Author's Notes

You know, I wrote a nice long authors note for this and then deleted it and decided I'm only going to say one thing. I don't feel one way or another about step-parents; truthfully, I've seen from a distance both and close up neither. My writing doesn't necessarily reflect my opinions, more often it reflects the fruits of my imagination and my thirst for information and application.

Enjoy, and tell me what you think.


Grey Mist

When truth and lies are clouded beyond distinction, one finds the border between what is acceptable and not blurred beyond comprehension. A new stepfather seemed to be having that effect.

Kouichi K & Tomoko K


Chapter 1

He wasn't quite sure how he felt about the idea of his mother getting remarried when she first dropped the bombshell. Personally, he attempted to avoid his mother's scattered dates, never sure of anyone's intentions, including his own, but there were times, such as arriving back at their apartment after school or a pair appearing after curfew, which couldn't really be avoided. His mother avoided those situations too; she wasn't the sort of woman who took casual dates to home life, so as a consequence it wasn't very often that Kouichi met a potential bachelor trying to win over his mother's heart.

He had met a few, including a rather embarrassed doctor who had feverishly argued against the notion that had been suggested. Tomoko had agreed and that had been that, but it had seemed a tad more sparks had flown for a while in between. Izumi had thought so in any case, though neither she nor the elder twin who would otherwise have been in a better situation to judge, had any experience in the dating field…unless one decided to count her pledged during the final fight with Cherubimon, the fulfilment of which had entailed the two boys simply paying for her ticket and snack, much to the amusement of the three not so directly involved and to Junpei's particular relief.

But when he first met the man that was going to be his stepfather, there were no suspected sparks or loose teasing gossip resulting in an awkward blushing couple. Truthfully, the situation didn't allow for that for several reasons. They weren't enjoying a nice cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria on their own to the delight of watching co-workers thinking the roses of love were in full bloom. Or chatting in some café or spread where he had coincidently run into the pair (that had happened only once) or even in their apartment when he'd either been home and introduced for the sake of politeness or arrived home and introduced for the same reasons. What had happened was that he had been working on a large A3 spread covered in both rough and detailed sketches as the sun went down past the kitchen window when his mother emerged from her bedroom, fixing her hair into a rather elegant bun as opposed to her usual ponytail.

She opened her mouth to say something to him, clip in one hand and hair held in position with the other, but the doorbell rang before the thoughts formulated into words. Kouichi barely caught the look as the black locks unravelled and fell over her shoulders and the features shifted slightly, and then she set her clip down and answered the door, inviting the person who had called at the odd hour.

Curious, he hadn't immediately shifted his gaze back to his drawing. It was an odd time for a visitor, especially as it had looked like his mother was preparing to leave somewhere; she didn't normally adorn a dress and certainly not for something in their small two-person apartment. What was odder was that his mother's face had changed to an expression of expectancy, or in other words, she was not only unsurprised at a visitor calling at an odd hour, but she had been waiting or else suspecting it. What was odder still was that she had let her hair fall loose, rather than redoing it into its knot and clipping it back. She normally did not leave her hair loose outside the family.

The exchange of words was too quiet for him to make out naturally; he supposed if he strained his ears, or worse slipped off his chair and adapted a more strategic position to eavesdrop (which he was not currently doing), he might have made something out. He wondered still who had been at the door; his initial guess was that he had forgotten the weekend and it was Kouji's turn to visit, but the truth wasn't too far from the forefront of his mind.

Tomoko came back in, twisting her length of hair again, and a slightly taller black-haired man followed her. Because Kouichi had turned his head back down, he missed the other's first reaction to him, but once the footsteps registered and he looked up again, he realised the man did look somewhat familiar. He had probably caught fleeting glimpses and his brain hadn't attempted to register them to save him the effort of actually thinking about the complex paradigm that was his familial situation. He had even once considered that his relationship with Kouji's dog was probably the most straightforward…before he remembered that the said German Sheppard had failed to warn his master of his "follower" (some would be inclined to use the word "stalker" but that would be technically incorrect) while dogs in general were supposed to be profound in both their sense of loyalty and smell.

