ties, shoes, gloves, everything in total disorder. On the occasion of when a misplaced shirt or book would be discovered, and Max or Takao inquired the ownership of the item, the answer was more often than not, 'ours'. Ours. Our cat. Their cat, or rather kitten, since it was only a month or two old. It was a cute, fluffy and very energetic addition to the household. Minx was the name affectionately given to her, and Fuzzface the name Kai would call her when she was in the way.
Friendship. It had to be friendship. Because she knew how couples acted, and they didn't display that kind of behaviour. Ever. And that perhaps bothered her more that their already queer behaviour and relationship did. If it was raining, and Rei complained about being wet, Kai didn't do anything Takao almost always realised after Rei nudged him in the right direction. Instead, he'd berate him for not brining an umbrella or wearing a better, waterproof jacket. And if it was cold? Rei would rub his arms, smile slightly, and then go fetch a blanket in situation where a boyfriend should have made it their duty to hold their girlfriend. Or rather, special someone?
Because some mornings when she was given the rare, those days were Sundays if they occurred at all, dreaded, duty of rousing the teens Kai would greet her in boxers or a flimsy sheet loosely wrapped around his hips. His hair would be in a state of disarray she thought was impossible, and although his expression never gave anything away, his glare would be a mere reflex, a façade, if you will, and there would be an air of satisfaction about him. It belied a platonic relationship.
She sometimes wondered if they ever held hands, like Takao and she sometimes did. She'd never seen them do it. She'd seen them hug, or more accurately, seen them parting from a hug, which meant that someone must've initiated it. She'd seen Rei's lips lightly dusted in blue, a blue she could only explain rubbing off if he brushed his lips across Kai's cheek. She'd seen Kai scratch his neck, and sometimes his scarf would slip a little too far, and a painful looking bite mark would be seen for a split second.
And now, just a mere week ago, she could've sworn the presents exchanged by the tree in the strange tradition Max insisted they participate in every year were not what someone sharing a deeper bond would exchange. A soft, soft looking scarf and a necklace for Rei, and a paperback, an earring, and sparkling nail varnish for Kai. They were wonderful gifts, and she was sure there was more to them for them, than to her, but…they somehow didn't seem to be their real gifts. It was as if the most essential, important gift had already been given.
It was cold. Blistering cold. The air was still, even though it gave off a frosty edge. Had it not been for Max's chattering teeth, the silence would have been consuming, it seemed it was too cold for even him to talk. She whined, complained about the cold, she'd forgotten her gloves inside, and her jacket wasn't made for unnaturally cold winter nights in Japan, until Kai hit Takao on the head, muttering 'baka'.
Rei smiled patiently, shaking his head at Kai, and motioned with his head towards her. It took Takao about a minute to latch on, at which point his eyes widened, and she had to look away in order to hide her smile. And then he hugged her in a both considerate and goofy way, it was purely Takao and just the perfect way she wanted it to be. He even let her have his right glove. Max giggled, nose red, slightly runny.
Rei let his gaze linger on Takao for a second longer before he allowed his smile to drop. A falling star caught his eye, and he tilted his head backwards, silently gazing up at the sky, walking slowly away from the porch, down on the snow covered grass.
The ground crunched behind him, and a second later Kai came to a halt beside him. "'Time is it?" The Russian held up his phone. He lowered his head, and stared at the numbers on it. Rei breathed out noisily through his scarf in annoyance, and pulled it up to cover his nose. He stomped where he stood, hands buried deep, deep in his pockets. "Bugger. 'S too cold for the time not to go faster."
"Ah, well. Thanks for letting me borrow your coat."
"You need it." Rei noted in dismay that Kai's coat was open, hands stuffed lazily in his pockets and scarf trailing behind him. He himself was shivering badly, and it was cold. Kai's clothes were fantastic, he decided. It was the hat though, that Rei adored. The big, baggy, fluffy hat. Rebellious bangs pointed in all and every direction, as per usual, but the added, knitted black hat made him… Rei grinned, ghosting his lips over Kai's cheek. Dusting them blue.
