Disclaimer: I own nothing. This is contingent with my fic "Revenge and Redemption", but wouldn't have had any real place in the story apart from being a silly plot bunny. However, this does also contain spoilers (Though relatively minor-ish spoilers) concerning the relationship development of two certain characters.
"Good job, Mana-chan," Kaori encouraged as the last notes of Mana's violin died out. "You've improved very much over the past few months."
"Thank you!" Mana said cheerfully. She lay the violin and bow in her lap. "There's this one piece I'm thinking of practicing, but I left the music sheet at home. I'll try to remember it for next time."
"I kept telling you to make sure you weren't forgetting anything, you know," Hiroshi pointed out. "Next time, how about I take the sheet with me?"
"And what if you forget it?" Mana asked.
Hiroshi sighed while Kaori laughed softly. Despite the gloomy knowledge that their happiness with Kaori would eventually be cut short within a few years, he was still glad to be able to spend the time they had left with her. Even Kaori didn't let the news get her down; if anything, she was far more cheerful over the past few weeks than she had been two months ago. She usually had a cheerful demeanor, but lately, she had been acting extra cheerful. She had a much brighter smile, hummed happily to herself while getting everything together, and sometimes walked with a small spring in her step.
As to why she was acting like this, Hiroshi couldn't pinpoint the reason down. He knew that Sakaki had started coming home a few minutes earlier. Perhaps that had something to do with it.
"Well, Mana-chan, I'm afraid it's now time for you to go," Kaori sighed. She set aside her violin in its case while Hiroshi said, "Tomorrow at the same time?"
"Yes," Kaori said, turning her head with a smile.
"Just remember, you don't have to force yourself to continue if you're not feeling well again," Hiroshi reminded as he stood up and brushed off his pants.
"Oh, but I've been feeling just fine for the past few days," Kaori said as she closed the case and walked over to the glass cabinet. "It comes and goes. If I'm sick again tomorrow, I'll let you know, okay?"
Hiroshi opened the door and said, "Well then, see you tomorrow."
"Bye-bye!" Mana waved cheerfully.
"Bye-bye," Kaori said, waving back as she closed the cabinet. She sighed to herself, "Soon, I'll have to say "farewell", won't I?"
She heard Hiroshi say, "Oh, good day, Sakaki-san."
Kaori turned and sure enough, Sakaki was walking up the steps to the door. "Good day, Kuzumi-kun," he said back. Kaori smiled and said, "Junichi-kun, you're home early."
Sakaki closed the door behind him and said, "Yeah, I put in some extra effort in the office today. I wanted to see how you were, so I asked if I could leave a bit early."
Kaori hugged him and said, "I'm glad you're home."
"Me too," Sakaki sighed. He inhaled the fresh, vanilla honey scent of Kaori's hair and whispered, "I wish I could home this early more often."
"But if you did, then it wouldn't be as special," Kaori said.
Sakaki let go of her and said, "So how have you been?"
"I've been just fine today," Kaori said.
"Are you sure?" Sakaki said, knowing Kaori's tendencies to tell a white lie so he wouldn't have to worry about her.
"I'm sure," Kaori said. She gave Sakaki a small peck on the nose and said, "Really, I've never been better these past few days. I'd rather treasure the few days I'm healthy right now then dwell on when I'm going to be sick again."
Sakaki loosened his tie and said, "Kaori…how much better do you feel?"
Kaori noticed the gesture and smiled slyly. "Oh, I'm feeling a bit energetic. In fact…I might feel a little too energetic."
Sakaki grinned and drew her in close. But instead of taking her to one of the bedrooms, he took her by the wrist, stopped in front of the couch, and lowered her onto it.
"On the couch?" Kaori gasped. "Juni—mmph!"
He cut her off with a deep, open-mouthed kiss. He parted from her and breathed:
"Why not? The curtains are drawn, see? What can happen?"
