Somewhat early, I guess? A New Year's story for everybody. Cultural notes are after the story. Set about 9-10 years in the future; VERY SLIGHT spoilers for volumes 9+ (mentions of a character, nothing storyline related).

Notes:

Obaa-chan = auntie, often used for older women you aren't related to

(O)kaa-san = mother, mom

(O)tou-san = father, dad

Nii-chan = big brother

Okusan = "Mrs."


A New Year's Incident


The entire incident started innocuously enough: just the phone ringing. Akihiko let it ring, until the sound annoyed him enough so that he shouted out, "Oi, Misaki, phone!" When the phone kept ringing, he glanced at the clock. 17:34 -- Misaki wasn't home from work yet. Akihiko grumbled, hit "save" on the document he was working on, and reached for the phone.

"Hel--"

"Oh, Akihiko-kun! How are you?"

It took Akihiko a moment to register the female voice on the other end. "Kamijou-obaachan?"

Hiroki's mother laughed. "You remembered my voice! Thank goodness. I was afraid that you would have forgotten all about me. When was the last time we really spoke? A year ago?"

Hiroki's mother was a cheerful woman, no other way to describe her. Even at sixty-something she was as fit as ever, and wasted no chance to let everybody know. The last time they had spoken, maybe not quite a year ago, was when she had run into him at a bookstore and subsequently forced him to drive her home so she could give him some souvenirs from Argentina.

"It has been a while, Obaa-chan. Have you been on any trips lately?" Akihiko hoped she hadn't, because while he held a certain affection for the woman, he wanted to get back to writing before he lost his thread.

"Ah, I went to Austria! I have some souvenirs for you when you visit. Which you will do soon, as I'm inviting you over for New Years," she said animatedly, as if there were no question about it.

"I'm sorry, New Year?"

"Yes! Hiroki told me how you never spend New Year with your family, which made me a bit sad. So now I am officially inviting you to spend this New Year's with us. You can bring your lover too."

Next time they saw each other, he would have to thank Hiroki for that. "Obaa-chan, I'm really grateful, but usually Misaki and I--"

"Oh?" she interrupted, "Your lover isn't a boy? I thought you were gay?" She sounded downright disappointed.

"No, no, Misaki is a boy. But, usually he and I spend New Year with his brother. Ah, You might remember him? Takahiro?" He also hoped Hiroki hadn't said anything about stupid about Takahiro, but if he had ever gotten drunk around his parents...

"Takahiro? I think he visited a couple of times... Oh, he's the boy whose parents died in that dreadful accident, wasn't he?"

It was unnerving how good her memory was of events that happened over twenty years ago.

"Yes, that was him. He's married now, and he has a nine-year old son. We usually--"

"Oh, wonderful! I'd love to have them over. You know I'll never get to be a grandmother, with Hiroki-chan the way he is. Not that it's a problem -- that Nowaki boy is an absolute sweetheart, way better than my Hiroki deserves -- but I do wish I had grandchildren to dote on." She prattled on, saying something about how her sister already had five grandchildren, and oh, if only she'd given birth to a daughter, and...

Akihiko let out a sigh of relief when he heard Misaki shout, "I'm home!" Taking the receiver with him, Akihiko went to greet his lover.

"What do you want for dinner, Usagi-san?" Misaki said as he shrugged his coat off.

"Who's that?" Hiroki's mother asked.

Akihiko thrust the phone at Misaki. "Here. You talk to her. Tell her we can't go." He immediately went back upstairs to his office, ignoring Misaki's shouts.


It was almost half an hour later when Akihiko noticed the apartment had gone completely silent. He looked at his document -- not as much progress as he had wanted, but still enough to call it satisfactory -- and decided he was done for the night. Besides, now that Misaki was here, he wanted to spend more time with him.

He went downstairs, expecting to see Misaki cooking or napping on the couch. Instead, Misaki had spread out various cookbooks on the living room table, with a small notepad on the side. He hadn't even changed out of his work clothes.

"Misaki?"

