Rating: Should be G
Summary: Ayato's cousin Shirou Hikari comes to visit him at St. Rudolph, bringing a picnic lunch for herself, Ayato, and Kouji.
His bed felt amazingly good, Terada Ayato thought, lying on it and staring up at the ceiling tiredly. He’d just gotten out of the shower after taking a very long early morning run – it was the first day of his self-proclaimed new training schedule, which he desperately hoped would increase his stamina and speed so that he and Takayama-kun would not lose their next game.
He turned his head on the pillow, not caring that it was already wet from his hair, trying to see the alarm clock on the bedside table without having to actually move any more than was required. Squinting at the numbers, he thought Hikari-chan might be here soon – today was also the day she’d been available to come visit him and, most importantly, bring him food from home.
Even though he wasn't expecting anyone, Takayama Kouji was sitting closer to the door when a gentle knock sounded on it, so he was the one who answered it. The girl who stood there was smiling pleasantly, dressed sensibly, with brown hair pulled behind her head. He eyed her suspiciously, but noted - with some excitement, even if he didn't show it - that she carried shopping bags with her, and that said bags seemed to be filled with food.
"Good morning!" she greeted, her cheer making Kouji wince. "I'm looking for Ayato-kun," she elaborated. "This is the right room, right?"
With a short sigh, Kouji glanced over his shoulder and back into the room, at his roommate sprawled across his own bed. This was the right room, alright. "Terada," he called, keeping his voice low in case the other boy really was as asleep as he looked. "There's some girl here for you."
Ayato blinked; he hadn’t even been aware that he was drifting until the noise on the other side of the room woke him from his half-sleep. He pushed himself off the bed a little, propping himself up on his elbows and blinking at the two figures by the door until he realized –
“Hikari-chan!” he exclaimed, struggling into a more alert and upright position. “I guess you found us okay…” He got off the bed, a little sore from yesterday (though the run this morning had actually helped alleviate some of that), tottering over to his cousin to see what was in the bags she’d brought. He was starving.
“Thanks for coming, too,” he said, as Takayama-kun moved aside slightly. “And for bringing food.” He grinned.
"Oh, it's not a problem at all!" Hikari said, still grinning. Wasn't it just like Ayato, to not be sure whether he was tired or hungry! Well, she'd fix that, and she'd even brought enough for the roommate, too. What was his name again? It hardly mattered … he really was cute. She wished her cousin had said something in the journal comments, then she would have fixed her hair better. "I've got all kinds of stuff. Mostly, um, leftovers." And her smile turned sheepish at that, but she continued. "But I made some new stuff, too! I tried this vegetable dish that Dad liked, I think it was simple enough, and I hope everything tastes alright, really. It's got to be better than Megumi's cooking."
It was a family joke that Hikari's younger sister lacked culinary skills to the extent that any concoction of hers might develop sentience and attempt to overthrow the household. Sometimes Hikari wondered how far off the mark that really was … and she hoped she didn't sound too stupid, because Aya's roommate's eyes really were the most beautiful shade of blue, and it wouldn't do at all if he thought she was stupid.
So she turned to him - what was his name? Oh, she wished she hadn't forgotten! and asked, "When did you guys want to go? I saw some spots on campus that looked really pretty as I was walking up here…."
Kouji merely blinked and stepped aside. "Don't ask me," he mumbled, and indicated Terada.
Ayato laughed. “Anything is better than Megumi’s cooking.” He chucked a thumb at his roommate. “Even what Takayama-kun claimed they were serving in the cafeteria earlier this year.” He ignored the look his roommate gave him and began hunting for his shoes. “I’m all about going now – I’m starving, and it’s definitely nice enough to eat outside if neither of you minds.” He finally located the shoes under his bed, where he must have accidentally kicked them off after running, and sat down briefly to pull them on.
He stood, looking from Hikari to Takayama for a moment – was his cousin giving his roommate strange looks, or was he just seeing things? He hoped they’d get along – he hadn’t really thought about that, but though Takayama-kun did have a temper, he was also very easy to get along with when he wasn’t angry at the world… and he certainly seemed to be in a decent mood. Especially since there was food involved. Speaking of… “Uh… do you want help carrying that or anything?” he asked.