"It won't be much longer until Kaori onee-chan will cancel our lessons, will it?" Mana said glumly. Hiroshi was pushing her in her wheelchair down the streets leading home. They still had a bit of ways to go, so Hiroshi walked at a slower pace to appreciate the brilliant red sunset.
"Let's not focus on that right now," Hiroshi said. "Try appreciating the few days you have left."
"Wait, onii-chan!" Mana said suddenly. She put her hands on her bare head and said, "I forgot my hat at Kaori onee-chan's!"
"We'll go get it together," Hiroshi said. He began to turn the wheelchair around when Mana said, "How about I go home and wait for you there?"
"It'll only take a second," Hiroshi assured her as he turned the wheelchair the rest of the way. "We'll just go in, ask for the hat, and go home. I'm sure she won't mind too much."
"Don't you…ha…think we should lock the door?"
"…Nah. Kuzumi-kun and his sister are probably halfway home by now. And who would barge in at this time?"
"Well, here we are," Hiroshi said as he pushed Mana over to the ramp of Kaori's home. "How about you wait out here and I'll go in?"
"Wait, if you're going in alone, then what was the point of bringing me along, huh?" Mana asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It was just a suggestion," Hiroshi said as he pushed the wheelchair up the ramp. "And anyway, you're my sister, and it's my duty to protect you."
"I thought I already proved I don't need protecting after what happened at the Hassaku festival," Mana pointed out.
Hiroshi stopped at the top and said, "Relax, it won't take me more than a few seconds. If I could face a crowd of angry mobs, I can handle anything!"
He ran over to the door, burst it open, and ran inside, calling out, "Kaori-san, have you seen—"
And then a horrifying sound rang out:
"Onii-chan?" Mana called out, alarmed. "What—"
Hiroshi ran out covering his eyes, his face red, himself wailing "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I won't tell anyone I'm sorry I'm sorry I—"
Hiroshi was cut off when he ran face first into the side of the house and fell on his back.
"Onii-chan?" Mana said, rolling over to where her brother lay. "What happened?"
Just then, Kaori ran out wearing a bathrobe, the belt tightly knotted, her face red. "Kuzumi-kun, I'm really sorry!" she moaned, bending down next to the boy who saw stars. "Are you okay?"
"Ah ba…" Hiroshi drooled. He shook his head and sat up just in time for Sakaki to come running out, also wearing a bathrobe.
"For fuck's sake, how old are you, five?" Sakaki grumbled. "And what you saw was just-"
"Mana-chan!" Kaori gasped upon noticing Mana's presence. She leaped up to her feet at the same time Hiroshi did.
Mana then did a quick mental calculation and observed the following facts:
1. Her brother had gone into Kaori's house with the intention to find her hat.
2. Sakaki had arrived home a bit earlier than usual.
3. Upon going inside, her brother had screamed as though he were being castrated.
4. Kaori was wearing only a bathrobe.
5. Sakaki was also wearing a bathrobe.
"Um…were you two…?" Mana couldn't finish the question.
Kaori bowed her head and her face turned a deeper shade of red.
"It's all right," Mana said quickly. "I mean, um…I already had 'the talk' a while ago, so…"
Hiroshi, trying his best to regain his composure, said firmly, "Mana, we're going home right now!"
"Hold it," Sakaki said, walking up to the two. "You two are coming inside and we're going to sit down and discuss what you saw in a mature, adult manner."
The only problem with Sakaki's suggestion was that it required for Hiroshi to behave maturely, an accomplishment he was rapidly failing. Not even Kaori's hot, usually soothing tea could stop him from twitching and babbling as he and Mana sat together on one couch while Kaori sat down in the other, the very same couch that she and Sakaki had been…had been…
Sakaki stood above them and started:
"First of all, if you're old enough to know where babies come from, then I don't need to explain to you what we were doing. You were there, you saw it."
"I, um…I only heard it—I mean, onii-chan's screaming," Mana said, taking a sip of tea.
