Mommy and Daddy Dearest
Doumeki was wrong because he was not overreacting.
He simply had a healthy sense of caution and care that ran very deep for the young girl whom he had all but taken under his protective wing.
"Enough to become a stalker apparently."
Watanuki most firmly disagreed.
"Be quiet!" He hissed, spastically whacking his finger to his lips repeatedly in order to emphasize the point. Watanuki nervously twitched his head in all directions before warily poking it out of the thick bushes. Doumeki mused that Watanuki's meerkat impersonation would have been perfect if he curled his arms forwards just a little more so.
Deeming that the area was safe, Watanuki sank back into the bushes to fully rebuke the older boy's previous comment. Doumeki half listened with a slightly amused air, favoring to watch the other boy trying to both yell at him and keep his voice down to a sharp whisper at the same time.
"For the last time we are not stalking! And as I recall-(Watanuki started poking him rather painfully here)-this-was-YOUR-idea.
Doumeki lazily rolled his eyes to the side. Watanuki's words held some truth. But his version held a bit more...finesse.
His arm was suddenly jerked to the side-Watanuki had gripped it and started shaking his sleeve. "Ah! Here they come!"
Doumeki followed Watanuki's intense gaze, as best as he could through the leaves anyway, and saw the children eagerly pile out of the doors and race onto the playground. It would have been a horrible lie to say that the two weren't raking the premises and all the children in sight with hawk-like focus and resolve. He felt Watanuki's grip on his arm tighten at the same time as when they both caught sight of their target.
"Kohaaaaaane-chaaaaaa~n! Over here!"
He could almost imagine the puffs of smoke and flames billowing out of Watanuki's flared nostrils. His neck did feel suspiciously warm.
Watanuki didn't really like Hiro-kun that much.
Although the reasons why escaped the older boy's mind. He much rather preferred Hiro-kun. Hiro-kun was a typical ten year old boy, if a little on the loud and energetic side, whose face and bright, green eyes held no secrets of whatever emotions that happened to pass through them. Unlike that other one, he was not suspiciously withdrawn to the point of unnatural stoicism. Hiro-kun was an earnest boy who easy to read. And keep tabs on.
Doumeki was less inclined towards Ayaka-kun.
"Doofus. You're making a racket again."
Watanuki leaned in favor of Ayaka-kun. He was polite and respectful of Kohane-chan's personal space-as well as the larger one that Watanuki personally established; he had diagrams. Ayaka-kun didn't cause unnecessary noise that would draw any unnecessary and unwelcome attention. He usually stopped the other boy from making such noise, and, above all, Ayaka-kun even looked out for Kohane-chan from bullies of any sort, particularly the ones that recognized her from her televised exorcisms in the past. That doubled the bonus points right there and he-DID NOT randomly hug Kohane-chan like-that-other-boy-was-doing-by-god-
"Let. Me. GO. Doumeki! That boy is out of his mind!"
"Once again. You're over-reacting." And for all of his arm strength and archery muscles, Doumeki was having a ridiculously hard time in just keeping Watanuki from squirming like a mad fish diseased with the rage of a bull that had been unceremoniously dunked into a pool of red paint. Doumeki unfortunately didn't get much time to ponder Watanuki's potentially bright future in professional wrestling; the bushes beside the jungle gyms were rustling far too much for a third grader's comfort and soon a teacher was heading their way with a fearsome ruler at hand.
Before Watanuki could object, Doumeki muffled the protesting voice with a hand and high tailed out of the greenery with a less than agreeable Watanuki.
"Primary school?" Watanuki blinked for a couple of seconds as he stopped chopping the vegetables.
The young girl beside him, adorned in a similar head kerchief and apron, nodded. "Mm. Yuuko-san and Obaa-san thought it was best that I finish school. I've been going for three weeks now."
The boy turned this new information in his head and the longer it turned, the more worry lines creased his forehead.
"...But...are you sure you're ready to keep going? I mean, Kohane-chan is doing well, of course! But you've missed so much school in the past...and..there's other kids..."-a veritable army of evil, fanged children flashed through Watanuki's mind, and the boy's voice starting getting just a smidge panicky-"and lots of bullies...and some of them might soon recognize you from t.v.-some of them might have been the ones that wrecked your house!-your mother might even show up to see you-and the bullies-!"
And it was here where Doumeki, Kohane's official food taster (and Watanuki's bother), felt the need to stop snacking on Kohane's samples and insert his two cents.
