HAPPY HALLOWEEN FAITHFUL READERSHIP!

(Sorry for the delay. Writing this didn't work out the way I had hoped to. As usual…le sigh.)

So this was inspired by a do-it-at-home costume I saw in a Woman's Day special Halloween mag last year, and it was so goddamn adorable that I had to use it somewhere, and this 'verse seemed like the natural fit.

Set about eight years prior to the beginning of Everlong, when Yahiko was just a wee baby thing of almost two, and Kaoru and Sano were ten and twelve, respectively.

Basically, this is straight up mushy family fluff. Those of you keeping up with my LJ know I've been stressed out and (more) crazed (than usual) thanks to Grad School, and this brain candy is a welcome respite from that particular circle of my Personal Hell.

(Do you know how galling it is to know I brought this on myself? IT'S A LOT.)

Anyway. Enjoy my offering, and the day, and be safe whatever you're doing to celebrate! :D


Disclaimer: Not mine, not now, not ever.


The Tradition

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Rating: K+…FOR THE KILLER FLUFF

Genre: Family Fluff/Humor

Summary: "Halloween was an odd holiday to get sentimental over…but Tokio was always an odd woman."

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October 1, 2001

She was almost more excited than the kids.

Koshijirou Kamiya couldn't help the laugh that left him when he glanced over at his ex-wife, and found her hopping from one foot to the other, hands clasped in front of her.

"You look like you need to pee," he said.

"It's potty, and if you'd hurry up I wouldn't be acting this way," she said, shooting him a warning look.

"Keh, blame it on me, sure," he said, hefting the box onto his shoulder and carefully descending the ladder. "What's in this, anyway? It's heavy as sh—" Tokio sent him a warning look. "—hell," he said.

"Koshi," she said, exasperated.

"Heck?" he offered, shrugging. "What's in this?"

"The decorations," she said. "The costumes are in another box."

"And that's it?"

"One other box of decorations and then you're done," Tokio said, tugging the top off the big Rubbermaid storage bin and diving right in.

Koshijirou shook his head, but smiled all the same.

Halloween had always been Tokio's favorite holiday, and over the years, it had grown on him too. Still, he never got as into it as she did: she had t-shirts and earrings and pins and tights and even shoes dedicated solely to Halloween. She bought at least two new decorations every year, or made new ones she had read about in special edition Halloween magazines. And she was hands-down the favorite of the class moms when the kids had Halloween parties at school, because she never failed to deliver treats that the kids' classmates went nuts over. It was that last one that showed him, better than any other, that showed just how much having children had nurtured that obsession.

Between Sano and Kaoru, it was obvious that their eldest son had inherited Tokio's zeal for the holiday, and Sano shamelessly fueled his mother's Halloween love. The two of them planned for Halloween year-round, Sano always on the look-out for ideas to make this Halloween even better than last year, and of their two children, it was Sano who had the most fun when it came time to decorate the house and carve the pumpkin and decide on Halloween costumes.

It might have been the fact that he was so obviously a Mama's Boy, but Koshijirou thought it was probably just as much the fact that Tokio and Sano were actually a lot alike, personality-wise.

He hoped, anyway, for his son's sake further down the road.

Koshijirou obligingly muscled down the other two boxes, and grinned when Tokio ripped their lids off and dove into them with the same enthusiasm she had displayed with the first. Decorations soon lay all over the garage floor, like some bizarre minefield, as Tokio began sorting decorations by room. Koshijirou helped as much as she'd let him, and he smiled, maybe a little sadly, when he remembered that they'd done the same thing every year.

Except that now they were just friends, not married.

Tokio had been the one to push for a divorce, not that Koshijirou had been entirely surprised. As much as he loved Tokio, he had never really been in love with her, and he knew the same had been true for her. They had gotten married young, straight out of high school, and Koshijirou had been amazed that a girl as beautiful and vibrant as Tokio had not only wanted to befriend him, but then date him when they both discovered how compatible they were. And Koshijirou couldn't complain about the life they'd built over the past twelve years, and he absolutely did not regret the children they'd had.

But their last three years married hadn't been great, and when they'd gone to counseling and examined their marriage, they'd had to admit that they had reached a crossroads: either they stayed married and allowed a vague sense of dissatisfaction to fester into resentment, or they got divorced and figured out how to raise their kids between them.

