Chapter Three: The Morning After

They wake up in a sleepy tumble of aching backs, limbs jammed into uncomfortable places and Akira having kicked all the blankets off the bed sometime in the middle of the night.

Shuuji extracts himself from under Akira's dead weight and carefully makes his way over Akira who's splayed out all over the bed, taking up as much room as humanly possible, and Nobuta's curled up form, her small hands still clutching Akira's shirt tightly, eyes squeezed shut; a little tense and withdrawn even in sleep.

"Shuuji," Akira murmurs sleepily, hands tightening around Shuuji's ankle. "Where are you going?"

Shuuji freezes, one foot raised in the air and balanced precariously over Nobuta.


"Sleep," Akira says and jerks insistently on Shuuji's ankle.

"But- but," Shuuji says weakly and resigns himself towards being pulled down again, landing in a heap all over Akira who makes a tired kissy face at him and hugs him.

"Nobuta agrees," Akira mumbles. "Shuuji should be in bed."

Shuuji startles.

Nobuta's wide awake and studying them curiously with that small frown of hers, apparently quite content with watching Akira manhandle him back into bed. For once her hair isn't covering her eyes; instead, it's spread out all over Shuuji's pillow and tangled with Akira's, black against black.

"Right?" repeats Akira and tugs on Shuuji's waist again.

Nobuta blinks at them wordlessly for a long moment. Her lips twitch suspiciously and Shuuji swears she's laughing at them.

Akira waits patiently for Nobuta's answer, eyes bright and as eager as a child presented with sweets.

Finally, she nods, once.

He crows in victory and Shuuji resigns himself to staying in bed for a few more hours, secretly a little pleased.

"We are not staying in bed all day Akira."

"Bed," Akira says, and hugs Shuuji's pillow to his chest.

"AKIRA," Nobuta says in that peculiar way of hers.

Akira sulks. He stalls. He distracts them. He looks agonized. He finally sighs and rolls out of bed limply, pouting at them from Shuuji's floor, as if to say, look at what you made me do.

"Works every time," Shuuji says under his breath and tries valiantly not to smile smugly when Akira looks at him suspiciously.

"Don't touch anything Akira," Shuuji says firmly, calmly flipping the last egg. He prods at it carefully and hums in pleasure when it feels right.

("I only like it exactly halfway between runny and firm," Akira says solemnly, looking at Shuuji imploringly.

"Who's the cook here?")

He slides the egg onto Akira's plate, and takes the opportunity to whack Akira's hand with the spatula when he attempts to start in on his breakfast before everyone else.

Akira holds his hand to his chest and gives Shuuji a wounded look. When all Shuuji does is snort at him, he turns to Nobuta. She quietly closes Koji's bedroom door and shuffles to the kitchen table where Akira's watching Shuuji clean up.

"Is Koji still in bed?"

Nobuta nods.

Shuuji sighs. "I'll wake him up," he says with a sigh. "You two – eat."

Nobuta starts in on her breakfast by carefully cutting her food into equal sized portions while Akira shovels it in his mouth like no tomorrow. He's about to sneak something of his onto Shuuji's plate but Shuuji returns with a half asleep Koji in tow.

He prods Koji into his seat and gives Akira a nonplussed look when he realizes that Akira's been steadily stacking food onto his plate.

Akira shrugs and 'kons' him. "Sharing is caring," he says cheerfully.

"I'm eating fine."

"Sharing," he repeats and makes a heart with his hands. He presses his heart onto Shuuji's chest firmly. "Is caring."

Shuuji's still slightly miffed but he starts in on his breakfast without a word. Koji who's half asleep at the table slides down in his chair further and lays his head down, snoring softly. Shuuji gently removes the fork still in his hand and as an afterthought, pushes his glass of juice further away as a precaution.

They eat in silence until Nobuta says suddenly, "Home."

Akira blinks. Shuuji looks up curiously.

"Feels like home."

Shuuji doesn't say anything, but he smiles softly.

Akira pauses, one fork of food halfway to his mouth. He sets it down and turns to Nobuta and Shuuji.

"Home," he agrees. "Home with Shuuji and Nobuta."