Misaki looked up. "Oh, Usagi-san. Sorry about that. Sanae-san started talking about cooking, and then I offered to help her cook for the New Year's celebration. I want to make something special though, since it's the first time I'll be meeting her."

Akihiko frowned. "You didn't decline?"

"Uh, no. She sounded really nice, and maybe a bit lonely. Besides, she offered to show me pictures of you as a kid." Misaki flipped a page and scribbled something down, completely lost in though. "I'll call Nii-chan later to let him know, I'm sure he'll agree. Sanae-san said she'd met him once or twice?"

Akihiko sighed loudly. Fine, if Misaki wanted to go, there was no helping it. But that didn't mean he couldn't at least make somebody else miserable about this situation. He picked up the phone from where Misaki had dropped it and started dialing. It went through on the third dial.

"Hi, Hiroki?"

"... Usami-san? I'm sorry, Hiro-san isn't home right now." Akihiko always got the feeling that Nowaki disliked him, and he still didn't know why. Hiroki said it was just Nowaki being overly jealous, in which case Akihiko wanted to tell Hiroki to keep his boyfriend better in line. Who would get jealous over their lover's friends?

"That's fine. Did you hear from his mother?"

"Eh? She hasn't called here. Why, did something happen?"

"No, no. Just make sure that when she does, you get Hiroki to agree."

"I'm sorry?"

"That's fine. Bye."

If he was being forced to go, so would Hiroki.


At 19:00, Hiroki was already regretting agreeing to go out for drinks with Miyagi. After Miyagi had switched universities -- that drama with the dean's son, Hiroki had told him to be careful -- they didn't get to meet as often. This was really a blessing, because it meant he could finally get his work done properly; at the same time, Miyagi was one of the few people Hiroki could talk freely with, so he could never get himself to decline Miyagi's invitations.

"And well, then Shinobu-chin said--" Miyagi was grinning lewdly, probably all exited about whatever perverted punch-line this joke had.

Thankfully, his cell phone rang then. "Hold on, Professor." Hiroki flipped open his phone, not bothering to check the caller ID.

"Hiroki-chan!"

"Urgh. Kaa-san," he said, wondering if he could just shut the phone off. Miyagi had gone silent, listening intently.

"Hiroki-chan, you're coming home for a New Year's Eve celebration, all right? Bring Nowaki, of course."

He still shuddered every time she said Nowaki's name. Yes, she was perfectly fine with him being gay and having an "absolutely wonderful" boyfriend (as she called him), but when she talked about it so casually it made him afraid she would start spreading the story all across Japan.

"No, Kaa-san, we can't, we--"

"Don't talk nonsense. There's no other place for you to be spending New Year's. Besides, Akihiko and his boyfriend are coming."

"Listen, mom, it's just that--"

Then he heard the snickers. Miyagi, sitting across from him, was looking for all the world like he was about to explode into laughter. Gripping his phone tighter, Hiroki said as distinctly as possible, "Can I bring another friend? He and his male lover are sort of on the outs with their families, so they will also be all alone."

That stopped the laughter almost immediately. "Kamijou, don't--"

Hiroki held the phone out to Miyagi, so he could clearly hear his mother's squeal and "Yes! Of course! Bring as many friends as you like!"

"Kamijou-san, I don't want to impose on you," Miyagi said while motioning with his hands at Hiroki to do something. Hiroki just smirked.

"Nonsense! I want this to be a big, warm New Year in my house, so the more people the better. Besides, I would love to meet Hiroki's friends, he has so few of them."

In one jerky movement, Hiroki pulled the phone back to his ear, yelling, "Kaa-san! Don't say things like that!" The alcohol was making him feel that much more embarrassment -- yeah, it was definitely the alcohol. Although it didn't help that Miyagi actually was laughing now.

"Your mother wins, Kamijou. I'll go, but I can't guarantee Shinobu."

Hiroki suddenly realized that inviting Miyagi was a very, very dumb thing to do. God, why had he agreed to go drinking tonight?