"That'd be great," Hikari said, shifting her eyes to Ayato only to hand him the heavier bag.
"It was kittens," Kouji reminded Terada, at nearly the same time the girl spoke. He knew his first story had involved babies, but he was so sick of hearing about it by this point that he preferred the slightly less grotesque version - the one without actual cannibalism. Or claims towards it, at any rate. "Fried kittens. Sometimes stewed. I found some fur in my dinner once. It was striped. A big chunk of it."
If Hikari actually heard what he was saying, she didn't give any indication - or maybe she just wasn't as fazed by stories of kitten consumption as most other girls her age. Was she really still smiling? It couldn't be that she thought it was funny, could she?
Whatever. Kouji shrugged and followed Terada and his cousin out the door, not bothering to lock the dorm behind him. They were right - it really was a nice day, and the sun and the promise of real food were enough to lift even his spirits a little. A little.
“Yeah, I remember. Kittens and babies, right?” Ayato shot (a bit sarcastically) over his shoulder as he and Hikari took the lead, with Takayama-kun trailing a little behind. Ayato was sure now that something was up with Hikari, but he really didn’t know what it could possibly be. She just seemed… distracted.
As they made their way out of the dorm and across the grass to one of the spots Hikari had chosen, he leaned in a bit while Takayama was still a ways behind them and asked, “Hey, are you okay? You dad didn’t give you a hard time about coming, did he?” Maybe that was it – St. Rudolph was a good ways away from where his uncle lived, and maybe he hadn’t been too keen on letting Hikari come and visit Ayato all the way out here by herself. Of course, it was just as well – better, really – that he had let Hikari come by herself. If his uncle had come with… well, he didn’t want to think about what would have happened then.
Hikari glanced over her shoulder, making sure that Takayama-kun was following - which he was, if a bit sullenly -- before responding. "No, not at all. Why?"
"Ritual sacrifice," Kouji reminded, from the rear.
Ayato shrugged, then shook his head slightly at his roommate’s remarks. “You just seemed a little distracted, is all,” he said to Hikari, though the last word was a bit cut off by a yawn. They came to the top of a bit of a hill, out on the school’s main quad. “Is here good?” he asked, not wanting to have to go much farther before getting the promised food. “We can sit under that tree.”
"It's great," she replied, eyes lighting when she saw the area that Ayato indicated. The mentioned tree provided enough shade for all of them, and she was sure the blanket she'd brought would be big enough, and was delighted to find, when she spread it out, that it was.
She began unloading the rest of the bags, setting boxes of her homemade food (and some of her dad's leftovers) on the picnic blanket, so proud that everything was going so well. There was only thing that she'd forgotten, she realized with a frown. "Um … I forgot the drinks," she admitted sheepishly. "Is there a vending machine nearby or something?" She hoped there was, and she kind of hoped that Ayato would be the one to volunteer to get them. He always was so courteous, maybe it would be to her advantage today. She smiled at Takayama-kun.
Kouji blinked. The girl was still staring at him. What the hell, was there something wrong with him? But she looked at him the way his sister did when she wanted something, so he rose to his feet. "Yeah, I'll get something. Don't be unhappy with what I bring back." He stared down at Terada. "You got change?"
“Yeah, I should.” Ayato dug around in his pocket, coming up with enough change for drinks for himself, Hikari, and Takayama. “Thanks,” he said, handing it to Takayama-kun before turning back to Hikari to help with the food – though she was too busy watching his roommate retreat to ask for help.
“Uh… Hikari?” he asked, still a bit concerned, as he flopped down onto the blanket. “Are you… okay? Is Takayama-kun okay? I mean, I’d assumed since you offered to have him come with…”
"Oh, he's fine," she said, hoping there wasn't too much emphasis placed on the adjective, although it really wouldn't be too far from the truth. "I don't mind at all. Everything's fine. How are you?" She changed the subject quickly; after all, she really had come here to see Ayato and she wanted to talk to him. "Things are going okay for you? There haven't been any … um … incidents?"