"Oi." He pointed his chopsticks to the worked up boy, ignoring his bristling at the one-word nickname. "You're over-reacting." And with that done, Doumeki promptly went back to his duty as a diligent food sampler.
Watanuki wasn't as calm.
"I am not over-reacting!" Kohane barely caught the dumpling that flew off his waved spatula.
"While you were perfectly fine as Mr. Popular, I got teased all the time as the weird kid who saw ghosts!-Ah!" The boy whipped back to Kohane and performed a complete flip-flop in tone. "Not that you're weird at all Kohane-chan! it's just that other kids can be so mean.."
Kohane smiled gratefully and reassuringly. "I understand Kimihiro-kun. But I already have two very close friends now at school." Her smile widened and Watanuki saw the happiness openly grow onto her face. At the word of friends, Doumeki glanced up as well. "They're very kind to me. They stand up to the few bullies that do talk to me."
Watanuki warmly smiled in relief and his entire demeanor relaxed as he turned back to the sizzling pan on the stove. "Ah, I'm so glad, that Kohane-chan has such good friends to take care of her." As he flipped over the remaining dumplings, he turned his head back to the girl with a smile. "What are their names? What are they like?"
Kohane kept her eyes on the carrot she was dicing but she spoke happily, "Ayaka-kun and Hiro-kun."
She didn't notice Watanuki freeze or hear the sound of munching stop.
"Hiro-kun is always full of energy and he-
-makes fun of Ayaka-kun for his-
-'girly' name. Ayaka-kun is quiet and he-
-teases Hiro-kun a lot. But they're really such good friends."
Words. Referring to male persons. Watanuki could only stand shell shocked as the male pronouns continued their echoing assault in his brain.
In the meanwhile, Doumeki concluded that he preferred dumplings in his mouth rather than on top of his head.
"So. You're skipping school to stalk two ten-year old boys at a primary school."
"Don't say it like that! That sounds creepy!"
Doumeki only continued his silent stare in order to make his point.
Watanuki, on the other hand, thought that he had explained this very logically to Doumeki the night prior when he was slicing up the vegetables (the other boy pointed out that Watanuki was more of angrily mincing them into a pulp)...
Grumble-grumble-grumble-"Not two cute-chop!-little girls-chop!-but boys!-chop!chop!chop!-And not one!-chop!-BUT TWO!-CHOP!-B-B-B-BOYS!-CHO-CRACK-!..."
"I think you've chopped through your chopping board." Doumeki helpfully pointed out. 'And your sanity' but Doumeki didn't say this part out loud.
Watanuki was only bent over the counter and breathing heavily-quite ominously, Doumeki thought.
Watanuki himself was contagious. The older boy found the other's rare smiles and laughter and, subsequently, other emotions to impact him. And now Doumeki cursed at how he could literally feel the tendrils of paranoia radiate from Watanuki's dark aura and contaminate his calm way of thinking.
He spoke carefully, warily eying the growing aura and tentacles of darkness. "Well, we could...always meet the bo-
CHOP!-children. Drop by the school since our classes end earlier than theirs..-"
Doumeki stopped. The tentacles were thankfully gone, but in their place was a disturbing glint that suddenly appeared in Watanuki's eyes. And the silent laugh the shook the other's shoulders.
Watanuki was anything but stealthy. He was unsuccessfully trying to nudge against the wall as if it were a cliff ledge while simultaneously trying to look over it at the small group of children that were making their way to school. The two were out of their usual uniforms (Watanuki fumed at how black pants were horrible for blending in with the surroundings) and they were now adorned with neutral grays and greens. Doumeki had drawn the line at camouflage face paint though.
"Hey, Kohane-chan! What do you have for lunch today?"
"Oh, Kimihiro-kun packed me a lot of sushi, onigiri, and tea today."
"Waah! You're so lucky to know someone who's such a great cook!"
For a split second Watanuki allowed himself a prideful smile and congratulatory pat on the back-he was determined for Kohane-chan to always have the best lunches in the school!-but he soon resumed scowling and tucked his hood over his head more. He had a mission. And so far he had successfully determined the identities of the two boys.
Hiro: Suspicious green eyes. Strangely wild brown hair. Deviously upturned nose. Peculiarly loud voice.
Ayaka: Calm...too calm blue eyes. Blond hair. Hmm, nothing suspicious about that. Quiet...perhaps too quiet.
