Choppy, but it's meant to be. Not quite as happy and fuzzy as A Twin Set of Triplets. Remember all the OC's. There's a few more here. They make quite the extended family. But it's a reasonably happy ending.
Wow, it wasn't nearly as long in my head.
Enjoy, and tell me what you think.
It was the stuff soap operas were made of, if only it hadn't hit so close to home. Same verse as A Twin Set of Triplets.
Kouichi K & Kouji M
It had been a long time, over thirty years, since he had last been to a funeral, but it felt exactly the same. Only this time, he wasn't helping his mother pick the bones from the ashes of his grandmother and bury her in her final resting place, but he and his brother were sharing the white pristine settled in grey ash that was now all that remained of their late mother.
Surprisingly, there had been little warning. After all the bouts of illness that had struck her throughout the long struggle of her life, the final blow had been quick. That the entire family was grateful of, and since she had lived to the ripe grandmother status to witness the birth of six grandchildren, one who was now sixteen and thus had given her grandmother the opportunity to take teasing pictures of her eldest grandchild and her boyfriend, so all her purposes in life had been completed before her death. Seeing as many had doubted she would live to see her sons marry, it was a great achievement, so it was only family and close friends who joined in true mourning beyond the ritual.
But it was the truth that all people would die one day, and to die fulfilled was the best death of them old. No-one doubted that Kimura Tomoko hadn't gotten that death.
But death was a tragedy all the same. What they hadn't realised was it was just the start.
Suijun was coughing. It had started off as a regular cold…only it showed no signs of getting better. In fact, it simply became progressively worse, so bad in fact that her parents were forced to take her to the hospital.
Where she stayed for days. And at seven, it was very frightening to stay at night, on her own. She wailed and screamed the first night once her family had reluctantly left, despite the night nurse's best efforts to placate her.
She only slept the next morning when her father weaselled some time off, much to the chargin of his boss. But as he reasonably pointed out, between his mother's death and both wife and daughter sick, one at home resting and the other in the hospital, he very much qualified for the little family leave he had left to his name.
'Where's Mama?' she asked cutely. 'And Nee-chan?'
Katsuki had tagged along for a visit too, and was currently trying to set a DVD up to her favourite cartoon.
'They're at home,' Kouichi sighed. 'Your mother's not feeling too well again.'
His father smiled and smoothed her short blonde hair black. 'Don't worry sweetie, she's just feeling a little tired. You just focus on feeling better.'
She coughed, before pouting. 'I still feel yucky.'
A nurse appeared at that point. 'No worries sweetie. I've got some yummy medicine for you.'
Suijun grimaced at Katsuki's smirk.
'I don't remember you being quite so cheerful when your mother was trying to feed you cough medicine,' Kouichi said, raising an eyebrow.
The smirk vanished as Suijun erupted into a fit of giggles. Unfortunately it was punctured by another fit of coughs.
'Now drink your medicine and get some sleep,' Katsuki did, turning into older brother mode.
'Hai onii-chan.' A pause, then as an afterthought. 'Don't call me sweetie.' She meant the nurse. She didn't mind family calling her sweetie. She didn't even mind her father and elder sister calling her "squirt"..though her brother dared on threat of a real squirt from her water gun.
The nurse just smiled it off, though the seven year old had a feeling from the gaze that she'd be in for a scowling once she was back home.
Suijun made it home within the week, only to find their mother still confined to the bed. And the fact that she wasn't arguing with Kouichi about getting back onto her feet meant she was very very sick.
'Mama!' she wailed, running to her on cue with Katsuki right on her heels.
'Hey, the Doctor told you to take it easy.'
'Gotcha sweetie.' Ha'ri suddenly appeared, scooping her up. 'Now let's let 'kaa-san rest for now and we'll play checkers with her later, okay?'
'Okay.' Suijun nodded in her elder sister's grip. 'Can we play checkers now together?'
'All right.' Haruyami looked at her little brother. 'Where's 'tou-san?'
'Going to work,' the sandy blonde replied.
Ha'ri frowned at that. Thank god it was the holidays. Otherwise how did they expect a wife sick with cancer to take care of herself while her kids were at school and husband forced to be at work because he was running out of leave.
But Kaori was getting sick so often that Kouichi couldn't help but take time off, and after the first few complaints, Kaori agreed that it was necessary.
After all, she didn't marry a man that overreacts.
Between Ha'ri and Katsuki and the nurse that visited three times a week, Kaori was well taken care of and comfortable during the days. Sui was young, so she couldn't do much except read picture books to her and run with glasses of water, but she was a help too. And on her worse days, her husband took off as well…not that there was much any of them could do.
'I want to go home,' she said quietly one night, once the others had fallen asleep. 'Where I grew up I mean.'