Not surprisingly, neither set of parents was for a divorce. Koshijirou knew his mother didn't like Tokio, but he also knew she liked the idea of a divorce even less; his mother was old-fashioned, and divorce was a horrifying and shameful concept for her. Tokio, however, had been adamant:

"I love you, Koshi," she'd told him when they were sitting in the car after their last session with the therapist, still in the parking lot of the office suite. "I don't want to hate or resent you three or four or five years down the road because I feel like you're suffocating me. And I don't want you to feel that way about me."

"What about the kids?" he'd asked, thinking of Sano and Kaoru and how heartbroken they were going to be—and Yahiko, who was just a baby, had just been born not even a month earlier.

"We'll share custody, or one of us will be primary and we'll work out a schedule," she said. "But I'm not raising my kids the way my cousins were raised," she said firmly. "I don't want to be my aunt, staying with a man who makes her unhappy for the kids. Because then everyone's unhappy, and everyone suffers. This'll hurt everybody for a little while, but it'll go away eventually. We're lucky, we don't hate each other," she added with a watery smile as she started crying and sniffling. "That'll help."

And he hadn't believed it at the time, but it had helped. Their amicable divorce had gone a long way toward helping their kids cope. Almost two years later, things were beginning to settle a little, and though Koshijirou sometimes missed his children and his wife, he was honestly happy. Tokio never kept the kids from him, and he had a standing invitation to come to the house whenever he wanted that he took frequent advantage of.

And even though she wasn't his wife anymore, Tokio was still his best friend, and that was enough.

"Oh!" Tokio's low, almost pained gasp drew him out of his head, and he looked at her to find her kneeling in front of the costume box, a witch's hat perched precariously on her head as she looked into the box's depths with wide eyes.

"What?" he asked, carefully maneuvering around a ceramic haunted house that lit up and the construction paper bats she always hung all over the living room to get to her side and peek over her shoulder.

He didn't recognize the orange blob at first, and then the reverent way Tokio brushed her fingers over the plastic it was wrapped in clicked, and Koshijirou smiled and put a hand on her shoulder.

When Sano had been two, they had still been tight for money. So Tokio had made a costume for him, and it had come out so damn cute that she had recycled it for Kaoru when she had reached two.

The infamous goldfish costume.

"Man, I didn't realize we still had that," he said. "It still looks amazing, for being ten years old."

"I took care of it, just in case," she murmured, reaching in and gently taking it out. "He looked so adorable in it," she said with a wistful smile. "I was so heartbroken when he got too big to wear it again next year."

"Is that why Kao wore it three years in a row?" Koshijirou asked, smile widening, and she sent him a flat look.

"She was little enough to fit into it, and we were tight for cash," she muttered, and Koshijirou smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

"She was the most adorable goldfish three years in a row I ever saw," he assured.

"Feh," was Tokio's response, to which Koshijirou laughed.

They took the costume out of the wrapping, and Koshijirou was surprised by how well it actually had held up:

"The cupcake liners are still good," he said, gently tapping one.

"I make sure it doesn't get messed up," she said. "It's the first costume I ever made for the kids, and it turned out so cute, I just wanted to make sure it kept well."

Koshijirou smiled faintly; Halloween was an odd holiday to get sentimental over…but Tokio was always an odd woman. It fit.

"So I take it Yahiko will be following in his brother and sister's footsteps? Or fins, as it were?" he asked, and Tokio groaned and gave his shoulder a shove.

"You're so corny," she moaned.

"Kaoru thinks I'm funny," he said mildly.

"Because a ten-year-old is totally a good judge of what's funny and what isn't," Tokio said.

"Snark snark snark," Koshijirou shot back, and Tokio laughed, then abruptly leaned over and hugged him.

"Still going trick-or-treating with us this year?" she asked.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," he assured, kissing her temple.

"Good," she said, giving his knee a firm pat. "Now go pick up the kids from school, and we'll all decorate together. I should have the cookies done by the time you get back."

"Awesome," he said, practically leaping to his feet, and Tokio laughed. "Time for Yahiko to get up?"

"He's probably already waiting for me, the brat," Tokio said with affection. "Remember how Sano used to slide down the side of his crib like a fireman? Yahiko leans on the railing, face in his hands like this, waiting. And when I come get him from his nap, he gives me this look, like I'm late or something."

Koshijirou smirked.

"It's those bad tempered Takagi genes," he said with a sniff, sticking his nose up into the air. "Us Kamiyas are a sweet and gentle folk."

"Except for Misato the Hun," Tokio said, sticking her tongue out at him.

"Low blow," he warned, although he would have been the first to agree that his mother was…intense.

To put it mildly.

"Fine, fine," she said, rising. "Go get the kids."