On December 31st, Akihiko drove himself and Misaki to the Kamijou estate, earlier than Hiroki's mother had suggested. Misaki had wanted to absolutely NOT be late, so that now they were half an hour early, with cakes and snacks and drinks ready to be served at any moment. Akihiko would have told Misaki that there was no need, but Misaki was just adorable when he was baking, or cooking, or doing anything with a lot of passion really, that Akihiko didn't have the heart to spoil the mood. Well -- he didn't mind turning the mood a bit more to his favor. Akihiko grinned, remembering last night.

"Wipe that creepy smile off your face, we're behaving ourselves here. This won't be a repeat of last year's Christmas," Misaki scolded, shifting the weight on the bags he was carrying. Akihiko took one of the bags from him and placed a soft kiss on Misaki's lips.

"Of course not. It's New Year's Eve today." He quickly pushed the gate open while Misaki was still sputtering, letting himself into the somewhat nostalgic front garden. He noticed that Hiroki's mother had rearranged the rock garden again, and there was a new tree, carefully trimmed.

Misaki caught up to him before he reached the front door. In a somewhat deadpan voice, he said, "Usagi-san... did you only have rich friends?"

"No, I was friends with Takahiro."

"Aaah."

The moment Akihiko placed a foot on the first wooden step to the entrance, the front door flew open, Hiroki's mother in full view. She was wearing a traditional kimono with an elegant flower design, making her look stunning even at her sixty-something years. Akihiko could only hope he would age as well as she had.

"Akihiko-kun! And you must be Misaki-kun!" She bowed to both of them, her hands folded demurely in front of her. Misaki tried to return the favor, despite the bags he was carrying.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sanae-san."

Hiroki's mother, Sanae, smiled. "No, no, the pleasure is all mine. Please, come in. Make yourselves at home."

She led the way for them, even straightening their shoes when they took them off. Hiroki's father - Tetsuhiro - was sitting in front of the TV, already watching the kouhaku music battle. It was some sort of Enka singer, one that Tetsuhiro seemed to be enjoying.

"Good afternoon, Ojii-chan,"

Tetsuhiro nodded slightly at them. "Hello, Akihiko. Going to watch the kouhaku with me?"

He'd never really understood the point of the yearly music battle, so Akihiko had no qualms about shaking his head to decline. "No, I'm going to--"

"Usagi-san, go ahead and stay. I'm going to help Sanae-san in the kitchen," Misaki interrupted, reaching for the bag Akihiko was carrying. Akihiko pulled it out of reach.

"Don't be silly, I'll go with you."

Misaki fixed a glare on him. "No, you're staying here and as far away from the kitchen as possible. Got it?"

He would have argued, but Hiroki's mother came by and neatly took the bag out of Akihiko's hands. "That's right, Akihiko-kun. You always work so hard on your novels, feel free to relax for a little bit now. Besides, I'm sure Ojii-chan will want to talk with you."

Akihiko knew when he was beaten. He watched Sanae lead Misaki away, and he settled himself next to Hiroki's father by the kotatsu.

"He's your lover?"

"Yeah. Takahashi Misaki."

"Seems nice. Where does he work?"

Akihiko had to appreciate the normalness with which they talked about it, not a single "but he's a man!" or "he's not right for you." He really envied Hiroki his family sometimes, and even if things with his own had settled down. He avoided them, they left him alone, and everything was okay.

It was probably about three songs later when he heard the front door opening loudly, followed by some vague yelling.

"That'll be Hiroki." The older man stood up and started walking down the hall. Akihiko decided he might as well join him; he didn't have any interest in the latest female pop sensation singing on tv.

"Oi, Hiroki, don't be so harsh on your boyfriend there, or he'll leave you. It's a wonder he's even stayed with you this long," Tetsuhiro scolded, making Hiroki turn bright red.

"What kind of father would say that!"

Nowaki just chuckled, then quickly bowed. "Thank you for having us, Kamijou-san."

"Don't be so formal, boy! How often do my wife and I have to tell you that you're part of the family now?"