Kouichi said nothing.
'I want to see my mother again. You understand, don't you?'
'I understand, but…' He broke off, trying to voice his objections into words.
'I'm dying. You know that. Ha'ri knows it too; she's smart.' Kaori kissed her husband's forehead lightly, barely moving her lips. The only reason she could was because he was so close to her. 'She got the smart genes from you.'
'Technically, science is yet to prove that academic-' he stopped as his wife laughed lightly.
'No need to go all Professor Kimura on me,' she said, before sobering up. 'But you know why this is important to me.'
'It's important that we're together,' her husband replied, equally softly.
'We won't get a flight together at this time, this late. You know that.'
'You won't get clearance for a flight anyway.'
There was a pause.
'That's true. It's just that-' She broke off with tears choking her. 'She's my mother Kouichi. I have to see her before I die.'
Kouchi said nothing for a few moments. Never in all the years he had known her did the blonde cry as she was now, sobbing into his chest as he pulled himself higher on the bed and drew the weak form closer. The merry woman she was, even as cancer ate her bones and when she was high on morphine, she had never given in to weakness except when her husband forced her into bed with threat of capsicum. He knew quite well she hated capsicum, as silly as it sounded.
'I'm being insensitive,' Kaori sniffed. 'After your mother and all…'
'She's your mother,' Kouichi repeated, before reaching for his cell phone.
'What are you doing?'
'Ringing airlines. We'll just have to invite your mother here.'
Kaori burst into tears again, and that was almost enough to make the other cry as well. But he held them in. It wouldn't do any good for his wife to see him crying then…and with his mother's death not all that long ago, he had sort of cried himself out.
Not many people were accurate when it came to predicting their deaths, but Kimura Kaori had been pretty close. Thus the remainder of the Kimura family were attending the second funeral in a month, and once again Kouichi was holding the chopsticks to pick the bones out of the ashes. But this time it wasn't Kouji on the other side, but Haruyami who had stubbornly volunteered with the barest tears preceding it.
Otherwise she just looked hollow. The same hollow that Kouichi felt.
That night, three children and the single parent curled up in the same bed. Not that anyone actually slept.
Suijun was coughing badly the next day, as if her sickness had taken a brief respite and then followed through. She kept asking for her "Mama"; seven years was a little too young to be able to grasp death in a single try (especially one with a learning disability), but it was very difficult to explain it again.
Even more difficult was the sudden fever.
But Kouichi should have enough experience. He had plenty of those himself, for as long as he could remember.
But when the fever, and the lethargy that came with it, disappeared, the coughing grew worse.
Kouichi considered sending his two elder kids to his father, just in case it was something contagious…or worse. But Haruyami, just like her father, put her foot down and stubbornly refused to go.
It was a good thing the university had finally closed. Elementary, junior and senior schools closed in mid July but the universities didn't till two weeks after that. Then there was all the marking and sorting out results before the lecturers got their holiday. Luckily, being a lecturer, missing a few classes wasn't the end of the world seeing as they could put the recording and notes up on the website, mark things at home and send his lesson plans and exam drafts through email. Of course, the problem was not to make a habit of it, but as the dean had to admit (despite work interests), family issues were a rather good reason for doing so.
Still, he could only push so much. So it was a good thing the university had finally closed.
Especially when the coughing started spurting blood.
Actually, he hadn't even been the first to notice.
He blinked blurrily at Katsuki's face, almost a mirror image of his mother's, save the sandy hair which was a couple of shades darker thanks to the incorporation of his father's genes. 'What time is it?'
'About four in the afternoon,' the sandy blond replied. 'But Sui's bleeding?'
'Bleeding?' It took a few seconds for that to register on the sleep-captured mind, but as soon as it did, he shot up from the couch and dashed into his youngest daughter's bedroom.
'Should we go to the hospital?' He suddenly looked tiny.
Kouichi frowned, helping his daughter up so that she didn't choke on the blood. He had a gut feeling that the so-called pneumonia hadn't been pneumonia, and the nearest hospital was going through a staff change and therefore its quality was a little downgraded.
Maybe the major hospital would be better. Something was just sinking in his stomach. Or perhaps from a higher place.
He considered for a second. Suijun had stopped coughing by that time, but he didn't want to leave it to chance.
'Stay here and wait for her. I'll pick you both up in about two hours. If I'm not there in two and a half, ring your uncle.'
Good thing they only had one uncle. And good thing he was home, and free. And Amaya was perfectly fine with babysitting their kids on her own.
'All right, what is going on Ni-san?'
'You're asking me? And when was the last time you called me Ni-san?'
'I'll take that as you've got no idea,' Kouji replied, folding his arms and looking at the two on the hospital chairs. 'Was that a smart idea?'
