Chapter Nine

Getting Acquainted

"Cousin!" - Stitch, Disney's Lilo & Stitch

Ichigo rubbed at the back of his neck in a nervous manner as the small blonde swung about his waist as if he were Maypole. Not exactly a common thing to have a random stranger appear seemingly out of nowhere and latch upon your waist in an overly zealous hug. Or at least that's how Ichigo viewed it as he stared down at the happily grinning boy that had ceased swinging about his waist to merely stand before him with head tilted completely up. Big brown eyes stared up at Ichigo with a sort of wonderment that only served to further confuse the orange haired boy. It may have only been a week at Ouran, and Ichigo had met quite a decent amount of people, but he was more than certain he had not in any way interacted with this diminutive blonde.

I couldn't have. He looks like he's in the elementary department of the school. I haven't been over to the elementary department yet, so how in the hell does this kid know my name?! And why is he calling me Ichi-chan?!?!

The faint sound of movement snatched Ichigo's attention away from not only his thoughts, but also the boy still firmly latched to his waist. Eyes lifted to where the tall dark-haired boy had been. What scared Ichigo the most about the unknown giant that seemed to have followed the blonde to the patio, was the fact that the guy was apparently capable of moving rather quickly, seeing as how he had crossed a space of what Ichigo estimated to be somewhere around twelve feet within two seconds. Feeling a bit overshadowed by the very tall black haired boy (or should he be referring to him as a man?), Ichigo swallowed in a shaky manner but did his best to cover it up. "U-Um..." He nearly squeaked out the uncertainty he had to suddenly being the center of attention.

The tall boy's dark eyes shifted over to the blonde who was still firmly latched to the rather nervous looking Ichigo. He bent at the waist slowly with hands in his trouser pockets, stopping only when he came level with the blonde's ear. "Mitsukuni, perhaps it would best if you allowed Eniwa-san to breathe for a moment." The deep baritone of his voice seemed to rumble up in a sort of purr from somewhere deep within his chest; or that was how Ichigo could seem to reason as he heard it.

The diminutive blonde paused in his jovial swing about Ichigo's waist and took on a thoughtful look for a moment before suddenly smiling and nodding his head with a massive smile still plastered all over his face as he looked up at the orange-haired boy. "Neh, neh, Ichi-chan!" The boy seemed far to chipper in Ichigo' opinion, "What are you doing out here on the patio? Aren't you hungry?" He inquired, head tilting to the side in a slight quirk.

For a moment Ichigo could have sworn that the blonde looked almost identical to a puzzled little puppy as they stared at one another. There was no other way to put it, and Ichigo knew this, but the little guy that was still clinging to his waist was horribly cute. Way too cute... in fact it should be illegal how cute this kid is. "Uh... well you see..." He stammered out while unconsciously rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. "I sort of..." Ichigo trailed off while glancing down at his shoes, the right one kicking slightly at the ground the best it could with the small blonde boy still clamped about his waist.

"You got lost."

Ichigo's head snapped up, eyes wide as they stared at the towering dark haired giant still standing in front of him, hands now casually shoved into the pockets of his school uniform. There's was something a little unnerving about the guy that Ichigo couldn't quite put his finger on. And 'quite' was entirely stressed at this point as what seemed like several different reasons slammed against the front of Ichigo's skull in a skidding halt. First and foremost, the guy was just way too freaking tall for a High School student, and there was something about the horribly placid demeanor that was plastered across his face and drenching his posture. The greatest of all these thoughts focused around how the guy apparently seemed to be a psychic as he had not questioned, so much as stated, that Ichigo had indeed gotten lost. Very lost. Swallowing hard, Ichigo nodded in a jerked manner as his thought process failed to form a coherent sentence at that moment for a verbal reply.

Glancing between his dark haired companion and Ichigo, the blonde took a few seconds to process what had been said then came to the final conclusion with a massive grin on his face as he focused all attention on Ichigo. "Hehe, Ichi-chan got lost on his way to lunch." The blonde chirped playfully while looking rather amused by this sudden revelation that had come to him.

Opening his mouth to protest that such a thing had happened as he didn't want admit to having gotten so easily lost, Ichigo's own stomach betrayed him as it let out a low grumble to show just how hungry the teen was. With an exasperated sigh Ichigo hung his head and a gave a mute 'yes' in response to both statements that had been in made in commentary of his current predicament. Getting lost hadn't been his fault though, it was the fault of the school building itself – or that was how Ichigo was seeing it at the moment – that he had gotten so turned around on what should have been a short trip. A small giggle and the feeling of being poked in the stomach snapped Ichigo to attention and brought amber eyes to stare at the blonde with a sort of startled gaze.

"Ichi-chan's tummy talked!" The blonde announced aloud with a giggle before turning his head to glance back over his shoulder at his taller companion yet again. "Neh, neh, Takashi! Let's take Ichi-chan to lunch before the bell rings!!"