Nowaki laughed again, and Akihiko could see how happy he was about the statement. Really, Nowaki was good for Hiroki. He was glad they'd found each other.

They made their way back to the living room, where Nowaki handed a container to Tetsuhiro. "Here, I brought daifuku. Hiro-san and I made them together."

While Nowaki conversed with Hiroki's father, Akihiko turned to Hiroki. "How are you, Hiroki?"

"Eh? Fine. Work is, you know. I'm sorry my mother dragged you into this, by the way," Hiroki rolled his eyes, a habit he got into a lot whenever talking about his parents.

"It's fine. It looks like it'll be fun. Besides, I might get inspiration here." He said it mostly to see Hiroki's eyes flare up in panic. Sure, the Jun'ai Egoist series had ended some years ago, but that didn't mean he couldn't write about them under different names.

"Is that Nowaki I hear?" Sanae said as she came into the living room. She was smiling brightly, and pulled Nowaki into an awkward hug -- he was so much taller than her that it looked almost comical.

"Kamijou-okusan..."

"I told you, call me Okaa-san! Or Mama, if you like!"

Nowaki smiled. "Okaa-san, then."

She pulled back to get a better look of him, her eyes giving him a once-over. "Oh, you look stunning as always. How have you been doing? Have you been eating well? I know you must be working so hard at the hospital!"

"Oi, Kaa-san, what about your actual son?" Hiroki said, arms crossed in anger. Sanae glared at him.

"Don't be rude, Hiroki-chan." She turned her attention back to Nowaki, "I know how absolutely useless my son is, so I hope he hasn't been too much of a burden on you."

"Kaa-san!"


When Nowaki heard that Usami-san had invited even more people, he was a bit wary. He was already uncomfortable with just Usami-san there, and he didn't want to think what more people related to Usami-san would be like.

However, it turned out that they were refreshingly normal. Takahashi-san was a regular salaryman. Manami-san was pregnant with their second child, and she radiated cheerfulness.

And of course, their son, Mahiro. When they had arrived, Mahiro had clung to his mother's leg, a strange habit for a nine-year old. Still, it quickly became clear why.

"Mahiro, let go, Kaa-chan needs to sit down," Manami said gently. Mahiro shook his head, looking straight at Usami-san.

There was a short moment of tense silence, where Takahashi-san and Manami-san looked visibly pained by the situation. Usami-san, in contrast, was returning Mahiro's frightful look with an angry glare.

Nowaki felt he should be doing something. Kids were his specialty, and if he could just distract Mahiro away from Usami-san, everybody would be able to relax and enjoy the somewhat awkward party.

"Akihiko, you hypocrite. You tell me to be nicer to my students, and you go around terrorizing elementary school kids," Hiro-san said loudly. Usami-san broke off his glare and turned to Hiro-san instead.

"I don't terrorize! Besides, your students are full-grown adults."

Takahashi-san quickly joined in on their discussion, further distracting Usami-san from the kid.

Mahiro, on the other hand, was still refusing to let go of his mother, no matter how much she chided. Nowaki went over to them and kneeled down, so he was at Mahiro's eye-level.

"Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Nowaki."

"... Hello."

Leaning in closer, Nowaki whispered into Mahiro's ear, "Usami-san is very scary, isn't he? But I know the secret weapon to defeating him."

Mahiro looked at him incredulously, then asked cautiously, "What's that?"

"Well, you have to let go of your mother first."

Mahiro did so, and Manami whispered a thank you to Nowaki. She quickly took the opportunity to sit down by the kotatsu with Hiro-san's father.

"Okay, ready for this?"

"Yes."

"Usami-san's weakness is... laughing!" Nowaki's hands shot out and started tickling Mahiro, who couldn't do anything but burst into laughter.


The last people to arrive were Miyagi and his boyfriend, Shinobu. Hiroki felt a bit strange, sitting in his living room with Akihiko and Takahiro's family, and was glad when rang the doorbell rang signaling Miyagi's arrival. He had hoped the boyfriend wouldn't be there with him, but no such luck.