Ayato shook his head, though he was glad Hikari didn’t seem to be unhappy with his roommate tagging along for the meal. “No, thankfully – no incidents. My parents haven’t even called more than twice. Everything’s been pretty good here, except that Takayama and I lost yesterday.” He sighed, remembering the argument that had followed the horrid game. “I swear, I was going to hit him. Though it’s probably good that I didn’t – he’s stronger than I am. But I’ve gotta train harder; just because I made it onto the regulars doesn’t mean I’ll stay there if I can’t get up to their standards.” He sighed – then yawned again. “Which is why I was up early running. Um. Can I have some of that food now, or do I have to wait?”
Hikari grabbed the nearest plastic-wrapped box and handed it and a pair of chopsticks to her cousin. "Here, I'm sorry. Of course, eat. There's so much food, I think you could probably take care of all of it on your own." She craned her neck in the direction that Takayama-kun had ventured off in, hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he returned, but there was no sign of him. "You'll do fine," she said, in an attempt to be reassuring, but her mind was elsewhere and she wasn't very convincing. "I mean, like you said - you got this far, right? I think you would've done fine even at Seigaku."
“I dunno,” Ayato said through a mouthful of food, trying to shovel more in and talk at the same time. It tasted really good. “I don’t think I woulda made the regulars at Seigaku, and then this whole… well, it woulda been pointless.” He paused for a moment to get in a few real bites. “This is really good,” he remarked. “And no, I don’t see him either.” He was starting to catch on, what with the way Hikari was craning her neck, trying to see down the path that Takayama-kun had taken. He really, really hoped it wasn’t what he thought it might be.
"See him?" Hikari echoed, trying to downplay her interest. It hadn't been that obvious, had it? Well - she sort of hoped it had, because maybe then even Takayama-kun would catch on to the fact she found him terribly attractive, and boys were all thick anyway, and if he did catch on then maybe she had a chance. She felt her face flush, and hoped that the color rising in her cheeks wasn't too obvious. "Oh, and, ah, thanks," she said belatedly, in response to Ayato's compliment.
“Sure,” he said, shrugging. “Your cooking was always okay. I mean, no one’s is as good as my mom’s, but I can deal with lesser cooking so long as she’s out of my hair.” He sighed – and was once again very glad that his parents had given him the option to go to school here. Very, very glad. He laughed. “You dad told her I cut it, by the way, and she called and got really pissed.” That hadn’t been a fun conversation but then, few conversations with his mother about his appearance ever were.
Hikari shrugged. "I don't see why; it looks alright to me." And although Hikari prided herself on her aesthetic sense, she knew it sometimes clashed with her aunt's - who often had very different ideas of how Ayato should dress and act. "It's your hair."
And her eyes lit up again, grin broadening, as she noticed Takayama-kun returning, three cans stacked in one hand. She stood, then, and approached him. "Here, let me help you with those," she offered.
But Kouji could manage the drinks just fine on his own, and he only grunted when she tried to help. He sat, passing out the cans, and kept his distance from the cousins; he knew perfectly well when he was extraneous, because he'd felt like that often enough among his sisters. Come to think of it, Terada was an awful lot like Akane, and this Hikari girl wasn't too different from Sayoko … He shook his head, cracking an aluminum can open and reaching for a box of food.
Once Takayama-kun returned with the drinks, Ayato went back to shoveling food for a few minutes, before realizing a little embarrassedly that if he kept going at this rate, the other two wouldn’t get any. He slowed his consumption rate a bit as he finished the box of food and looked for another one to begin.
“So… Um, Takayama-kun,” he said, trying to bring his roommate into the (nonexistent) conversation, “better than babies and kittens, huh? This stuff is much better for my alien digestive system, too.” He indicated the box of food he was currently trying to empty into his mouth as quickly as possible. He really wasn’t sure what to talk about – the few things he wanted to talk about with Hikari required privacy, but when they were together Hikari and Takayama-kun didn’t know each other very well. And by now Ayato knew better than to try to get his roommate to talk much about himself, and he’d probably have to keep Hikari-chan from making the mistake of trying to make him.
Kouji glanced sideways at Terada. "I guess," he agreed. In truth it was a hell of a lot better than the cafeteria food, and he was thankful for the smuggled meal. "Any old alien family recipes here I should know about? Anything my weak human digestive system won't be able to handle?"