'Better than leaving them alone, and Ha'ri refuses to go to 'tou-san, and I didn't think it was good idea for Katsuki to mess about with the twins right now…' Kouichi stopped once he realised he was talking more than necessary.
'Why do you call her Ha'ri?' Kouji asked quietly. 'Sui at least makes some sense.'
'Ha'ri after the dragon from Fruits Basket. Her favourite character when she was four.'
The two brothers said nothing after that, except for two lines that seemed a little spontaneous and delayed simultaneously.
'You really should get some sleep.'
'I was trying to.'
Both remembered a similar time when they had been standing in front of the ER. That day, it had been a happy ending.
If explaining to a seven year old that their mother was dead was difficult, explaining to that same seven year old that she was dying of the same thing and faster than the adult because her body hadn't fully developed yet nor had her immune system was about ten times worse. Especially seeing as the only bit that registered was that she'd be seeing her Mama but leaving her Papa and her onii-chan and onee-chan.
'I'll come and visit,' she said cutely, yawning tiredly. 'Don't cry.'
Only an innocent seven year old could say that when their father had tears trailing down his cheeks.
'I can't believe you haven't changed even the tiniest bit!' Katsuki yelled at his elder sister as she was doing the dishes after cooking.
'What do you mean?' the other asked calmly, though there was a hint of a warning in there.
There was a pause, then: 'you know, 'baa-chan's dead, 'kaa-san's dead, Sui's going…doesn't that even bother you?' He half-yelled the last part.
There was a hostile silence, broken only by dishes clattering.
'It doesn't bother-' The half-teary yell was broken by a hand on his shoulder.
'That's enough Katsuki,' Kouichi said tiredly. 'Go to your room.'
He froze, stuttered a moment, then did as he commanded.
Haruyami still clattered with the dishes, scrubbing them a little more than was required, until her father put his hand on hers lightly.
'You should go to your room as well.'
Ha'ri nodded and fled, leaving the soapy pan she had been scrubbing in slight fervour.
'Sui! Sui! Imouto-chan!'
Hearing Kimura Haruyami panic was, for her younger brother, like hearing the apocalypse coming. She simply didn't do "panic". It was a little creepy, something she had apparently inherited from her father (again), and even creepier was that he found that, for once, he wasn't. As if his sister's panic was calming him. So he did the reasonable thing and checked what was the matter.
Suijun even looked small, like she was five. Hard to believe there was little over a year difference between her and Katsuki, especially since she was curled like a baby, pale and limp but otherwise peaceful.
Kouichi was there too, one hand supporting the child in his lap while the other held the phone, talking to someone. His voice sounded tired, strained but reasonably calm. But then, Katsuki thought, he'd never heard his father yell either. No wonder people at school thought he was the luckiest kid in the world. But his parents made the alternatives work.
'Katsuki,' his father said suddenly. 'Can you get our coats?'
He shot off.
She stopped what she had been doing. It was rare for someone to use her full name…unless they were at school or she was in trouble.
'Go wait downstairs and open the door for the paramedics.'
She hovered a moment, before obeying. She'd forgotten where she last put her coat anyway.
Once they were gone, and Katsuki returned momentarily with the coats, he tried to lift Suijun up and get her hands through the sleeves, but his own arms felt like lead. By the time he managed, he could hear the sirens piercing his mind, but he found, between his spinning head and arms which were now representing noodles, he couldn't quite manage it.
And he was tired…so tired…
''tou-san?' Wake up.'
'How many times have you said that?'
'Three hundred and seventy six.'
'Of course not.'
There was a pause.
'Is he still asleep?'
'Like I could sleep through that,' Kouichi groaned, forcing his eyes open before immediately shutting them at the sting of light. 'Oww…'
Two awkward laughs. 'You did for…how long have we been doing that?' That was Katsuki.
Then the two siblings started talking at once.
'A few days.'
'Yeah I know-'
'-and they took Sui to childrens but we all complained-
'-and Oji-san and sofu-san came-'
'Oh yeah, they're waiting outside. Oji-san!'
'Not so loud.'
'Now how much of that did you get?' Kouji's voice interrupted, torn between worry and amusement.
'Where's Sui?' his brother asked back, exhaustion still apparent in his voice.
'Check the bed beside you.'
Kouichi turned his head slightly, catching sight of the small form curled up.
'She's not doing so well,' Kousei said quietly, looking at his brother. 'And neither are you. Why the heck didn't you go a Doctor?' He was probably refraining from swearing because one, he was pretty old, and two, there was a seven year old and an eight year old in the room.
'I was just tired,' Kouichi replied, still trying to sort out his head. 'What happened to Sui's bed?'
There were twin giggles, telling that Shinichi and Shinji were there as well.