"I'm surprised you decided to come, Takatsuki-kun," Hiroki said casually.

"I couldn't really leave him alone with you, now could I?" Shinobu said, not bothering to look at Hiroki.

"Don't be like that, Shinobu-chin." Miyagi nodded at Hiroki in greeting. "So, how's the party going?"

Hiroki shrugged. "Everybody else is here already. My mother invited Akihiko and his boyfriend and then the boyfriend's family came too for some reason, so I hope you're good with pregnant women and children."

"And of course your handsome man to whom you are one-hundred percent devoted to and would never leave is here as well?" Miyagi asked, giving Shinobu a pointed look. Shinobu just walked right past him.

"Sorry about that. Shinobu's been moody ever since I told him I was coming here."

"You didn't actually have to come." In fact, Hiroki had been counting on Shinobu putting his foot down and forbidding Miyagi from coming, because no matter how much Miyagi wanted to deny it, he was whipped.

"And miss seeing your mother tease you? Never. I want to meet this amazing woman who gave birth to you," Miyagi teased. "And, actually, thank you. Shinobu doesn't say it, but I think he does miss having New Year's with his family. Maybe this can take his mind off of it a bit."

"Aaah. Yeah, sure, don't mention it." They stood awkwardly, the conversation more personal than either of them were used to.

A loud giggle caught their attention, and they joined everybody else in the living room to see what was going on.

Nowaki had picked Mahiro up and was carrying him over his shoulder, jostling him every few steps. Mahiro seemed to love it, his protests accented by shrieks and laughter.

"Manami-san, what are you feeding your boy? He's almost as heavy as a bear!" Nowaki asked, patting Mahiro's butt.

"I'm not heavy!"

"It's not me! I feed him only the healthiest foods," she said with a straight face, "but my Takahiro, he has such a weak will, he gives Mahiro candy and snacks whenever there's even a hint of a pout."

"Manami!" Takahiro laughed. "I guess the dango you put in his bento are health foods then!"

Nowaki poked Mahiro's side, eliciting another laugh. "It sounds like your parents are fattening you up, Mahiro. Soon they'll be selling you to witches!"

"Nooo, I'm gonna run away to live with Misaki-niichan before that happens!"

Even Hiroki laughed at that line, if only because the color drained out of Akihiko's face when he said it.

"Right, like I said. Children. Here, I'll introduce you." Hiroki had to clear his throat a couple of times before he got everybody's attention to do the introduction, and he saw Shinobu visibly relax when nobody commented on the relationship between him and Miyagi. Conversation just resumed as it had been going before.

It wasn't even that hard to get comfortable talking about work and politics and whatever in the way adult people usually did. Well, and about sentai shows, if you were a nine-year old boy and a pediatrician.


Misaki finished making the last of the sushi, giving himself a mental pat on the back. It was perfect. He even had a few in fun shapes for Mahiro to enjoy. He quickly washed his hands and picked up the trays to bring out to the dining area.

Everybody was already seated around the long table; he spotted Takahiro and Usagi-san talking while Manami was trying to get Mahiro to sit still. There was an empty seat next to Mahiro, which Misaki assumed was going to be for him.

"Oh, Misaki-kun, thank you. Can you set one tray here and one over by Hiroki?" Sanae-san said to him, indicating the spots. She was pouring tea for all of the guests, and Misaki couldn't help but admire her perfect form while doing it.

"Yeah, sure." He set the first tray in front of Manami and Mahiro. There was another man his age sitting across from them, and Misaki gave a short nod. The man looked a bit uncomfortable, and Misaki wondered if he'd been forced here much the way he and Usagi-san had. Well, they'd get to talk to each other later.

Sanae-san's son, Hiroki, was sitting at the other end of the table, with Usagi-san and Takahiro and some other man Misaki didn't recognize. They were all teasing Hiroki-san, it seemed, because he was blushing red and sputtering wildly.

Misaki set the tray down just as Hiroki-san threw his chopsticks at Usagi-san. And then it clicked. "Aaaaah! K-K-K-KAMIJOU-SENSEI!"

