Title: The Last to Know
Universe: Here is Greenwood
Theme/Topic: Mitsuru and Shinobu- a slice of life.
Character/Pairing/s: ShinobuxMitsuru (with appearances by Hasukawa, Shun, and the rest of the Ikeda family)
Warnings/Spoilers: Vague spoilers for the end of the series.
Word Count: 4,137
Summary: Mitsuru has no idea what's going on.
Dedication: for ycreverse's obscure fandom challenge. Requested by KiriKiri. Also, special thanks to Ann for the beta!
A/N: And here we have, my second ever Greenwood fic! I'm still relatively new to these characters, but I hope this is acceptable despite that fact? Also, I tend to forget small details when it comes to these things, so if anything is horribly wrong and stupid, you have my apologies in advance.
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish constantly.
Distribution: Just lemme know.
Everyone knew about Shinobu and Mitsuru before Mitsuru did.
And by everyone, he meant everyone—it was like he was arriving late to a party that all the people he knew in his whole life were at and the whole shindig was already in full swing or something.
To be fair, it was mostly Shinobu's fault. He never told Mitsuru anything.
It all started when they decided to be roommates in college again—i.e. when Mitsuru had to relate to his family that he was going to the same school as Shinobu and thus was going to live with him. His mother had gotten a strange, knowing look on her face when she heard Shinobu's name and simply said, "I see," before sharing a significant look across the dinner table with his father, and then turning back to Mitsuru with a big smile. "That's great for the both of you!"
His brother on the other hand, had gotten absolutely red in the face and excused himself abruptly from the meal, storming back to his room with an exaggerated, "Stupid niisan!" with no other word of explanation in regards to his sudden ire.
Mitsuru had just assumed it was more irritation at the fact that he was going far away for school again. Either that or teenage hormones, which he knew were always unpredictable, having experienced them himself (in the form of living in Greenwood with Hasukawa for two years).
His family hadn't said anything more on the matter of his living with Shinobu after that, but for some reason, that look his mom had shared with his dad made him unusually thoughtful for the rest of the night, as he tried—in vain—to decipher its meaning.
But ultimately he forgot about it, at least on the surface, and life resumed as normal.
He saw that look again right after graduation though—as he and Shinobu were moving their things out of Greenwood. That day, Hasukawa and Shun both showed up at their door to say good-bye and help load up the moving van (most likely at Shun's behest). The long-haired boy had grinned and heartily congratulated them both for getting into the same college together.
Hasukawa choked on his own spit as soon as the words left Shun's mouth. "Sorry, sorry," he'd said, and waved his hand at them while he coughed, "Wrong tube."
Which may have been the case, but even so, Mitsuru thought he saw that look again—maybe slightly different from the one that had been on his mom's face back when he'd brought up college and Shinobu at home, but that expression and the looks going between Hasukawa and Shun right at that moment were at the very least, first cousins if not identical twins.
Naturally, it made him wonder why he'd been getting that reaction so much lately. The last time he'd checked he wasn't stupid or anything, even if Shinobu was extraordinarily smart.
Shinobu didn't seem bothered though, and said, "Thank you," in response to Shun's congratulations before promptly depositing the box he was carrying into Hasukawa's arms and telling the other boy to please be careful with it when he took it outside, there were some nice ceramics in there.
"Feels like a lot of really heavy books if you ask me!" Hasukawa accused his senpai angrily, and momentarily looked like he'd forgotten whatever it was that had made him embarrassed just now in lieu of being righteously indignant instead.
So Mitsuru figured that if Shinobu wasn't bothered he probably shouldn't be either—Hasukawa was just naturally jumpy after all— and went back to packing his things.
They moved into their new university-subsidized apartment a few days later and Mitsuru got the top bunk, probably only because Shinobu was too lazy to trouble himself with climbing up and down all day.
Mitsuru vaguely wondered as to why they'd gotten a one-bedroom dwelling again when they might as well have sprung for the two-bedroom now that they had the option, but he figured saving money was always a good thing, and it wasn't like he wasn't already used to having Shinobu underfoot all the time anyway.