"I love the hat." Kai's lips twitched upwards, and he turned to face the neko-jin. He raised an eyebrow, leaning in briefly to kiss Rei's lips.
"And need I tell you what the sight of you in my clothes does to me?" The grin widened.
"About to make me a happy man?" Kai smirked, eyes full of promises and hidden ardour.
"Makes who a happy man?" Rei turned around at the feminine voice, grin morphing into a sincere smile.
"Takao, for having you." Hiromi raised her eyebrows, eyes suspicious. He kicked the ground, his heavy boots creating a hole in the icy snow. "I can't feel my feet." He tried wriggling them, but it was a vague, numb sensation; not there. "I thought you said the boots'd make my feet warm."
"How many socks are you wearing?" Rei blinked, lips moving softly as he tried to remember.
"There you go then. They're protesting about the lack of air, as would you if someone taped your mouth shut." Rei grumbled.
"But I was cold!"
"The less you wear, the warmer you stay…" Kai's smirk widened, the spark in his eyes intensified.
Hiromi cleared her throat, and a second later Kai's and Rei's eyes were silently waiting for her to continue, guarded and enigmatic. "Ano…it's just… I've been wondering, and, uhm…are you dating?" Rei blinked.
"It's just…you're close, always close, and you give off this vibe as if you're- as if you are. It's like you know this secret no one else knows. You barely talk, and yet you're always doing the right thing!" Her eyes hardened. "And I swear I saw you kissing earlier! More than once!" Her cheeks suddenly seemed far redder than the cold could have caused. "Were you…showering together this morning?"
Kai shrugged, eyebrow raised. "So? Rei's hard to get up." Hiromi's eyes widened, and she coughed. The Russian stared at her, exasperated, and Rei intervened, voice calm and soft.
"I'm nocturnal." She lowered her eyes, and they shoot up fast as lightning when he finished his next sentence. "And yes, we were."
"I knew it!" Her eyes sparkled. "It was this Christmas right? When Takao made you kiss under the mistletoe every time you walked to the kitchen? Right?" Even as she said it, she knew it wasn't true, and if it was, all her previous calculations would be thwarted, thrown out of the window. When Rei smiled, she felt slightly relived, and somewhat uneasy. He shook his head slightly. "Before that? But you've always been like that!" He shrugged, removing a glove to scratch his face. Explain, she wanted to scream, you're driving me insane! And then he opened his mouth.
"Hiromi-chan…we've been best friends since we met, basically, of course we're close." She remained frozen on her spot as he and Kai stared at each other, before Kai shrugged. "I followed him on a trip to his parents' in Kyoto over a week…I don't know how long ago that was… must've been in the summer…" Kai's voice was little above a whisper, and yet it lacked no strength.
"Two years ago. The floor in the dojo needed a repair." Rei nodded, eyes widening slightly in remembrance.
"And you didn't see why I should stay at a hotel on your self-imposed holiday, when you had a perfectly liveable house with an overly doting mother. And a father. Whom you thought I ought to meet." Kai shrugged. "They are very nice, your parents Kai." Kai scoffed, and he earned himself a jab him in the shoulder. The Russian swatted the finger away, glaring lightly. "They are!"
"Brat." Kai snorted.
"But that's impossible! It's just not…possible! Someone would've noticed, and-!" She swallowed as she suddenly found herself on the receiving end of Kai's glare, wondering if perhaps she had gone too far, been too nosy.
"I don't know if you've noticed, Tachibana, but I don't flaunt." He shut his mouth, snorting, when Rei's hand clamped down on his shoulder, squeezing lightly.
"I don't really see how it's any of your business Kai and I choose to live our lives, but we're both rather quiet and private people." She nodded, bowing, a smile lighting up on her face.
"Of course, I know that, I'm sorry. It's just…it's been bothering me for so long." Rei stared at her mildly, eyebrow raised in a way she'd only ever seen Kai accomplish before.
"Clearly, Takao's not satisfying you nearly enough if you go around thinking of other men."
And then the fireworks went off.
R&R, please. Thank you.