Disclaimer: Do. Not. Own.

Warning: Yaoi.

Summary: Were...were those dreadlocks?

Mihae liked to sit by the window while she sewed.

There was a particular window, on the western side of the house, that in late afternoon was bathed in warm, bright light. Mihae liked this particular window because not only was it in the same room where Shiyuma read his daily newspaper while having his tea, but it also gave her a clear view of the front gate. She found that she rather enjoyed sitting there, doing something so wifely and domestic, while her husband frowned over the latest in stocks and Hanshin baseball and her son arrived home, clanging through the gate. In summer it was almost idyllic, with the heat of the day beginning to give way to a cool evening breeze that tousled her Sena's hair as he staggered, for some reason covered in dog bites, to the front door.

Watching her son come home was somewhat bittersweet for Mihae. Only yesterday, it seemed to her, Sena had been knee-high and pink-cheeked, barely more than a baby, clutching tightly to her hand as she took him to preschool in his cap. Hardly an hour ago, she felt, he'd been waist-high and still pink-cheeked, holding on to Mamori's skirt as she took him to elementary. And not more than fifteen minutes ago, Mihae reflected, Sena had been not much taller but still consolingly pink-cheeked, heading off to school with a white-knuckled grip on his schoolbag, an almost frightened expression on his face.

Sena, a first year in high school, now halfway to being a second year. Mihae rather missed Sena the kindergartener. She supposed no mother liked to think of her only son growing up and eventually leaving her, and that it was perfectly natural to be melancholy about the whole thing, but still. It was her Sena. Not that she wanted to keep him too tightly or too close—all children drifted away eventually, her own mother had told her, and she wanted Sena to have a fulfilling youth before maturing into a well-rounded adult. Maybe she gave him a bit too much freedom—more than her own mother had given her, anyway—but he seemed to be handling it so well. Mamori had even stopped walking him home, which had worried Mihae slightly until it became clear that Sena had plenty of people to walk home with even if Mamori was busy. She was so proud of her baby for making so many friends in high school! She'd been the popular one in her class, too, and she was rather smug that the trait seemed to have been passed on.

Though an awful lot of these boys seemed to go to different schools.

Not all of them, of course. For instance, that blonde boy, the one with the scar. She wasn't sure she liked the look of his dyed hair, but Mihae had always been something of a sucker for a dashing scar and a charming smile. (Pre-Shiyuma, of course, whom she'd met during her finding oddly shaped hair attractive phase.) What was his name? Ju, Jouchi, Juji, Ju-something, very distinctive. What a shy boy he was, almost as shy as her Sena! Always blushing and looking at the ground, occasionally reaching out with his hand as if he'd tap Sena on the shoulder but flinching away at the last second. He'd looked like such a sweet boy, Mihae had wanted to meet him and invite him in for tea and cake—only she hadn't gotten the chance before he'd stopped coming.

The boy with the blue eyes, now he'd really been something! She'd noticed those eyes all the way from the back of the house, as blue as—well, you just had to see them. Mihae hadn't paid enough attention during Classical Poetry in university to do them justice.

And hadn't he been even shyer than Ju-kun, turning pink at the slightest look. His skin had been almost as fair as Sena's, which impressed Mihae while at the same time getting her motherly pride up. Blue Eyes-kun had struck her as rather feminine, though, as he seemed to want to hold Sena's hand as they walked. She'd thought Heisei boys broke that particular habit before middle school, but she supposed it was sweet that such a tall, broad-shouldered boy, who would normally have been very intimidating if he'd just been a bit more manly, should be so affectionate with her Sena.

Now, the boy in the track suit, he'd been a different thing altogether. Mihae didn't know how Sena wasn't uncomfortable around that one. Always touching! Always looking! She hadn't known a high school boy could be so sensitive and emotional. And she didn't know how Sena had borne it, the touches, the arms brushing, the long looks. A girl would have been reaching for a can of mace within five steps. And such a face! No expression, just eyes, the intense stare. Mihae had only hoped that Sena hadn't gotten involved with the wrong crowd at school. Where had that boy attended? Some prestigious private school? Well, clearly not all degenerates came from public institutions. Shiyuma had reassured her that even Sena wouldn't be nice enough to be friends with an actual pervert, but a mother couldn't help but worry...

But he had eventually stopped coming, nearly a month ago. The latest one was, at least in Mihae's eyes, the most impressive. What a sharp-looking boy, always very nicely dressed. She didn't know what school required suits to class, but she imagined it had to be somewhere very eminent. And so polite, so well-behaved, keeping his hands to himself at all times. He watched Sena very attentively, this one, almost never taking his eyes off of him. And the mannerisms! Leaning in to listen, showing that he was clearly interested in what Sena had to say, smiling often, in that slow, pleased way, as if he couldn't think of anything he'd rather be doing than spending time with the person in front of him. Mihae didn't know why Sena seemed so nervous around that boy, like a rabbit about to scamper at any moment. And actually flinching whenever that nice boy came closer, almost rude.

Well, Mihae had made up her mind. She was going to get up and meet them at the gate this time, and invite that good-looking boy in for tea. She'd thank him for being such a good friend to Sena and even walking him home, and ask him to please don't feel at all shy about coming over occasionally. She wasn't the nosy type of mother, she'd give them their privacy! After all, boys at any age over five hated it when their mothers were too close. Perhaps in his own room, Sena would be able to relax a bit and stop being such a stiff.

So this afternoon, Mihae forewent her sewing and sat by the window conscientiously, alternating between listening to her husband hmmm over the paper and keeping an eye on the gate.

At around seven o'clock, right on schedule, Mihae saw two people coming along the street. She began to smile, to get up, smoothing her hair and apron as she—

Stopped. And sat back down.

That didn't look like the nicely dressed boy.

Sena was...behaving strangely. Why was he walking so close to the wall? Almost as if he were...cowering. The posture of the shoulders, the schoolbag clutched to his chest. The anxious way he glanced, every now and then, at the person walking beside him.

Someone tall, Mihae saw, narrowing her eyes. Tall, and...well-made. Wide shoulders. His clothes almost entirely black and...somewhat loose. Was that a chain around his neck?

Were...were those dreadlocks?

Mihae's eyes were wide. She watched the two walk right up to the gate, watched Sena give a shaky bow and say a weak little something along the lines of thanking the other boy for the walk and also not hurting him.

The boy—purple shades, really?—frowned, no, he sneered, she could see his teeth, and suddenly grabbed Sena by the collar of his shirt and jacket, over the tie, yanked him forward and—

Mihae blinked.

"Oh," she said.

The gate clanged, but not because anyone was coming in.

In her peripheral, Mihae saw her husband's newspaper lower just a few centimeters.

"Hmmm," said Shiyuma.

"Ah," said Mihae, and watched her son fleeing to the safety of the front door, the pink now a feverish red and the fear more like terror. "I...should we...?"

The boy with the shades glared at her over the gate, and then turned to go back the way he'd come, something almost swaggering to his walk.

For a moment, Mihae and Shiyuma quietly sat, looking toward the gate.

"Don't worry, dear," said Shiyuma absently, going back to his paper. "I'm sure Yoichi-kun will take care of it."

Mihae smiled brightly. "Oh, yes," she said, relieved. "Of course. Yoichi-kun will take care of it."

How silly she was to worry. Of course Yoichi would take care of it! She'd just give him a call, like he'd asked her to in case of anything, and he'd be sure to look out for that...that dreadlocks.

Mihae was very relieved. How lucky Sena was, to have such a caring senpai looking out for him.