The group turned a corner and Watanuki gingerly stepped out, whipping his head this way and that before fiercely gesturing with two pointed fingers in some elaborate pattern that also involved a belly tap.
Doumeki remained expressionless until the wild gestures became even more complicated. He frowned. "I don't speak made up army hand codes."
Watanuki's nostrils flared tremendously, and then he heavily stomped his foot on the ground and pointed to where he stomped as if he expected Doumeki to immediately come like an obedient dog. He didn't move. Watanuki finally grabbed the front of the older boy's shirt and dragged him off towards their next stake-out point.
"Hmm? So Hiro-kun and Ayaka-kun are coming over here?"
Himawari was helping Watanuki set up the table with dishes when she asked her question. He was moving stiffly and jerked his head as a 'yes.'
After Doumeki had pointed out that they would probably be caught in the unsavory circumstances of spying on little children almost half their age if they tried their little stunt again-and while Doumeki's grades were fine, Watanuki couldn't really afford to pry up more 'sick' excuses-Watanuki growled and grumped and then plain sulked.
Doumeki handled a growling Watanuki just fine. But he just couldn't bear to see Watanuki sulk in a corner. Especially when strange mushrooms started growing out of the corner.
So Watanuki reluctantly agreed to have Kohane bring the boys over to obaa-san's house; the old lady in question was calmly sipping her tea on the porch awaiting the children's arrival.
He knew that he should have been happy and overjoyed that Kohane-chan had made friends her own age. And he was! ..To an extent. But very strange..almost fearfully maternal instincts had suddenly roared forth and taken over, thumping heavy fists upon its metaphorical chest and seething with an irrational fury to suddenly start flipping tables over.
"I'm home, and this is Hiro-kun, and Ayaka-kun." Kohane gestured to the boys on either side of her. The elderly woman put down her tea and stepped forward.
"Ah, so it is. Nice to finally meet you two. Kohane has often spoken at length about you both, Hiro-kun, Ayaka-kun." She smiled gently in the way that only kindly grandmothers could, and her welcoming nature set the boys at ease at they both bowed their heads respectively.
"WHAAAT?! THEY'RE ALREADY HERE?! DOUMEKIIIIII you should have tol-"
Hiro swore that the house positively shook (if the squawking flocks of terrified birds flying away didn't indicate it) from the force of both the yell and the rapidly increasing footsteps-stomps-as the voice cut off to reveal a strange, older boy-he looked like one of those high schoolers-in the doorway, huffing from his run, dressed in an apron and head kerchief.
Hiro's eyes widened at the dripping knife in his head and the red, red stains on his apron. He vaguely had the notion that this Doumeki person was all but chopped liver now.
"Oh! Kohane-chan you're here!" Himawari popped her head from behind the sliding door before brightly walking out onto the porch, her pigtails merrily bouncing with the movement. "And so is Hiro-kun and Ayaka-kun. Hi, you can just call me Himawari onee-chan!"
Ayaka didn't know what was more alarming. The fact that neither the old woman, Kohane, or the new onee-chan seemed to take heed (their smiles just seemed to grow bigger actually) of the ear-splitting yell that announced this older boy or the fact that another new boy with lazily lidded eyes was very calmly addressing the crazy one who was dangerously waving his arms and hands-with the still dripping knife-all about.
"-And if you hadn't insisted on some outlandish sauce, everything would have been ready on time!"
Doumeki slid his eyes to the two young boys still standing outside and making no move to go in (well, that Hiro one was outwardly shaking and bug-eyed right now). He focused back onto Watanuki.
"Oi. You're scaring the children."
The late lunch was a lively one and Watanuki had put in his best effort yet if two sets of loud munching were anything to go by.
But in a very short time, there were also two prompt 'smack!' sounds and Watanuki went on to criticize Doumeki for his pig-like dining manners and to leave at least some leftovers so that he didn't later face the tag-team empty-belly wraths of Yuuko-san and Mokona.
Hiro was noisily whining while rubbing the back of his head in an attempt to lessen the pain of Ayaka's chopsticks, and he exclaimed that his parents always taught him that "good eatin' made for good appreciatin'." Ayaka only narrowed his eyes further and stated that his parents surely must have also taught him not to slurp noodles with a spray area of a 10 foot radius.
They were good kids, Watanuki finally decided. One was just slightly too sarcastic for his age and the other a little dense in the brain, but they were officially queued up to receive Watanuki's big, official stamp of approval. That didn't mean, of course, that didn't mean at all that Watanuki wouldn't make sure that the two kept their respective distances and brought Kohane-chan home at a proper time in the same condition as she left. Especially that one. That Hiro was still just too touchy for his comfort.