By the time he did look up, the other had turned from his mother and was smiling politely at him.

'I don't believe we've been properly introduced,' he said, in a matter that might suggest he was simply another one of his mother's acquaintances. In fact, he would have suspected that, if the subtleties of the situation weren't pestering him. And that probably wouldn't have pestered him if Tomoko hadn't asked his opinion on the canvas blue drop-dress she was currently wearing. She had looked a little mysterious when he had asked the occasion in return, saying only that it had been a gift.

He had a feeling he was going to find out when he caught a brief moment of his mother's sapphire eyes (which he felt his brother had managed to duplicate better than himself) met the other's grey.

'I don't believe so,' Kouichi replied, setting his pencil down and standing so he could bow, as was customary. 'Kimura Kouichi. Hajimamashite.'

The man returned the bow. 'Ishikawa Akita. Likewise'

'We're going out for dinner today,' Tomoko said at that point, fitting the clip in. 'Go put on something nice honey.'

Kouichi accidently knocked his pencil over, having already begun to nod at the first statement. 'I-I'm coming with you?' he asked, caught entirely off guard.

'I didn't tell you before?'

Mute, he shook his head.

'Oh, well…' She looked like she was resisting the urge to scratch her head; she would have to fix up her hair again. 'Go get dressed, and tidy up your things. We might be late coming back.'

He ducked under the table to withdraw the lead instrument before rolling up the paper spread and the other scraps he had underneath them and carrying them off to his room. He heard the other man strike up a conversation with his mother again, but he had to close the door to be able to reach the box kept solely for art indulged simply for enjoyment and cherishment: words and lines, threading together to create poems, stories, illustrations…even charcoal images, but the most important item was not in that box for inconvenience's sake, but rather under his pillow, where it was both easy to reach, private and close.

The lid came down on the box and he put it away with his other things. His school uniform hung behind the door: navy blue school pants, a white shirt and a blazer, again navy blue. His school books were piled neatly on the desk, along with his writing utensils, to which he added the lead pencil. Some novels were on the attached bookshelf; his own, the library ones were on his desk with his school things to make sure he didn't mix them up and thus incur a fine. Next to his books were some photographs, all framed, and on the other side, well away from any furniture, including the in-built closet and stack of drawers beside the desk, was his futon, neatly rolled, and above that was a single frame hanging, and towards the head, a window that rose to the ceiling. And across from his pillow was a stand that reached up to his waist if he stood to his full height, decorated with an odd assortment of things which most wouldn't understand.

Kouichi didn't spare them much glance however, shoving the box under the desk and sliding open the closet door and considering his assortment of clothes. His summer uniform was the first thing he noticed; the lighter shirt and slacks, and his sport uniforms, both versions, hung merrily beside them. He ignored those but debated slightly on the rest; his mother was dressed rather fancily for a dinner, and the man who he accurately suspected as being a love interest (a serious one seeing as he had passed the preliminary steps to arrive on their doorstep) had adapted a beige suit. Several shades off the colour of his walls actually; they were cream.

He was reluctant to pick his only suit, as it had been the one he had worn to his grandmother's funeral, but nothing else seemed formal enough save a kimono and it would look rather out of place, especially seeing as his mother had chosen a more western style attire herself. So in the end he did go with the suit, which had only gone a few months since its last use and luckily hadn't gotten to the stage where it needed an iron to caress out the creases. It didn't take him long to slip into the outfit and a minute or so longer to comb his hair so it fell neatly about his head.

His mother emerged barely a minute after himself, and it was slightly amusing to note that the sapphire hairpin above her bun was the only new addition to her attire. The hairpin if he remembered correctly had been a wedding present from a friend of hers, and quite an interesting story had gone with it too. The amusement came from the fact that it had taken the same amount of time for her to pin it to her hair as it had for him to completely change his own attire.