His outburst silenced the room, and everybody turned to stare at him. Hiroki-san's -- er, that was, Kamijou-sensei's eyes narrowed. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

"N-N-No! Absolutely not! I was never one of your failing students!"

Calm down, Misaki told himself. He'd only ever taken the one course by Kamijou-sensei. Nobody would be stupid enough to take more than one of his courses. Besides, he'd gone into business -- he'd only taken a literature course as an elective because he'd thought it would be easy. Anyway, the point was, he was a full-grown man now and he shouldn't afraid of the Devil -- no, no -- of Kamijou-sensei anymore.

Of course, now that he'd revealed that they knew each other, it caused all conversation to turn to them.

"Eeeh, you used to teach my brother? He's amazing and smart, isn't he?"

"Look, I told you that you were traumatizing the kids!"

"Hiro-san, you really should be nicer to your students."

"I knew my son was bullying his students!"

Strange, how what should have been an embarrassing situation for himself somehow ended up with everybody ganging up on Kamijou-sensei. Kamijou-sensei tried to argue with them -- "Look, I mark it as I see it," "Those brats deserve it," "I am nice!" -- but nobody was really listening to him. Misaki decided this was a good opportunity to run away to the kitchen; there was more food to bring out anyway.


Even with everybody talking and laughing, Shinobu felt a bit awkward. At least Miyagi was sitting next to him, so he could occasionally poke at him -- even if Miyagi's attention was turned to Kamijou and Usami-san. And Manami-san was really nice, taking over conversation with him when Tetsuhiro-san started discussing medical stuff with Kusama-san.

"When is your baby due?" he asked after they ran out of general introduction talk.

Manami smiled. "Well, it's been about seven months now, so probably around February or March next year? I hope it's a girl."

"I hope it's a boy!" Mahiro said.

Shinobu lifted an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yep! Then I can be a cool big brother, like Misaki-niichan is to Tou-chan."

"Isn't that the wrong way around? Your dad's the older one."

"No, 'cus Misaki-niichan is always taking care of Tou-chan." He said it matter-of-factly, as if there were no contradicting this statement, and Shinobu found himself grinning a bit.. Mahiro ignored him and picked up some raw squid from the sashimi plate.

"It's true, Tou-chan is a bit helpless sometimes, isn't he. Tell Takatsuki-san about school," Manami prodded.

Apparently this was a subject Mahiro loved, because he started chattering even with the raw squid still in his mouth. "It's so awesome! Math is super cool. I can divide numbers faster than anybody else in class."

"Oh, I liked math too. There's only ever one right answer," Shinobu said. Well, he'd been good at everything, but math had been one of the subjects he liked better because he didn't have to think nearly as hard about whether the professor would like the answer or not.

"And, and, and, I have a girlfriend!"

Shinobu could see Manami trying to suppress a smile.

"A girlfriend?" The man who had brought the sushi earlier, "Misaki-niichan," set down a bowl of soba in front of Mahiro. He and Kamijou's mother were distributing the food now, after that somewhat funny incident earlier.

"Yeah, she's great! She brings me cookies sometimes and then during the break we eat lunch together and sometimes she holds my hand!"

"That sounds great. We can bake some cookies for her too, if you want," Misaki offered. After he had set the last plate of food down -- and it looked like a regular feast now -- he sat down next to Mahiro, across from Shinobu. Their eyes met, and Shinobu quickly bowed.

"Takatsuki Shinobu."

"Takahashi Misaki," Misaki returned the greeting. "Although I guess you probably already know that by now. Ah, how did you get to be here?"

It was nice to not have to worry who might be listening. Kamijou had already introduced him and Miyagi as a couple, so it wasn't like there were any secrets left to keep. "Ah, my lover, Miyagi, is a friend of Kamijou's. And apparently his mother really likes his friends."

Manami had only vaguely alluded to how her family had been invited, something about Kamijou being friends with her husband, and of that connection between Usami-san and Misaki.