Ayato shook his head, grinning a bit. “Nah, Hikari’s side of the family is human. Er… I think. We’re not sure about Megumi…” He cast a glance at his cousin, who was looking a bit confused. “My mother, though… she’s an alien.” Literally, even, since his mother was still an American citizen. “Hikari’s dad is pretty cool, though. And so’s Hikari.” He smiled at his cousin, hoping that they’d all get along long enough to at least finish the food. And that both Hikari and Takayama-kun would forgive him later for anything that went wrong in the interim.
Hikari smiled and blushed again, cursing her tendency to turn even a little pink anytime she was so much as complimented. It was just Aya, she reminded herself. It wasn't as though Takayama was saying anything to her. "Megumi's adopted," she said, though she knew it wasn't true. "Or maybe it's a recessive trait?" She laughed a little, hoping her joke didn't seem stupid, that maybe she might be thought funny and not mean. "Well, no," she amended, "I don't really mean that, but … you know, it seems that way sometimes. With siblings. Right?"
"… Right," Kouji replied, and left it at that. He knew too well.
“Megumi’s okay, though. She and Rei get along, I guess, so that’s what really matters. You can just ignore them, I guess. At least you don’t all go to the same school. Oh, hey,” Ayato decided that switching gears – and boxes of food – might be a good tactic. “You still taking pictures of the team at Seigaku? Any chance we can see them before we play them?” He wasn’t really sure if Hikari was still taking pictures of the team, or how likely it was that she’d let them see any pictures she did have, but he hoped that mentioning tennis might interest Takayama-kun a little. That was a subject where he didn’t really have to talk about himself, but there was still plenty to say.
Hikari dug in her bag for her camera - she always had it with her, being on the Photo Club at school, and she never knew when she'd come across something interesting to take a picture of. "Of course," she said. "I've got some here, I think. Will you be playing them soon?" she asked. "Oh, and I apologize for the display being so small, I don't have any hard copies with me right now. Just click to skip to the next picture - right, well, you remember how it works, don't you?"
Kouji craned his neck, but still couldn't see the display. Photos weren't as good as video for devising strategy - not that he needed it - but he'd heard that watching your opponents before meeting them could be a good tactic. It let you know what to expect, if nothing else. He got up and moved, standing behind Terada to view the images on the small screen. "You hang around the team there?" he asked.
Ayato realized that Takayama probably couldn’t see the display very well, so he leaned back and tilted the camera up to hopefully make it easier for the other boy to see them. “She has, yeah – she was working on action shots and stuff a while ago, so she knows one or two people on the team… right?” He looked to his cousin for clarification, as she knew (obviously) more about the situation than he did. “I’m not sure when we’re playing them, though…”
"Neither am I," Hikari admitted. "I knew more people who've graduated, but since they've gone on to high school we've been out of touch." She sighed - she'd have liked to keep in contact; the high school wasn't that far from the junior high, and one year was still as much difference as it was last year. Maybe things would be different next year, but in the meantime, she had to content herself with photos of this year's team.
It was really too bad, she thought. She'd taken some really excellent pictures of some of last year's players. They were so much more … photogenic than this year's. Idly, as she found her eyes drifting over to Takayama-kun again, she wondered if he'd be willing to help her …
"I hope it's soon," Kouji muttered. Their opponents so far had been easy enough, with the exception of yesterday's game, and that in itself had been a fluke. It had to have been. "They're supposed to be actually good."
Ayato eyed his roommate – and doubles partner. “Yeah, well, we’d better work on our game then, huh?” In truth, he was just as ready to play Seigaku as Takayama-kun was, but he was also sure that they needed a good amount of practice before they were really up to the challenge. He clicked through a few more pictures, then handed the camera off to Takayama in case he wanted a better view of any of them.
“You’ve definitely gotten really good at the action shots, though,” he complimented his cousin, knowing from having talked to her last year how hard she’d worked to improve. “So what else have you been up to? Just photo club, or anything else exciting going on over at Seigaku?”
"So far this year, just photo club, at least for me." Hikari shrugged and took her camera back from Takayama-kun, smiling a little as she did. "I guess I haven't been hanging around the tennis club as much this year, though. I kinda want to start taking pictures of other stuff instead … I mean, like I said, most of the guys I sort of knew aren't there any more, and that creepy lady from the newspaper still hangs around there, and she says I keep taking the good shots. Whatever that means."