Soon after they were settled—or getting settled at least— other people in the building began dropping by to introduce themselves and say hi, most of them college students as well, all probably hoping to make some study-buddies early on, before classes began and everyone got competitive and paranoid. There were some cute girls who giggled and asked Mitsuru if he had a girlfriend, but that stopped when Shinobu said something about how the two of them had been living together all through high school and that they'd gone to a prestigious private school for boys all three years. Thus, he added, neither of them had had any time to find girlfriends.
For some reason that got the girls to stop harassing Mitsuru about his single-status, which he supposed he was grateful for, but the moment it happened, he started getting those looks again.
The two girls signaled each other with their eyes from across the room and appeared first, disappointed, and then, cautiously intrigued by the newcomers.
"Are you two close?" one queried, the asking of which prompted a bunch of giggles from her companion. She had to swat her friend to get her to shut up and let Mitsuru answer.
"Sure," Mitsuru said, once the friend had stopped laughing. "No one knows me better than Shinobu."
Shinobu didn't say anything to confirm or deny that, and for some reason, that made the girls both start giggling and looking all over again.
Mitsuru really thought it was all very bizarre, and started fidgeting a bit under the weight of those looks.
In the meantime, Shinobu pulled a book from his shelf and began leafing through it absently. "I graduated at the top of our class," he suggested after a moment, seemingly out of the blue. "Mitsuru wasn't far behind me."
Mitsuru blinked at him upon hearing that, and thought that it was neither here nor there, even if the other boy was trying to impress someone-who-happened-to-be-a-cute-if-slightly-derranged-girl-or-pair-of-girls. At the very least, he'd thought Shinobu would have had a little more tact than that.
As predicted, it put them off a bit. "Oh," they said, and Mitsuru was pretty sure they were reacting to Shinobu's bragging. They looked like they might leave. Which wasn't an entirely bad thing considering Mitsuru wasn't sure if he could stand any more giggling for today.
"Well, we'll be off. Gonna go introduce ourselves to other people!" the less flighty one declared after a moment. "So nice to meet you boys," she added, and pulled her friend out the door.
"That was weird," Mitsuru said, and stared after the pair.
"At least they got the hint," Shinobu responded, absently. "I was worried I was actually going to have to spell out the fact that we don't need their help with our studies."
"Oh," Mitsuru realized, and got it. "They sure thought we were funny though, didn't they?"
Shinobu paused to eye him, and there was that look again, if only a specter of its former self on Tezuka's controlled features.
Under his friend's intense gaze, Mitsuru squirmed, instinctively.
"I thought they were pretty funny themselves," Shinobu allowed after a moment, and blessedly averted his eyes.
From there things only seemed to get weirder and weirder.
Whenever Shinobu and Mitsuru left for class together they got more of those strange looks from any passersby and their mother who happened to be in gawking distance. A lot of the onlookers were people who lived in their same building, but then again, a lot of them weren't either.
"Just ignore them," Shinobu told him, and was cool as ice as they strode past, side-by-side.
"I don't get it. What did we do?" Mitsuru whispered under his breath, turning his head towards Shinobu so only his friend could hear.
There was something akin to a collective gasp from all the onlookers when he did that.
Shinobu smiled a little bit. "Maybe they recognize you from your commercial."
Mitsuru groaned immediately, and figured that made sense. "That's stupid," he declared, but wasn't nervous anymore when he thought of it that way. Odd that no one had asked for an autograph yet, though.
And so they managed to get through their first semester of college, and after a while it must have gotten old, because people even stopped gawking at Shinobu and him in the middle of the quad every morning. A lot of the girls persisted in giggling though.
When winter break rolled around Mitsuru prepared to go home, full of anticipation. But when he saw that Shinobu wasn't doing anything regarding leaving for the next two weeks like he was, he paused in tossing his shirts haphazardly into his suitcase so that he could inquire as to why.
"I'm not going home," Shinobu told him simply. "I'll just hang out here and study until the next semester begins."
"Staying?! For New Year's? For Christmas?" Mitsuru exclaimed, and was oddly scandalized at the thought of Shinobu being here in this low-rent university housing tract all by himself during the holidays. "We don't have enough ramen for you to survive that!"
"I don't plan on eating instant ramen every day," Shinobu assured him, and was being far more blasé about the whole thing than he should've been. More blasé than anyone who had ever had to survive on a diet that consisted mostly of instant ramen and convenience store onigiri, anyway.