"Huh?!" Ichigo nearly sputtered, eyes flickering between the two in a rapid manner. He barely knew these two boys, and as far as he knew they barely knew who he was, especially since this was what Ichigo knew to be their first meeting. While it seemed as though this really was something completely random, there was the nagging thought at the back of Ichigo's mind that demanded caution as it was possible that the twin demons – albeit they had eased up on their usual teasing of Ichigo as they were more entertained in watching him turn Tamaki down repeatedly – had their hands in this situation. Before Ichigo even knew what was going on, the orange-haired boy found himself being dragged by the hand across the patio by the over zealous blonde who was babbling on about something he hadn't caught at the beginning. Ichigo didn't know what was more startling about the situation he was in – being dragged along by someone less than half his size, or that he was hardly putting up a fight – whichever it was, the teen was unable to even fully process the thought as they were already back inside the school building and heading off down the hall.

Ichigo could only blink dumbly as the rattling chatter of the small blonde was lost on him completely as he seemed more focus on maintaining his balance, albeit it was a pathetic attempt to maintain his balance in such an oddly stooped manner as he was pulled down by the fast grip of the blonde boy, but it was an attempt to not look even more ridiculous in his stumbling pace by face planting straight into the carpeted hall floor. Although he had yet to fully confirm it by looking over his shoulder, Ichigo could sense the other boy's presence right behind them as his long stride no doubt kept him at perfect pace with their strange power walk.

"Neh, neh, Ichi-chan!" The blonde grinned happily over his shoulder at the orange-haired teen he had by the hand, innocently oblivious to the completely befuddled expression that painted Ichigo's face at that moment. "What do you want to eat for lunch?" Genuine curiosity evident in his voice as he sought out Ichigo's choice in food.

"U-Um, well, actually I was..." Stuttering slightly while catching himself before tripping on his own two feet, Ichigo tried to piece together a decent way to explain to the diminutive blonde that he had been in the process of eating his lunch when his chopsticks had betrayed him. However, words were obviously failing the poor boy as he opened and closed his mouth repeatedly with nothing more than a mere muted croak coming out before he snapped his mouth shut in defeat.

A giggle escaped the blonde boy – called Mitsukuni early out on the patio – as he seemed to find Ichigo's lack of words somewhat entertaining apparently or however he seemed to view it. Changing his pace, the blonde released Ichigo's hand in favor of encircling the boys' arm with his own, clinging again as he had before to Ichigo's waist. "Tama-chan was right, Ichi-chan really is fun to be around!" The blonde chirped while cuddling Ichigo's arm, his big smile fixed permanently to his face as he practically beam kilowatts up at Ichigo.

Rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, and thankful for the fact that they had stopped the rather hurried walk down the hall, Ichigo looked a bit more confused than he already was as he glanced down at the blonde. Two things were nagging at the forefront of the soiree of multiple questions that were currently racing through his head – who exactly were these two boys (and also who they knew his name) and just who in the hell was this 'Tama-chan' that the blonde kept talking about?!

Licking his lips, Ichigo struggled minutely for a decent way to approach the question of the blonde's name as the last thing he wanted to do was possibly offend the two before even properly getting to know them. "Uh, I don't believe that I, uh..." Ichigo grimaced mentally, Great way to show your intelligence Ichigo!

As if interpreting the ragged and unfinished question with clear clarity, the tall boy lifted a lazy brow, lips tweaking slightly in silent amusement before he spoke up. "Mitsukuni. Haninotsuka Mitsukuni." He nodded down at the blonde that clung to Ichigo's arm as he received a rather puzzled look from over the shoulder. He then inclined his head slightly, indicating to himself now before speaking further. "Morinozuka Takashi."

Ichigo blinked once with a slightly dumbfounded look on his face as he met the dark grey gaze of the now properly introduced Morinozuka Takashi. He was tempted to ask how Takashi had even come around to the conclusion that he was trying to ask their names, but instead opted to remain quiet on the question and just except it as it was. Now the question was – did Ichigo need to properly introduce himself or did these two already know his full name? Great, another freaking problem. Ichigo exhaled a sigh quietly beneath his breath as he continued to debate with himself over the matter, until of course his mental debate was abruptly interrupted by a tug on his arm from Mitsukuni.

The second he had Ichigo's amber gaze on him, the blonde was all smiles yet again. "You haven't answered my question yet Ichi-chan."

"Uh...?" Ichigo blinked dumbly as he was starting the confused loop all over again. Dammit.