Ayato shrugged. “Oh, you know it just means you’re better than she is,” he said, smiling. He sighed and leaned back on the blanket, gazing at the afternoon’s perfect blue sky. “I’m glad you could come – and bring food! I don’t… get to talk to too many other people here.” Part of that was his own fault, he knew, and part of that he liked, but talking to someone who wasn’t Takayama-kun – even if Takayama-kun was right here – was kind of refreshing.
"You would if you just got out more," Kouji pointed out, his voice as low-key as ever. "Really." Most of Terada's problems, he knew, could be solved just by spending some time with other people and not those damn books all the time. Probably not the other people at St Rudolph. While Kouji didn't exactly mind hanging out with Ayato, the guy had to get some other friends.
“Well, I wasn’t really complaining,” Ayato clarified. “I get out plenty – and I have to get out again, as a matter of fact, because I ran out of books yesterday.” Now that he knew the way to the bookstore, he was planning on going there tomorrow after practice and extra training. “Besides, I think maybe you get out a little too much. I still can’t believe they haven’t caught you just out of sheer luck.”
Kouji wasn't sure whether Terada meant his luck or theirs, but didn't press the issue, and instead uttered a non-committal noise in response, shrugging, before grabbing another container of food - the last one that had any substantial amount left in it. Funny - it had seemed like a lot of food when that girl had unpacked it all and laid it out on her silly tablecloth, but it had disappeared pretty damn quickly. He supposed it really didn't take much, between the three of them (especially when one of them was Terada), and the food being actually pretty good.
Hikari was pleased to see Takayama-kun enjoying her cooking. Maybe she'd make him a bento or something…. and then she'd ask him about that 'help' with her photography. She wondered if he minded costumed poses …
She very nearly played through the entire photoshoot in her mind before she was pulled from her reverie by her cellphone, and her father on the other end reminding her that she needed to be home soon. Very soon. Even if she was visiting her cousin. Embarrassed, she turned to her dining companions. "Hey, Aya, sorry to interrupt …"
Ayato stiffened, staring at Hikari. “Hi-Hikari-chan! I told you not to call me that anymore!” He cast a glance at his roommate, hoping he either hadn’t noticed or hadn’t cared.
Hikari's eyes widened at her apparent snafu. "Ohmigosh I'm so sorry," she apologized quickly. "I didn't mean - I mean, I'm sorry." She looked from her cousin to Takayama-kun and back, but the latter hadn't said anything derisive - he hadn't said anything at all - so she continued. "Anyway - sorry again - Dad just called and said I had to be home like, ten minutes ago, so I need to go. Um." She glanced at the mess of empty dishes scattered across the blanket. "Would you guys mind - I mean, I need to get this stuff cleaned up and back home, and - well." She laughed at herself, passing her lateness off as something hopefully cute, and started gathering the plastic dishes into the bags she'd originally brought them in.
Well, Takayama-kun hadn’t seemed to care… Thankfully. Ayato shook his head at his cousin’s lateness and bent to help her gather the remains of their picnic. “It’s okay,” he said to Hikari-chan, handing her the rest of the plastic dishes. Then he stood, shooing Takayama off the blanket so he and Hikari could fold it up.
“I’m glad you could come, though,” he said. “And thanks for the food! Do you want me to see you to the bus stop…?”
"Oh no," she said with a dismissive wave and a casual smile, shifting the bags on her arms to a more comfortable position. "I'll be fine. The closest one to here's in the complete other direction from your school anyway. Thanks for offering, though! And, and Takayama-kun, it was very nice to meet you. Hopefully I'll be seeing you soon again."
"Uh … sure," Kouji replied. Terada's cousin smiled at that, and he still thought she was weird, but she didn't say anything else as she waved at the two boys, and that was just fine with him. If Terada had to deal with her all the time it was no wonder he didn't want to get out that much. At least, Kouji thought, he'd gotten some free food.
Ayato waved his cousin off, then turned to Takayama-kun and motioned that they should start walking back towards the dorm. “I… uh, thanks for coming. You guys seemed to… kind of get along, right?” He looked hopefully at his roommate; while it had been pretty obvious that Hikari was interested in something from Takayama-kun, he really hoped his roommate had at least gotten some enjoyment out of the afternoon.