At one point Hiro draped his arm around Kohane's shoulders and brought their cheeks to touch and rub together when asked just how close of friends they were-in which he shouted that they were the 'best of best friends!'-and before Watanuki had a chance to open his mouth to say something (he even prepared an intricately complex acrobatic counter to outmaneuver Doumeki's restraining grasp) Doumeki put down his tea cup with just a little more force than required and Ayaka glared at Hiro with a touch more flames in his eyes and without a word spoken on either part, the arm quickly slunk back to its owner's side.
While the rest laughed to Himawari's joke, Watanuki furtively (well he tried to) whispered to Doumeki with all the impending seriousness of a death omen. "Doumeki. This is bad. I think Hiro-kun has a deep crush on Kohane-chan."
Watanuki was bent down with both hands shielding his mouth, his expression still set in the most solemn gravity, and Doumeki glanced at said boy-who was currently gushing rainbow colored poetry about Kohane-chan's radiant kindness with sparkles in his eyes-and then back to Watanuki, almost letting out a half-mocking comment along the lines of "no, really?"
But they were interrupted when Himawari and Kohane began to stand up, gathering the dishes that were empty.
"Ah, Watanuki-kun, we're just going to get more rolls of-"
And here, Watanuki and Hiro simultaneously rocketed out of their seats and spoke and moved like choreographed, Siamese twins.
"-Let me get that for you!"
The two boys blinked and looked towards each other, their bodies still frozen in ridiculous outstretched poses of gallantry. And as chairs or tables were not meant for the force of rocket-motion, nearly all of the more liquid-y substances on the table promptly performed a spontaneous miniature fountain demonstration-it was rather pretty enough for most everyone else to clap politely-before spilling all over the table.
The after comments were spoken at the same time.
Then something suddenly clicked.
And everyone else seemed to realize it too as they stared at Doumeki and Ayaka flick their gazes and stare at each other for a couple of silent moments as if they were communicating in a language all of their own.
Doumeki raised his eyebrow a millimeter. "Hn..?"
Ayaka responded with a raised brow as well. "Hn."
A great, momentous understanding and agreement then passed between the two, for then they curtly nodded and went straight back to eating. Ayaka made a vague notion with his hand to Hiro to clean up the mess on the table.
The silence was then no more.
Watanuki was somehow managing to spit insults, keep an infuriated glare on Doumeki, and vigorously scrub the table with expert hand motions at the same time. Hiro wasn't as talented but he was doing his part with a dishrag as he continued to bellow his protests as well. Doumeki calmly inserted a few words here and there to keep a steady fan on Watanuki's anger, and Ayaka followed his mentor's admirably patient lead and chose to replace his usual, sarcastic comments with aloof silence.
The old woman smiled as if the yelling was pure music to her ears. She had quite a story to tell to Yuuko.
Himawari and Kohane had taken the moment to quietly drop back into the kitchen, and they emerged back into the dining area with re-filled dishes and complacent smiles. The two girls faced each other with upturned eyes and happy grins.
"Watanuki-kun and Doumeki-kun-"
"Hiro-kun and Ayaka-kun-"
"-are such good friends."
Watanuki and Hiro bemoaned accordingly.
As the three sat down underneath the pleasant shade of a tree for their lunch, Watanuki couldn't help but think of Kohane-chan and if she was doing the same with her friends. Doumeki seized the opportunity to steal helpings from the other boy's bento.
"Gah! You pig! Eat your own food, which I so graciously made for you!" He slapped the other boy's hands away.
Himawari giggled behind her hand at the two. "I'm sure they're fine Watanuki-kun. Hiro-kun and Ayaka-kun both seem like nice boys."
Watanuki only sighed in defeat and propped his chin on his palm. "I guess...that they're ok."
Doumeki silently regarded the boy who was dangerously close to be labeled as pouting of all things, and so he spoke a thought that had come to mind.
"You know, you're acting a lot like a mother bird who doesn't want her chicks to leave the nest."
Watanuki made a distinct choking sound in the back of his throat-some blend of outrage and disbelief-but, of course, Doumeki had to further ruin his mood with his next ever so insightful comment.
"And if you're acting like this now, what will you do when she starts dating?"
Watanuki's howl of despair resounded throughout all of the town.
Hope you enjoyed reading! Comments and critiques are welcome. :)