Mitsukuni giggled and gave Ichigo's arm a light squeeze. "Ichi-chan is so easily distracted." He grinned, but even though his tone was light and bubbling with laughter, something about it seemed almost close possibly reprimanding in some strange way or other. Without even missing a beat, the fact that Ichio's face had nearly flushed scarlet in response to his comment overlooked, Mitsukuni jabbed a directional finger ahead of them as they were now more than a few feet from the bustling cafeteria that offered up light echoing murmurs of hundreds of conversations going on at once. "Let's have cake!" He announced as loudly as possible before unhooking his arms from Ichigo to once more take his hand and dash forward into the cafeteria with Ichigo struggling to keep up and not be literally dragged across the floor.

A comical sight to say the least, the much taller teen being forced to stumble and maintain some sense of balance while being hauled about by a much smaller student, and the only person watching with the barest hint of a grin was Morinozuka Takashi. Shrugging slowly to himself as he followed after the now long gone pair, Morinozuka entered the cafeteria and hardly had a problem locating Mitsukuni and Ichigo. First instinct directed the taller boy towards the dessert area of the cafeteria catering tables, the second was of course to spot the shock of orange hair that belonged to the only student in Ouran who had such a color... which he did.

"Wah! Oh, they all look so good!!" Mitsukuni squealed while wriggling in place out of absolute delight as he stared at the plethora of various dessert items that were spread out before him on the long slender catering table. Everything from Strawberry Shortcake to Castella; Italian Cream Cake to Tortes and Tarts; there was a never ending sea of sugar, cream, and chocolate that could feed an army and then some while possibly inducing a diabetic coma all at the same time. Putting a finger to his lips, Mitsukuni stared at the cakes before him with a look of indecisive torment as he simply wanted to sweep an arm-full off the table rather than pick a single item from the delicious assortment. "But which one do I take?" He murmured, tone nearly forlorn as he pouted at the tough choice before him.

Ichigo on the other hand stood off to the side with a rather impressed and yet obviously surprised look as he stood at a slightly rigid stance while eying the laden table of sweets. Never before had he seen such a massive spread of confectionery delights that could rival that of the display counters at the local bakery he had grown up around. There were desserts that were familiar enough in appearance that Ichigo recognized immediately, but not without a slight hint of hesitation, and then there were the desserts that Ichigo tilting his head to the side and blinking owlishly at. One particular dessert had caught his undivided attention, its funnel shaped body constructed entirely from what looked like glossy threads had the poor boy scratching the back of his head while Mitsukuni literally raced up and down the table blabbering out random thoughts and questions.

Damn. What the hell is that thing? Ichigo's lips twitched into a small frown as he crossed his arms and stared at the dessert that had seemingly caught his attention and kept it. It looks like someone took a bunch of string and glued it all together. People eat this stuff? Exhaling a sigh while shaking his head, Ichigo glanced over to his left where Mitsukuni was now scooping up his chosen dish and grinning like a mad man. Smiling slightly at the rather child-like joy that was radiating from the blonde, Ichigo started to return his attention to the strange dessert when his hand was snatched yet again and was subsequently dragged off yet again. Fortunately though it wasn't far that Ichigo was dragged, as the orange-haired teen blinked dumbly at the rather fancy chair he was left standing near at an equally fancy table that seemed rather odd in such a place as a cafeteria. In fact...

SERIOUSLY?! Stunned was the only word that could fully function as a means of describing the look on Ichigo's face as his gaze slowly roved about the massive dinning hall that he had been referring to as a cafeteria since the first day. The vaulted ceilings lifted high overhead with a gothic arch style that matched the rest of the high fashion-like architecture of Ouran. Large near floor to ceiling windows sat within one entire wall that looked as though it could nearly be endless as it stretched further than anything Ichigo was used to for an eating space. A wall of sunlight poured into the dinning hall, causing the white washed tables and chairs of finely crafted wrought iron to nearly glitter beneath the rays as students moved to and fro about the massive space. It was then that Ichigo finally breathed in deeply and found himself nearly assaulted by a vast variety of food smells that were brand new to his limited pallet.

A small giggle brought Ichigo out of his rambling thoughts, the stunned expression dropping from his face in favor of a slightly confused one as he looked over at the happy blonde who was now seated with a fork in hand and half of his chocolate cream cake now gone. "Ichi-chan is funny!"

Ichigo could only arch a brow in response to Mitsukuni's comment, the abundance of confusion overly apparent as he just stared. It took the sudden production of a soft chuckle from behind Ichigo to cause the teen to nearly jump straight up into the air. Takashi had appeared so suddenly without so much as a sound, aside from the chuckle he had given at that moment to make his presence known, that Ichigo swore up and down to himself then and there he would never ever get on this guys' bad side ever. The slight twitch of Takashi's lips at the corner was the only indication to the slight amount of amusement that he found in the wide-eyed look he was receiving. Almost shrugging at the reaction, Takashi pulled one hand from his pocket and simply reached out for the chair that Ichigo had been standing behind and simply tugged at it to pull the seat out a bit, which in turn forced Ichigo to take a few steps back as well. While he didn't entirely turn his head to look at him, the mere flicker of eye movement in Ichigo's direction was enough of a subtle hint as Takashi released the chair and made his way around the table to the empty chair of Mitsukuni's other side.