"You'll die if you eat it every day," Mitsuru told him, matter-of-factly.
Shinobu still didn't seem distressed. "If it gets that bad I'll just supplement my diet with onigiri from the convenience store around the corner, the way you have for your continued existence."
"But it's winter break! It's our chance to go home and eat real food!"
"Well, have fun," Shinobu told him.
For some reason that attitude of his irked Mitsuru just a little bit. He stood up, momentarily forgetting his suitcase. "I'm going to make a call," he announced. "I'm sure we can break out an extra futon for you at the temple."
And before Shinobu could protest Mitsuru was out the door and down the hall, calling his mom.
"Can Shinobu stay with us over winter break?" he asked, and there was a pause on the other end of the line that instinctively made him imagine that look on her face again.
"Of course he can!" she breathed after a moment, and then there was another pause, though decidedly less quiet as she moved to murmur something to the side, presumably to his father (who was probably trying to listen in and pretend he wasn't all at the same time).
Mitsuru couldn't make out their conversation though, because his mom had her hand braced over the mouthpiece. It just sounded like a lot of rapid-fire whisper-screaming in pig-latin or something.
When she got back on the phone she was all smiles—or at least sounded it—and said there was always room for the people who were important to Mitsuru at their house.
Mitsuru was buoyed enough by her easy acceptance of an extra mouth to feed that he didn't ask her what she'd been talking about with his father, murmuring a quick "thank you, love you, bye!" before hanging up and heading back into the apartment to tell Shinobu the good news.
When Shinobu heard it he sounded considerably less enthusiastic than Mitsuru was when he'd delivered the announcement, but there was something in his eyes when he looked up at Mitsuru that conveyed equal satisfaction with regards to the outcome of the call.
They headed to the temple the following morning, and were welcomed by the rest of Mitsuru's family at the gate.
Sho had his eyes cast downward the whole time they were standing out there and his face was beet red. Mitsuru wondered if he was sick.
"So good to have you both here!" his mother said quickly, and welcomed Shinobu heartily, eyes sliding between him and Mitsuru in a way that made Mitsuru inexplicably embarrassed.
"Ahaha, yes, any friend of Mitsuru's is always welcome here, no matter what!" his father added with a significant look at his eldest son, which promptly got him an elbow in the side from his wife.
"No grandkids either?" his grandfather muttered, seemingly out of the blue. "This temple really is in trouble."
"Hey!" Sho protested, seemingly offended.
"Oh you two, isn't it a little too early to be worrying about stuff like that? Now let's go get Mitsuru and Shinobu set up properly, shall we?" his mother said, sweetly vehement.
Mitsuru blinked and looked at them all.
Sure he'd been gone a while, but he was pretty certain his family hadn't been this bizarre the last time he'd been home.
Shinobu—bless his heart—took it all in stride, and didn't break a sweat when everyone started fussing over him (go figure).
It was only when they started talking about a guest room that Shinobu spoke up, politely stating, "You don't have to go to the trouble of preparing a separate room for me. Mitsuru and I have been sleeping in the same room for so long now I'm sure it'd be fine if I just take a futon on the floor."
He was so kind about it in fact—and everyone else was so oddly flustered—that before they knew what was going on, there was a fresh futon prepped on the floor of Mitsuru's room and no more words spoken at all about the guest room.
There was however, that odd look again, passing like rapid-fire between mother, father, and youngest son.
"Weird," Mitsuru muttered after everyone had gone their separate ways, and tossed his bag on his bed before flopping down onto it face first himself. "Ah, home."
Shinobu promptly plopped down next to him. "They managed to keep it clean," he noted, before leaning back until his head hit the pillow and staring up at the ceiling. "When's dinner?"
"Seven," Mitsuru murmured, voice slightly muffled from the whole being-face-down thing.
"Nap," they both declared in tandem.
When Shinobu didn't move to get off the bed, Mitsuru turned his head sideways to tell the other boy that he was definitely not taking the floor in his own damned house.
But Shinobu was already asleep, and Mitsuru supposed the bed was big enough for two.
When Mitsuru woke up it was eight and he was drooling all over Shinobu's shoulder. Nonplussed—they'd fallen asleep side-by-side studying for exams together countless times before, after all—he sat up blearily, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and wondered why no one had come and woken them up for dinner.