"Hahaha, yeah, Kamijou-sensei is a childhood friend of Usagi-san's, apparently. Oh, Usagi-san is Usami Akihiko."

"Hmmm. He looks a lot older than you," Shinobu commented carefully.

Misaki suddenly looked a bit uncomfortable. "Ahahha, I guess? He's ten years older."

Before Shinobu could make any further remarks, Manami interrupted, "It's so cute how absolutely in love the two of them are. Although Usami-san can act like such a kid! Sometimes you could swear Misaki was the older one. By the way, Takatsuki-san, how old did you say Miyagi-san was?"

Misaki's lucky, Shinobu thought. He wished his own family would stand up for him like that. "Heh, you're right. Miyagi is forty-six."

"Wow, really? How did you two meet then?" And that was it. Absolutely no disapproving look from Misaki, despite how Shinobu had tried to provoke him. So Shinobu launched into the abridged version of the story, leaving out some of the less important details -- did they really need to know that the woman Miyagi had been married to was his sister?

"Oh, that's so romantic," Manami said at the end of the story. "Makes my own meeting with Takahiro seem so tame. He threw up on me after he got drunk at an after-work bar trip."

Shinobu chuckled while Misaki groaned. "Ugh, I still remember that night. Nii-chan didn't come home and I was getting so worried."

"So what about you, Takahashi-kun?" Shinobu asked, genuinely curious now.

"Just 'Misaki' is fine. But yeah, um. Usagi-san tutored me so I could get into M-university. And somehow over the course of it, we ended up falling in love with each other?" The way he was casting sideways glances at Manami-san made Shinobu think there was more to the story than that, but he let it slide. Everybody had things they didn't want to talk about.

Mahiro, on the other hand, seemed to want to talk about everything. "I met my girlfriend on the playground! She played soccer with us and she was really good, for a girl."

All three of them laughed, and yeah, Shinobu had to admit that the kid was cute. He wondered briefly how Risako's children were doing -- but he didn't need depressing thoughts right now.


"All right, I have some presents for everybody," Kamijou's mother announced. She went around, giving everybody in the room an envelope. Miyagi was too surprised not to accept.

"Ma'am, this is..."

"Otoshidama, of course. Please accept this, everybody."

"Kaa-san, I told you, we're too old for this!"

"Nonsense! Besides, I have plenty of money to go around. It's not like I'll be getting any grandchildren." She said it without reproach though, so it didn't sound in the least like she wanted Kamijou to have children any time soon.

Well, he wouldn't cause a scene by refusing. Besides, what were a couple of thousand yen to a woman who obviously had enough money?

"No, Mahiro, don't open it yet!" He turned to watch the scene at the end of the table -- the nine-year old had already opened the envelope and was counting the money he'd received.

"Wow, 20,000 yen! Thank you, Obaachan!"

Misaki, sitting next to Mahiro, visibly choked on his drink. "Twenty-thousand?"

Kamijou's mother nodded. "Yes, of course. Things have gotten so expensive these days, that'll get him maybe a few games? Why, is it not enough?"

"No, no, that's plenty, really," Manami reassured, looking as distressed as Misaki. She probably didn't want her kid getting spoiled.

Miyagi wondered how much Shinobu used to get from his family. Probably more than Miyagi had, since the dean earned enough of a salary to throw money at his kid and hope all problems went away like that.

"Miyagi, leave the money here when you leave," Kamijou whispered to him.

"Aww, Kamijouuu, how sweet to be thinking of your mother's finances," Miyagi said loudly. "Madam, your son wants me to turn down your very generous gift."

"Hiroki-chan!"

"Kaa-san, I told you--"

Under the table, Shinobu pinched Miyagi's leg. "Stop flirting with him," he hissed.

"Oh, my Shinobu-chin is jealous!" Miyagi put an arm around Shinobu and poke him in the ribs, and that set off more angry comments from him.

"Get a room," Kamijou said.

"You can have Hiroki's," Kamijou's mother added.

"No he can't!" both Hiroki and Kusama yelled at the same time, which made the rest of them erupt in laughter.