"Nag," he taunted, but started for the door leading into the house to grab his keys.

"Jerk," she threw back, just as obnoxious, and Koshijirou just smiled.

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Sano and Tokio were huddled over the magazines she'd bought at the checkout counter at the grocery, plotting for this year's Halloween. Koshijirou—standing at the kitchen counter, where Kaoru was seated while she carefully decorated the cookies Tokio had baked—watched them with a faint smile, then looked at his daughter.

"Whaddaya think of Mom and Sano, Princess? Should we be worried?"

Kaoru glanced up at the dastardly duo, then rolled her eyes and went back to her cookies.

"They're so weird," Kaoru said.

"Eccentric," Koshijirou corrected. "It's only weird if they start trying to turn the house into a haunted morgue or something full-time."

"Don't say that too loud," Kaoru cautioned, and Koshijirou, deciding to err on the side of caution, nodded.

"Dud," came a voice from the vicinity of his knees, and Koshijirou looked down to find Yahiko holding onto his pant leg, staring up at him expectantly.

"Hey buddy," Koshijirou said, grinning. "Got tired of Mom, huh? We know who you love best."

"Up," Yahiko said, lifting his arms and opening and closing his hands, and Koshijirou chuckled, then squatted down and lifted his youngest up into his arms, settling the boy against his hip as he straightened.

It had been a bone of contention for Tokio that Yahiko's first word had been "Dud," which the family had come to understand was as close as he was getting to saying "Dad." Sano's first word had been "Nana," and Kaoru's had been "No," which might have been Sano's influence; he had been going through his terrible twos (and threes) when Kaoru had been learning to talk, and "No" had been the most said word in the house at the time.

"You'd think as much time as I spend with them—i.e., their every waking moment—one of them might have said "Mama" first," she'd muttered when it had been decided that "Dud" was Yahiko-speak for "Dad."

Koshijirou had wisely refrained from comment, and though it still irritated her now, he was able to joke about him being Yahiko's favorite.

A little, anyway.

"Mom's gonna make my costume!" Sano bellowed, running over to the counter.

At twelve, the boy was starting to hit his growth spurt, and Koshijirou knew his eldest was going to be tall; Sano was already the tallest boy in his grade, and he hadn't even really started puberty.

"Oh yeah?' Koshijirou asked, reaching out to ruffle the bird's nest that was his son's hair. "What's she gonna make for you?"

"I'ma be a boxer!" Sano announced, puffing up his chest with a smirk that made his dark eyes gleam. "Mom's gonna even paint a black eye on me, so I look like I won a prize fight!"

"Our boy is bloodthirsty," Tokio said with a smile, coming up behind Sano to enfold him in a hug, and he not only allowed it, he leaned back into it and covered her arms with his.

And it was a little depressing, knowing his son was such a gigantic Mama's Boy, but Koshijirou really couldn't find it in him to mind too much. Sano was their first, and he and Tokio had always had a particularly special bond. He knew how much it meant to his ex-wife that Sano didn't mind affection from his mother, as big as he was. He wondered how long that was going to last, and hoped Tokio wouldn't be too upset when it did.

"I want you to make my costume too, Mommy!" Kaoru said suddenly, and Koshijirou looked over at his daughter and almost laughed at the naked envy in her face.

"Oh yeah? What do you want to be, băobèi?" Tokio asked, smiling at Kaoru.

Kaoru's eyes darted to Koshijirou, then returned to Tokio.

"A princess," she said shyly.

"A regular old princess, or an Imperial Princess, like from the stories Po Po tells you?" Tokio asked, and Kaoru's eyes lit up.

"Imperial princess!" she yelped, then clapped her hands over her mouth and flushed.

"Everyone's in homemade costumes this year, then," Tokio said wryly.

"Sure you can swing it?" Koshijirou asked, and Tokio sent him a dry look.

"I'm Super Mom, hon," she said. "It'll be cake."

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October 31, 2001

"Tokio! I'm here!" Koshijirou yelled as he walked into the house, shutting the front door behind him.

"We're upstairs!" came her distant voice, and he climbed the stairs and followed the sounds of commotion to the master bath, where Tokio was patiently rimming Sano's left eye with black and purple face paint to create a pretty realistic shiner.

"Hi Dad!" Sano greeted, waving frantically but at the same time trying not to move too much so Tokio wouldn't make a mistake.

"Hope you gave the other guy hell, kid," Koshijirou said, amused, then chuckled weakly at the stink eye Tokio shot him. "Heck," he amended lamely, coughing pathetically.