"I guess." It wasn't so much that they had gotten along, Kouji mused, as it was that they didn't argue. Terada's cousin really did remind him of Sayoko, especially the way she was now, what with all the trying to be cute and perky and whatever else it was that girls tried to be. It was really kind of creepy.
Ayato shrugged. “Good enough for me.” They walked in silence for a moment. “She’s really not so bad; I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time and all. She puts up with me pretty well.” It was true – Hikari had been amazingly helpful and accommodating, as of late, and Ayato really appreciated it. He only hoped she wouldn’t go overboard with this new Takayama thing. The last thing he wanted was for his roommate to think that he’d set his rabid cousin after him. It wasn’t at all like that, but Takayama tended to… take an interesting point of view, sometimes.
Kouji turned to look at his roommate. "What's to put up with?" he asked, and, in rare form, elaborated. "You're quiet. You read all the time. You're a goody-two-shoes, I mean, you're terrified of getting in trouble. You do all your homework and eat all your vegetables. And you're kind of a pushover." The last comment wasn't exactly polite, since Terada was technically his senior, but if said comment held true, Terada wouldn't say a damn thing about it.
Ayato cast a sideways glance at Takayama, but said nothing for a minute. “I guess it seems there isn’t much to put up with, huh?” He sighed. “But still, she’s cool. And, since I apparently need to get out more, I was going to go to the bookstore later this week. You wanna come? I was thinking of finding an arcade after . Or would the idea of me actually going out and doing something break your brain?” Now he grinned, just a little.
Kouji glared - however mildly - before turning his eyes back to the sidewalk again. He really couldn't imagine Terada in an arcade - wouldn't the noise break his brain? - but wasn't about to complain if he was actually determined to break the cycle of staying in all the time. He just hoped none of his friends would catch him hanging out with the good little Catholic boy. "Fine with me," he said.
“Cool.” Ayato said, nodding once. “I’m not that lame, you know,” he felt the need to point out. “Though I bet I suck at DDR by now. Haven’t had any practice.” He hadn’t been to an arcade… well, since he moved to Tokyo, really. There had been one right next door to his old bookstore, so that had made things quite convenient. “But if you do know where an arcade is… that’d be really great.” He smiled up at Takayama-kun, hoping the other boy wouldn’t be to averse to showing him around… again.
The only one he knew of offhand was on the other side of town, where he was used to hanging out, but it wasn't anything a quick search online couldn't take care of. "Yeah, I do," Kouji said, "but seriously, nobody plays DDR anymore. You'd probably look lamer for trying it at all these days."
Crap. He'd just given him a social tip. Oh well, no going back now. Besides, if Terada was going to be hanging out with him, he'd have to have at least some knowledge of what not to do.
“… Oh. Hm… Okay. Guess it’s back to button-mashing for me, then,” Ayato said, grinning. “Thanks, though. I really appreciate it. I mean, I’m sure I could find my way around, but it’s easier with someone who already knows where they’re going. I guess I can buy lunch this time, if you get hungry. I know I will.”
"Whatever," Kouji replied, keeping his focus on the path ahead. If Terada wanted to buy lunch, he wasn't about to complain - it meant he could spend more of his own money at the arcade, if he wanted.
“Great. Sometime this week, maybe. When I’m done running after practice.” Ayato made a mental note to extend one of his morning runs so he could cut one of his afternoon ones a little short. “So long as it doesn’t interfere with you going out and doing other stuff.”
They’d reached the dorms now, and Ayato pushed the door open, holding it for Takayama-kun before following him down the hallway towards their room.
Their arrival back at the dorm signalled, to Kouji, the end of the previous conversation, and he entered the room only long enough to grab his tennis bag. "I'm gonna go," he announced. He didn't have plans to go very far - just to the school's courts - but he'd spent the entire morning with strange people and just wanted to be alone for the remainder of the afternoon.
Ayato nodded. “Okay. I’ll be here.” He may have read all his books, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t start something over again. He found one he hadn’t read in a while as Takayama-kun left, and settled against the wall on his bed to read for the rest of the afternoon.