The orange-haired boy could begin to imagine just how incredibly unintelligent he had been looking throughout the entire time he had been suddenly been spending with these two new faces. The expressions of dumbfounded confusion, puzzlement, and whatever else had crossed his face had surely given them insight to what was not even close to Ichigo's actual personality; which of course had Ichigo mentally wincing at even now as he was quite sure he once again had a confused look on his face as he glanced from the pulled out chair to Takashi, and then back to the chair in several double-takes. It wasn't until Mitsukunis' muffled giggle through a mouthful of cake came that Ichigo suddenly broke out into a horribly bright red flush of embarrassment before promptly taking his seat and scooting in slightly towards the table. Drilling his amber-eyed gaze into the table top, Ichigo sat as straight and rigid as a board with hands firmly clasped together in his lap as he tried to swallow down the horrendous color that stained his face at the moment.

"Ichi-chan," Mitsukuni paused before he could finish sentence, swiping another bite of cake into his mouth before continuing on, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

The question had Ichigo's head snapping up as he hadn't quite expected that to come out of his mouth. Both eyes were a bit wider, but not saucer-sized as they had been a moment ago, as he met the eager brown-eyed stare of the blonde who was happily swinging his feet as he sat with quiet anticipation to the answer he wanted to hear. Ichigo shrugged lamely, "Uh, no I don't actually. But I am pretty close with my cousin, so I guess he's sort of... like me... brother..." His sentence trailed off slowly in response the rather gaping stare that he was receiving from the small blonde, which was actually starting unnerve Ichigo a bit as a rather odd silence crept between them and made the orange-haired student squirm slightly in his seat.

"You have a cousin?" Mitsukuni spoke up finally; slowly and sounding a bit shaky as he did so. "Is he older than you?" There was an immediate change in his tone, a pressing air that was politely demanding an answer from Ichigo now as he had apparently forsake the last bit of his cake in favor of getting answers.

"No, we're the same age. Well, actually, he's a few months older than me really." Ichigo held a rather thoughtful look on his face as he revised his answer. "We were even born in the same hospital too if I'm not mistaken. And I think my dad said we were both born at night with an hour difference... uh? A-Are you okay?" A worried look flashed over Ichigo's face as he had watched Mitsukuni lower his fork to the table and set it aside as he lowered his head to the point where his chin rested against his chest. The second his fingers had left the fork, Mitsukuni's shoulders began to shake slightly, which even further worried Ichigo as he sent several panicked glanced at the quietly sitting Takashi. "Um...?"


Ichigo nearly did a backflip out of his chair.

In all but a split second Mitsukuni's head had snapped up as the blonde hoped up to stand in his chair while planting both hands down on the table top with a rough slap that caused the dishwares to rattle slightly. He had leaned as far forward as he possibly could across the table, eyes beaming with the same exact smile that graffitied his face. "Ichi-chan has a cousin he's very very close with!! You're just like me and Takashi!!" Mitsukuni cried happily while pointing quickly at the still silent Takashi, who in turn nodded to confirm what was being said to the bewildered stare of Ichigo that soon followed. "And you're even the same age as one another!! Just like me and Takashi!!" He gasped, eyes watering with overjoy at the sudden revelations and connections he was making for himself out loud.

Ichigo offered the blonde a small apprehensive smile. "Uh, cool I guess." He chuckled lightly, sheepishly even at the small amount attention that had suddenly been drawn their way from the over zealous shouts of Mitsukuni. Ignoring the several odd stares and the faint murmurs as a few shook their heads and returned to lunch, Ichigo could only continue chuckling before reality snapped him to attention his brain finally processing the last statement that Mitsukuni had said... primarily about his blonde self and his incredibly quiet, towering giant of a cousin.

"Wait what?!" Ichigo stared slack jawed at the two with a darting look between that had the teen reeling at the obvious physical discoveries that he should have picked up on almost immediately out on the patio. Why in the hell didn't I realize Mitsukuni was wearing the High School uniform?! How the hell are these two even cousins at the same age when he's so... and he's so... Ichigo stared at the two completely polar opposite looking boys before relinquishing his attempt to even try and piece it all together in a logical manner that wouldn't damage his brain in any manner. However, that was neigh impossible as Ichigo's thought process balked at the idea of forgoing the attempt of structuring this situation out in a manner that would make sense, favoring the the mentally painful and tedious manner in which he was going to straighten this out for himself. I could have sworn Mitsukuni was in an elementary grade!! He looks like he should be!! What is he; four foot nothing, if that?! It doesn't make any sense!!!!!!!!

The wonders never ceased at Ouran, and the school year was far from over.