"Look at me, Daddy!" Kaoru demanded, twirling in a circle before him. "I'm an Imperial Princess just like in Po Po's stories!"

The ten-year-old was decked out in material that approximated Chinese Imperial court robes, in pinks and blues, since Kaoru was on a pink-and-blue kick at the moment.

"And so you are, Kao," he said, kneeling down in front of her. He raised an eyebrow at the eye shadow and lipstick and blush. "What's the gunk on your face?"

"Daddy," Kaoru said in a tone that conveyed how much of an idiot she thought he was. "Imperial Princesses have to wear makeup. Right Mommy?"

"It's a rule," Tokio agreed. "If an Imperial Princess doesn't wear makeup, they take away her Imperial Princess card."

"Perish the thought," Koshijirou muttered, nevertheless smiling at his daughter and fixing her lopsided tiara, which made her beam at him and hug him. "Where's our goldfish?"

"Aiya, he's in his crib," Tokio said, grimacing. "I forgot to pick him up from his nap. Would you grab him and get him into his costume?"

"No problem," Koshijirou said, giving Kaoru a loud smooch on the cheek that made her giggle before he set her down and went to find Yahiko.

The toddler was standing up in his crib, leaning against the railing with his chin in his hands, looking bored, and Koshijirou couldn't help his smirk; this one was destined to have an attitude, clearly.

"Hey buddy," he said, reaching in and taking hold of his son. "Come on, let's get ready for trick-or-treat, yeah? Mommy's got your costume all ready for you, and you're gonna look adorable. And in about…oh, maybe thirteen or fourteen years, when you bring a girl over to the house to meet Mommy, she's going to have the pictures to prove it, so good luck with that."

Once Yahiko had had his snack and had his diaper changed, Koshijirou bundled him up in the goldfish costume. It was when he tugged the hood up over Yahiko's head that a wave of nostalgia washed over him, and he remembered—so vividly—looking down at Sano, wearing his goldfish costume, while Tokio took pictures and went teary-eyed.

"And this is twelve years and three kids later," he murmured.

"Dud," Yahiko said, lifting his arms and opening and closing his hands, and Koshijirou smiled and lifted his son up, taking care not to wrinkle or crease the cupcake liner scales too badly.

"Come on Guppy," he said, "let's show Mommy how you look."

Tokio, of course, went all misty-eyed and sentimental when she saw Yahiko. Sano and Kaoru watched their mother coo over their little brother before exchanging a look. Then:

"That's my costume," Sano said.

"The first one I made for you," Tokio affirmed. "And now all of you kids have worn it."

Kaoru and Sano exchanged another look, and then Kaoru asked, "So…it's like, a tradition?"

"You might say that," Koshijirou replied. "Mommy's sort of big on that kind of thing. Especially on Halloween."

"Halloween traditions are the best kinds, right Sano?" Tokio asked, eyeing their eldest.

And it was only then that Koshijirou realized that Sano was jealous that Yahiko was wearing the goldfish costume. Which really, when he thought about it, made perfect sense: Halloween, after all, was Sano's holiday with his mother, one of the many things they bonded over, but one of the few that they enjoyed together because they were both giant kids. And their eldest loved to hear the story of how Tokio had been at a loss for what to dress him up as that Halloween, until she'd stumbled on the idea in a magazine. Sano had tolerated Kaoru's wearing the costume three years in a row because Tokio had asked him to share that Halloween spirit with his baby sister, and Sano was too good a kid to be miserly about sharing the fun of his favorite holiday.

Sano's dark eyes went from his mother to his father, and finally to Yahiko, who was sucking his thumb and leaning his head against Koshijirou's shoulder.

"Yeah," Sano said finally, sending his mother a tiny smile. "They're the best kinds."

Tokio smiled at him, then grabbed him and hauled him over and kissed him and hugged him.

"All right, ghouls and boils," Tokio said. "Who's ready for candy and the neighborhood haunted house?"

Sano and Kaoru loudly announced that they were, and hurried to fetch their pails. Tokio turned to Koshijirou and sighed.

"I can't wait to get a picture of the three of them," she said, looking starry-eyed, and Koshijirou laughed.

Yeah, he was inclined to agree with Tokio and Sano: Halloween traditions, especially in this family, were absolutely the best kind.

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If you'd like to see the goldfish costume, you can copy and paste this, sans the extra spaces:

http:/ www. womansday. com/ Articles/ Life/ Holidays/ 10-Minute-Halloween-Costumes. html