"I'm really, really, really sorry," Hiroshi moaned. He put the teacup down and buried his face in his hands. "I promise I won't tell anyone, not even my parents…just…uh…"
"It's all right," Kaori said, looking up. "And anyway, I'm the one who should be sorry. We should've locked the door, or gone upstairs, but we didn't, so…"
"Would it have killed you to knock?" Sakaki scoffed, crossing his arms.
"I…well…I didn't even think you'd be…" Hiroshi tried to defend himself, but the beginning of any defense he could make slipped from his mind.
"You knew that I, a man, and Kaori, a woman, have been living under the same roof for almost three months, and you never even suspected anything would come from it?" Sakaki said, stifling a laugh. "Has it really been just now that you realize we're in a relationship?"
"I, uh…I kind of figured there was something going on, but I didn't think you were taking it that far," Hiroshi said, playing with his hands.
"Need I explain it?" Sakaki sighed. "When a man and a woman realize their true feelings, they get urges to—"
"No, no, I don't want to hear it!" Hiroshi cried, covering his ears.
"Junichi-kun, maybe this is too much for him," Kaori spoke up. She turned to face Hiroshi and Mana. "Now you know that we're having an adult love affair. It's a perfectly natural thing for two adults in love to do, but even so, I'm still sorry you had to walk in on us like that. We'll try to be a little more careful next time."
Hiroshi tugged at the collar of his shirt and said, "So…how long have you…I mean…"
"This has been going on for a few weeks now," Kaori said, looking off to the side. "But it's all right, really. Junichi-kun isn't hurting me, or pressuring me into it." She smiled at Sakaki. "This was a decision I was absolutely certain of, and I don't regret it. We're in love."
"It's still kind of weird, but if you're happy, then I'm happy," Mana spoke up.
"Thank you, Mana-chan," Kaori said with a sigh of relief; facing Mana tomorrow might be awkward but at least she had some support.
"Wait, so you started it?" Hiroshi said.
Kaori's cheeks turned pink.
"And do you think there's something wrong with the woman making the first move?" Sakaki asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, no, not at all," Hiroshi said quickly, waving his hands back and forth. He laughed, allowing the tension in his body to release. "But I really won't tell anyone about what I saw. And I won't tell anyone about your relationship, either, unless you say it's okay. Is it?"
"Oh, I think we'll keep it private for just a little longer," Kaori said. "The truth will come out when we're ready. By the way, what did you come back for?"
Having nearly forgotten about it, Hiroshi said, "Ah, right—Mana left her hat behind."
"Oh, I know," Kaori said, standing up. "She must've left it in the kitchen when we had our snacks earlier. I'll go get it."
As Kaori left to fetch the object that had caused this calamity, Mana said, "Well, it could've been worse—it might've been Nemuru-chan who…"
She was hushed by Hiroshi. Sakaki sighed, "Yeah that would've been really bad." He stifled a laugh. "Then again, the look on her face would have been worth more than a thousand words."
"I won't tell her, either," Hiroshi added. "Not that she'd want to know or anything…I know I didn't want to know…"
"There are a lot of things you were never meant to know, Kuzumi-kun," Sakaki said.
Before Hiroshi could ask what that meant, Kaori came back out holding Mana's white hat. "Here you go, Mana-chan," she said as she handed the hat over to Mana.
"Thank you, Kaori onee-chan," Mana said as she placed the hat on her head. "We're sorry to have disturbed you."
"It's all right," Kaori said with a smile. "We're sorry for not locking up."
"Though this could've been avoided if he had knocked," Sakaki muttered.
"So," Hiroshi said, jumping up, "Mana and I will be going home now. So, ah…see you tomorrow at the usual time."
He and Mana headed for the door. "Bye-bye!" Mana said, waving.
"Bye-bye," Kaori said, waving back.
After the two were gone, Kaori closed the door with a sigh. "Well, that went over better than I expected."
"Indeed," Sakaki sighed. He turned back to Kaori and said, "Now, where were we…?"
Kaori locked the door, walked over to Sakaki, and purred, "Hmm, let me remember…"