A/N: Due to some nagging support from friends (Mirufey, AngelDescendent, lookin' right atchu *finger guns*) I have come out of retirement and decided to give writing another try after the disastrous attempts in my tween years. Not saying I got any better, but at least I can do decent character development now.
Also, if the ending to this chapter seems rushed and choppy to you, I apologize. It was... actually totally rushed. This single chapter took me several months to do alone, I guess the fear of messing up kept me from producing more. But yolo and all that; my Kyoko has a special place in my heart and I want to share her with you all in the hopes that you give her a chance to become more than just a love rival/mafia waifu material/amano-induced-uselessness-in-canon *is totally not salty or anything*
I will be forever in your debt if you could slide me those reviews fam
She wakes before the alarm rings, so abruptly that she still sees the scenes play out behind her eyelids; Saturday mornings under the kotatsu, filled with laughter and color and vague happiness bubbling inside of her, but when she reaches for her mother's hand, she finds herself reaching for a star-speckled ceiling instead.
Half-lidded honey eyes take in the cheery glow of the glow-in-the-dark constellations before the suspended hand sways to one side and falls on the pillow with a dull thud. She blinks a few times and yawns, but doesn't do much else but remain catatonic under the cocoon of warm blankets. She stays this way, in a state between awareness and dreaming, until the first rays of sunlight begin illuminating the pink-washed walls and a sharp trill rings through the air. Abruptly, her hand closes on the artifact - a baby blue-colored dolphin clock with cute beady eyes - and presses its fin, stopping the sounds of crashing waves and happy renditions of Pii, pii, pii! Good morning! It's time to wake up!
With a small whine, she reluctantly slips out of bed and shuffles into her morning stretches. The motions come automatically after years of practice and repetition, her body straight but maintaining the natural curves of her spine as she begins with Standing Mountain Pose. Deep breath in, and squat as if sitting on an invisible chair. Chair Pose. Bend forward at the waist, hands behind ankles, legs nice and straight. Standing Forward Fold. She hears a crack. The tension melts from her shoulders.
Halfway through Downward Dog, she hears loud footsteps and a voice shouting, "Kyoko, I'm going on my extreme run!" followed by the loud bang of the front door. She huffs slightly in amusement and smoothly transitions into Four-Limbed Staff Pose. Forty seconds in, her abdomen is on fire and she regrets every life choice that led her to pick up yoga as a hobby. Competitive cake-eating is more her speed. Her brother would support her and her extreme(!) dreams. But policewomen need to be fit, so Kyoko holds all two minutes of the pose and daydreams about catching criminals in the name of Cake and Justice.
Sighing in relief, she finally slips into Child's Pose and lets her body go lax for several minutes, letting her breath even out and go back to its natural rhythm. Aside from keeping her body fit, morning exercises worked wonders on flushing out most of the morning grumpiness and lethargy. She could never be a functioning human being otherwise.
With a sigh and a hastily murmured "Namaste," she pries herself off the carpet and hurries downstairs to the kitchen to make breakfast.
By the time her brother is back, she is freshly showered and changed into her Namimori school uniform, humming absently while setting down breakfast on their tiny kitchen table. Ryohei stumbles in, hair in a disarray, forehead and neck plastered with sweat.
Kyoko is already reaching for the towel around his neck to dab at his temples. "Baka Onii-chan," she says warmly, and rubs the towel over his face just to hear him sputter. Serves him right for dripping sweat onto the floor. Gross.
She lets him bat her hand away but takes the towel, which is haphazardly thrown into the laundry basket before she goes to wash her hands. Staring at the running water, she has an idea. It's diabolical. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Her brother is at the kitchen table enjoying his fish when she ambushes him with flying water droplets. He jumps in his seat, nearly upending the whole table in his haste.
"Ha!" she flicks her hands, and he manages to dodge the second attack. With a battle cry, he dips his hands into the rice bowl and flings it her way. She 'eeps' and dives to the floor. Game on.
Fifteen minutes fly by. They fight well, but the war ends in a draw, having come to a conclusion after a harried glance at the clock. Ryohei's face is wet from water and miso soup, and Kyoko has rice on her uniform. She has to triple check in the mirror before stepping out of the house, but it's totally worth it when she spots a grain of rice assimilating with her brother's hair.
Revenge also occasionally comes with a side of rice, so she smiles and says nothing.