'You're not impressing anyone,' Yasurou's voice said, mildly scolding. At thirteen, the antics of his nine year old siblings were a little annoying. Sometimes.
'I believe there is a four person per patient rule.' That was a voice he didn't recognise.
There was a pause, then…
'I'm visiting Sui-chan,' several voices shouted out at once, causing the waking patient to wince.
'I believe that's still over four.' The voice was rather sarcastic.
'Just how many people are there?' Kouichi wondered out loud, opening his eyes slightly, before giving up and closing them again.
'Everyone,' Takuya's cheerful voice answered. 'Oww, Izumi!'
'Me, Takuya, Kiyomi, Junpei, Saki, Kin Mi, Atsushi, Kei Ran, Tomoki, Riko, Takeshi, Yuudai, Akihiro, Kouji, Amaya, Yasarou, Shinichi, Shinji, Haruyami, Akira, Katsuki, and your father and stepmother.'
That was twenty-three visitors. No wonder the nurse said what she did.
'We're staying.' That would be both Kouji and Haruyami. Apparently she had perfected the knack of speaking simultaneously with her uncle.
Hang on a sec…what brought all of them into the hospital.
'Paranoia?' Katsuki offered. 'C'mon, even Ha'ri lost her head.'
'Like you didn't,' Haruyami replied, but there wasn't any bite. 'It's…been a few days. The Doctors said it's…it's too far developed to cure.'
For some reason, that didn't quite click straight away. And when it did…
'Oh God,' he moaned. He would have buried his face in his hands, but they wouldn't budge.
No-body said anything, except the nurse who tried once again to kick everyone out. In the end, Kousei and Satomi stayed as well, accounting for Kouichi's four visitors, leaving the kids to squabble over who got to see Suijun, except Katsuki who won by default. In the end, the second pair of twins and Akihiro won. The three youngest, but most attached…unless they counted Ha'ri and given the fact that she was "visiting" her father, she didn't count.
'Why were you having a reunion in our hospital room?' Kouichi asked his daughter, once he was feeling a little better and Sui had curled up in the crook of his arm.
Ha'ri blushed. 'We weren't,' she said. 'Everyone was just worried.'
'Yeah…I can understand that.'
There was silence after that.
'Takuya-oji-san said to tell you that you're going to see them all so much you'll get sick of them.'
'I doubt that,' he said affectionately, patting Sui's hair gently. 'It's impossible to get sick of them all.' There was a pause, then…
'We're staying with Sofu-san,' she explained before he could ask. 'Katsuki and I.'
'I guess 'tou-san's happy with that.' The house would be just a hint fuller. And as an added bonus there would be less trips up the stairs.
More silence. Some fidgeting.
'Um, 'tou-san, about what the Doctors said…'
'Don't think too much on it,' Kouichi advised. 'Everyone dies someday, and as selfish as it is, I don't want to have to bury a child.'
He looked at the blonde dust mop on his arm.
'That's not selfish at all. No father should have to bury their child.' She was quoting The Lord of the Rings, a favourite English movie between father and daughter. And on top of all that, it was the one line that made the most impression on them both.
'I hoped I'd at least see my kids get married.'
'Uh…about that.' Now it was Akira who was blushing. 'I'd like to…ask your permission to marry your daughter.'
'Oh,' Kouichi said, while Ha'ri continued fidgeting. 'So that's why you didn't bring Katsuki.'
That hadn't been the reaction they had expected.
'And did you two talk about this?'
They were both utterly lost.
'Then I've got no objections.'
Two sighs of relief.
'You thought I'd object.'
'Well,' Akira shrugged. 'Age and all.'
'Ha'ri's above legal age and old enough to make her own decisions. Besides, you heard what I said.'
'So we get married in the hospital?'
'Are we going to make a tradition of this?'
Kouichi watched, tired but amused.
'Aren't you forgetting the engagement rings?'
'Oh right,' they both said.
Sui woke up, just in time to hear the last part. 'You're getting married?'
'Yeah sweetie,' Ha'ri replied, petting her hair.
'Good. I like Akira-nii.' There was a pause, then: Can I be the flower girl?'
The newly engaged pair laughed. 'Of course you can squirt.'
Sui pouted weakly. 'Only 'tou-san can call me squirt.'
Saki: rare blossoming – Junpei's wife
Atsushi: industrious – Kin Mi's fiancé
Riko: jasmine child – Tomoki's wife
Amaya: high place – Kouji's wife
Kaori: fragrance – Kouichi's wife
Akira: bright/clear – Haruyami's boyfriend/fiancé etc.
I said it in Grandma's Book of Fairytales that the Japanese legal age for a woman to get married is sixteen. I'll add now that' it's sixteen with parental consent.