"Oi, wake up, Shinobu," he said, and shook the other boy.
Shinobu grunted and swatted at his hand. "Dinner?"
"Think so," Mitsuru yawned, and stood.
When they ambled into the kitchen—rosy-cheeked and mussy-haired from their nap—all eyes in the living room immediately snapped to them, and those looks were there again, except amplified about a hundred times over.
"Ah, you're both awake then?" his mother said with a big smile, and quickly stood to start reheating the food. "We didn't want to wake you…"
"You must have been tired from that long train ride," Mitsuru's father added, awkwardly. "Well, there's still plenty to eat and…"
"I'm going to my room," Sho declared—still red-faced—before ducking off the couch and slouching down the hall.
Mitsuru really wondered if the kid was sick or something.
That night, after they'd eaten and as they were preparing to go to sleep, Shinobu perched himself cross-legged on Mitsuru's bed with a book and said, "Your family's always so nice."
"They're being weird," Mitsuru confessed, and sat down next to him on the bed. "You brought a textbook with you?"
Shinobu didn't say anything, because the answer was an obvious "yes," and he knew that Mitsuru already knew it.
"Lame," Mitsuru said instead, and flopped down with a comic.
After a few days Hasukawa showed up at the shrine too, presumably for his seasonal job of helping the Ikeda family to clean the temple for New Year's.
When he saw Shinobu with Mitsuru both there his jaw dropped and his nose promptly exploded in a rather manifest shower of blood.
He really was a jumpy kid.
"You're both here?" he exclaimed in surprise, one hand rather desperately pinching his nose shut as he dug around in his pockets for his handkerchief.
"Shinobu didn't want to go home for the holidays," Mitsuru offered, with a shrug.
"Shouldn't you be working?" Shinobu suggested. "Or are you one of those guys who takes advantage of hourly wages by slacking for most of the time?"
Hasukawa sputtered. "I'm working!" he insisted, and stuffed his handkerchief up his left nostril before beginning to sweep furiously.
"That wasn't nice," Mitsuru said automatically, once Hasukawa was off and working again. A regular sweeping machine.
Shinobu shrugged. "Honestly, I didn't think he'd be so surprised."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mitsuru asked.
But Shinobu didn't answer him—only stared at him— so Mitsuru could only assume he'd asked another one of those questions he already knew the answer to. Or was supposed to already know the answer to, Shinobu didn't really make distinctions for stuff like that.
All Mitsuru knew for sure was that the look—that look— in his friend's eyes right now was making him fidgety.
And he thought that not knowing whatever it was that everyone else presumed to know was beginning to make him feel a little self-conscious.
By the end of winter break he thought he was going to go crazy, and as he and Shinobu prepared to leave the house and go back to school, his mother drew him in close for a hug and whispered, "Shinobu-kun is a very nice boy," into his ear instead of into Shinobu's, who the compliment was actually for.
She must have whispered it to Shinobu a second later though, because he smiled at her and they shared a different sort of look together—some sort of strange understanding that Mitsuru couldn't quite decipher. She looked downright misty-eyed for crying out loud.
"You better take care of my brother!" was all Sho declared, and then grudgingly shook Shinobu's hand before slouching back inside.
Mitsuru rather thought he could take care of himself well enough most of the time, but it was sweet for Sho to still be so protective of him even at his age.
Then Shinobu shook hands with Mitsuru's father and the man smiled and reached out to clasp the young man's shoulder. Misturu could make out a distinct, "Welcome to the family," from his father's lips, but nothing else.
Which was also sweet, he supposed, if a little bit weird.
As for grandpa, the old man merely looked Shinobu up and down before murmuring something about adoption and then his customary, "I'll be here 'til I'm two hundred anyway."
Mitsuru sincerely hoped his grandfather wasn't considering adopting Shinobu or anything, especially after what his father had said.
Curiouser and curiouser.
On the way out they saw Hasukawa sweeping the front entrance and bid him good-bye too. He turned red when he saw them together but put on a brave face and waved after them as they left, shouting, "I support however it is the two of you want to live!" before realizing what he'd screamed in the middle of the street, turning blue, and promptly retreating back into the temple, broom and all.
Mitsuru really thought Hasukawa would die at a young age if he didn't learn how to be a little less jumpy.