By the time midnight rolled around, everybody had had their fair share of drinks. Mahiro was asleep on Manami's lap, and Hiro-san was sitting on Nowaki's lap for entirely different reasons.

"Hiro-san, please, there are other people here," Nowaki said, trying to pry Hiro-san off of him.

"No, no, please, don't be bothered by us," Usami-san said.

Miyagi was snickering. "Usami-san, did you bring the good Umeshu for this reason?"

"Oh, maybe."

"His parents are here!"

"Oh, come now, don't let us ruin your fun. Okaa-san and I still remember what it's like to be young and in love, don't we?"

"What are you talking about, Otou-san, I'm still young!"

"Wow, I didn't know Hiroki could be so affectionate."

"He gets like that when he's drunk. Nowaki this, Nowaki that. You'd think his world revolves around Nowaki."

"It does, Bakahiko!" And Nowaki found himself in a kiss, with a few catcalls and he definitely saw a camera flash going off.

Misaki-kun, thankfully, distracted everybody, pointing to the TV. "Look guys! It's almost midnight!"

The music show was over, and all that was left were the Japan-wide new year's greetings. Nowaki noticed a subtle change in seating arrangements; everybody was sitting closer to their loved ones now. Well, they weren't sitting as close as Hiro-san was -- although, he could have sworn Misaki-kun jumped for a second and was glaring at Usami-san now.

"Nowaki, I love you," Hiro-san whispered.

"I know. Happy New Year, Hiro-san."

"Happy New Year, everybody!" Sanae-san said, holding up her sake cup in a small toast. Everybody followed suit, although Manami-san's glass was filled with water and Hiro-san spilled most of his sake while trying to lift his arm.

"To a bright new year!"

Looking around the room -- hard to do, with Hiro-san trying to kiss him -- he saw Misaki-kun slapping Usami-san's hands away while Takatsuki-kun whined that Miyagi wasn't trying to fondle him. Nowaki couldn't help but think that this was the furthest thing from "warm family New Year" that he had imagined as a kid, and that he wouldn't trade it for anything.


Notes:

Names of Hiroki's parents: I made these up. I don't think they've ever been named in canon, although if they are I'll be happy to change the fic to reflect that. I just got tired of writing "Hiroki's mother" the entire time.

Japanese New Year: In Japan, New Year is the most important holiday. It's usually spent with family, performing traditional new year's activities. Inviting strangers is, I think, uncommon. :X But Kamijou-mama is just enthusiastic like that.

kouhaku music battle: The Kouhaku music battle, or Utagassen, is a yearly broadcast by NHK. It starts in the morning and lasts all the way until a bit before midnight. Basically, artists get split into red or white (kou = red, haku = white) and whichever team gets the most votes from the judges wins.

Enka: An older kind of Japanese music, not really popular anymore. But if you want to see some interesting Enka, look up "Umiyuki."

Kotatsu: A table with a heater underneath it and a blanket placed over top, so that your legs are nice and cozy as you sit at the table. Pretty useful in Japanese houses, as many don't have central heating and the winter can get cold.

Daifuku: sticky rice dough wrapped around red bean paste. Super yummy. :)

Dango: Japanese dumpling made from sticky rice flour. Usually three small dumplings on one stick.

Bento: a lunchbox! Most kids take them to school.

Sentai shows: Sentai shows are those Japanese "warrior" shows, the ones where a group of young adults transforms into full-armor wearing heroes. Popular among young boys. "Power Rangers" was one of these shows.

Sashimi: Raw fish, all by itself. No rice required.

Soba: buckwheat noodles. Traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve, because the length of the noodles signifies longevity.

Otoshidama: a present of money given to children on New Years. Generally, you stop giving it to your kids once they're adults, but Kamijou-mama is a generous sort of person.

20,000 yen: This is around $200 USD, and quite a lot of money to be giving. Misaki, Manami, and Miyagi probably expected closer to 2,000 yen, or around $20 USD.

Umeshu: Japanese wine made from plum. It is very delicious. :)