And their visitor had simply waited patiently on the couch.

'Shall we go?' he asked, smiling at each of them in turn but reserving an extra-special one for his date. As normal as that should be, it passed almost without notice except for the brief pause in transition.

Tomoko smiled and picked up her purse, slipping something into it and withdrawing her keys with a single, fluid motions. 'Lets,' she agreed, beckoning to her son.

The ride was relatively low-key; the brunette Akita began on the tangent on building plans over an old garden tucked in a corner of an industrial district and the conversation followed through for their short journey. Kouichi had only spoken once, when his mother had turned from the front seat and asked his opinion, but otherwise he listened to the words exchanged before him, watched the scenery moving by, and contemplated on his own swirl of thoughts.

It certainly felt odd, though his mother sounded both happy and at ease. Not the happiness that had shown on her face for the first second she had stared into Kouji's face, but a normal-place happiness. The sort that belonged in a common household, like when he brought home a certificate with a golden star as a small child. So it wasn't exactly an apprehensive sort of awkwardness as he trailed behind the two adults.

How he could not have seen it coming, he had no idea.

The restaurant was…rather fancy. Celebratory. A young woman dressed in a black dress uniform led them to a vacant table, handed the menus, then left them.

Tomoko sighed, leaning back on her chair. 'I've never come here before,' she admitted. 'But it is beautiful. Special even.'

'A special place for a special occasion,' Akita turned and smiled at her.

Tomoko returned it, before monopolising it into a more apologetic one as she turned to her son. 'We thought we'd leave it as a bit of a surprise. Akita…' she took a deep breath, before continuing. 'He proposed to me, and I've decided to accept.'

For a moment, there was utter silence. Coincidently, even the soft melody that had been playing ceased as the tracks changed.

His mouth flexed, opened, and shut again. Why he hadn't expected that, he didn't have much of a notion. No reasonable one anyway. Part of him felt his mother really should have told him sooner, but the rest of him reasonably pointed out that it was her life, and her decision.

'Kouichi?'

'Ah…' His throat felt a little dry and he quickly swallowed. 'Congratulations.'

Her smile widened, and she turned to her…fiancé. 'Will you excuse us for a minute?'

'No problem,' he smiled, pushing his chair aside. 'I'll go get some champagne.'

Tomoko watched his retreating back, before her smiled dimmed. 'You know,' she commented lightly. 'Your brother would be shooting questions at me as soon as I announced that, then bury me in my grave for keeping it a surprise.'

'Kouji wouldn't do that 'kaa-san,' Kouichi replied.

'No,' she admitted. 'He wouldn't. But-' She seemed a little hesitant. 'Well, I honestly wasn't sure how you would react, and I didn't want…well, I didn't want you to be mad.'

'I'm not mad 'kaa-san,' the other replied, leaning forward. 'Really I'm not.'

She wanted to ask how he felt, honestly, but she got the feeling, perhaps mother's intuition, that he really wasn't sure himself. He probably was shocked, and understandably though.

'Well, I certainly am not looking forward to telling Kouji,' she sighed looking into her lap, before she raised her gaze and looked her son in the eye. 'Things are going to change,' she explained quietly. 'I know it's going to be hard, and I know the two of you don't know each other, but there's plenty of time for all that. This wasn't a decision I didn't think thoroughly about; the contrary in fact. But if something's not working, or wrong, you tell me. Okay?'

Kouichi looked at his mother's sapphire eyes. There was something sparkling in there, something he'd never seen. She was still smiling, looking at him expectantly, but there was something far deeper, far more powerful. Something that made her look more beautiful than he had ever seen her.

She reached for his hands across the table, grasping them firmly.

'As long as you're happy 'kaa-san, it'll work out.'

He wasn't entirely sure he meant that when he said it though. Of course, he was no oracle or fortune teller or anything of the sort; there was a problem with the accuracy of his proclamation especially seeing as it referred to a conclusion not yet reached.

Apart from that though, the bombshell still hadn't quite reached the floor yet.