"This has been the weirdest winter vacation ever," he sighed after a moment, as he and Shinobu loaded the trunk of the cab with their bags. Shinobu helped him into the back seat before sliding in next to him.
"I think your family's nice," he said, and gave instructions to the taxi.
Somehow, Mitsuru felt like the driver was giving him one of those looks through the rear view mirror the entire way to the train station.
When they got seated on the train—after a young business woman took one look at them and also gave Mitsuru that look before offering to exchange seats so the two of them could sit together— he thought he'd finally had it.
"Why does everyone keep looking at me like that?" he hissed under his breath at Shinobu. "It's not just my family! It's…everyone."
"Like what?" Shinobu asked.
"Like they know something about me."
Shinobu just smiled, and Mitsuru knew him well enough after all these years to realize that when Shinobu didn't respond, it was because he thought Mitsuru was already supposed to know the answer to his own question.
Even if he didn't.
So he huffed, leaned back in his seat, and proceeded to pout the entire way to school.
When they got back to their cold apartment Shinobu stretched and turned on the heater before flopping down on his bottom bunk like he'd actually missed this place. Mitsuru thought he'd kind of missed it too, considering how crazy his family could be.
"It's good to be home," Shinobu said, and looked at Mitsuru, who was still sulking a little bit in the doorway. "What?"
"I'm so confused," Mitsuru muttered, and dropped his bag before giving up, walking forward, and plopping himself down on the edge of Shinobu's bed too.
Shinobu chuckled. "Your family was very kind," he said, like that was supposed to comfort his friend somehow.
"My mom thinks you're a nice boy," Mitsuru allowed, and lay back until his head touched the mattress. He stared up at the bottom of his shabby bed sitting above them.
"She does?" Shinobu sounded amused.
"What, she didn't tell you when we were all saying good-bye?"
"Then what did she say when she got all teary-eyed and hugged you?"
Shinobu chuckled. "She said to make you happy."
In a universe that was already very weird, that was possibly, the weirdest thing ever. "What?"
"Exactly as I said."
Mitsuru sputtered, and inexplicably, felt his cheeks getting hot. "What the heck is that supposed to mean? I mean… why? You? Why would you…"
Shinobu turned on his side then, propped his head up with his hand and regarded Mitsuru for a long while. He was giving him that look again, the one everyone else gave him too. "What, you mean you haven't noticed?" Shinobu asked, and Mitsuru couldn't tell if his friend was teasing him or if he was genuinely perplexed.
"Noticed what?!" was what Mitsuru wanted to ask—or demand, rather— but all that actually came out of his mouth was a "Noticed wh…MMMPH!" before he was cut off, because at that very moment, Shinobu apparently lost all that remained of that unflappable patience of his and leaned forward to kiss Mitsuru, right there on the bed, in the middle of his sentence.
When they pulled apart, Mitsuru blinked, stared. "Oh," he said, and tried to refocus his vision on the bottom of his shabby mattress. It took a while, but after a minute or two, he regained his bearings. Mostly.
Shinobu simply looked at his watch. "It's almost seven. Want to eat dinner?"
Mitsuru swallowed and licked his lips. He could still hear his heartbeat pounding like a war drum in his ears. "Sure."
"We've got some ramen still, I think," Shinobu said, and stood, padding over towards the small kitchenette and digging methodically through the cabinets until he found what he was looking for. "There's a package of shrimp flavor and a package of curry flavor left."
"I want curry," Mitsuru said, automatically.
"We'll split half and half," Shinobu told him, and ignored his request altogether.
After a minute, Mitsuru groaned and rolled so he could grab Shinobu's pillow and bury his face into it. The other boy simply started boiling the water and getting out the bowls and chopsticks.
"Why don't you ever tell me anything?" Mitsuru demanded, voice muffled.
Shinobu didn't answer him, and Mitsuru really hated when the other boy would call his bluff like that.
That night they each had half of a shrimp and half of a curry instant ramen for dinner and Mitsuru didn't even bother climbing up onto the top bunk when it was time for bed afterwards—he knew Shinobu's mattress was infinitely better than his shoddy old one anyway.
And as he fell asleep with Shinobu next to him—hogging the blankets and ordering him to put some socks on because his feet were cold— Mitsuru wondered if, now that he knew, he was really better off.