Kyoko bids farewell to her brother at the school gates and beams at Hana, who is patiently waiting for her with that particularly prickly brand of don't-touch-me sneer that warms Kyoko's heart but has the unfortunate effect of warning off anyone without the surname Sasagawa. Filled with a sense of appreciation for her best friend, Kyoko throws her arms around her waist and nuzzles her collarbone. Hana is good. Hana is perfect. The bestest friend ever.
Hana sighs, and in a show of incredible restraint, only pats her head with a faint sort of resignation that comes about with years of practice and many glomps of affection.
Both of them make their way to their classroom, being stopped every so often by 'Good morning Kyoko-chan!' and 'Sasagawa-chan looks cute as always!'. It is only Hana's grasp on her wrist and determined power-walk that gets them to class on time. The aggressive snarl might have more to do with that, though.
"Honestly…" Hana huffs, setting down her bag on the desk with a loud crack! that makes a few people jolt in surprise. "I'm beginning to understand Hibari and his hatred of crowds."
Kyoko smiles serenely and waves at Megumi-chan, Tomoko-chan, and Tsubaki-chan as they wish her good morning. "Hana-chan shouldn't be so grumpy in the mornings. People are just being nice."
"Hana-chan wouldn't be grumpy if people stopped crowding around you like useless herb - " Hana stops mid-sentence, mouth twisting into a grimace and eyes widening with horror.
Kyoko turns to Hana and smiles innocently. Brightly. Hana doesn't trust her for a second. "I think Hana-chan would look good with a pompadour."
"I think Hana-chan is done with this conversation."
Kyoko makes an effort not to giggle at Hana's relieved expression when Kuroda-sensei walks in, abruptly quieting the room. Maybe it's for the best that she doesn't remind Hana that the Disciplinary Committee, for all its faults, is actually gender inclusive.
With the exception of an impromptu fire drill, courtesy of a shame-faced Sawada ("So he just happened to trip, flip the plastic cover and pull down the switch accidentally?" "Poor Sawada-kun, he has terrible luck." "Kyoko, at this point I'm convinced it's a talent. The only talent he has. How can someone be so outrageously useless?" "Hana-chan!"), the rest of the day flies by undisturbed in a blur of kanji and Japanese history. Hana is quick to drag her out of school after the last bell rings, the promise of sweet cake placing an urgency in their movements. Laughing, Kyoko waves goodbye at her classmates and takes off; the sudden burst of speed startles a ridiculous squawk out of Hana and makes Kyoko laugh harder. It's a beautiful day.
They walk a lot. Their destination is rather far, strategically chosen (by Hana) to put a large distance between them and the people they know, but ultimately decided on (by Kyoko) because the desserts were simply divine.
Kyoko does a series of cartwheels and backbends on the vacant sidewalk to pass the time. It's great fun, especially when Hana's face does that twisty thing - ah, maybe she's annoyed her best friend too much today. But it's Cake Day! With a bubbly grin, she turns to Hana and declares, "Its Cake Day!"
"Yes, you've mentioned," Hana drones on boredly. "Multiple times, in fact. It's all you could talk about today. And the weekend. And last week."
"What are you going to get first, Hana-tan?"
"First of all, I love you, but never call me that again. And I don't know, I heard Cafe Kuma came out with a Matcha Mille Feuille that is to die for."
"I'm going to have one of everything," is Kyoko's fierce declaration. She may not have her brother's stamina or physical prowess, but she is confident in her cake-eating abilities. She is thankful for Cafe Kuma's monthly all-you-can-eat dessert buffet, otherwise neither she nor Hana could afford the fluffy confections for their Cake Appreciation Day.
Kyoko loves Cafe Kuma. Aside from their delicious desserts, she also loves the pink and brown color scheme, the cute bear designs pasted on the walls, and the permanent scent of baked goods in the air. She especially loves the stuffed bears scattered around the cafe, placed there by the waitstaff to keep the customers company. The largest bear there, a white bear nearly her size with arms and legs big enough to cover her face, is already waiting for them at their usual table by the time they step into the air-conditioned salon. Kyoko beams at Naomi, the hostess, in thanks and makes a dash for Nobu-chan.
Kyoko lets out a sigh of happiness as soon as her arms wrap around the love of her life. She snuggles deeper, closing her eyes. "I love you," she mumbles shyly, but honestly. Nobu-chan doesn't respond; he's only a bear, but that doesn't matter to Kyoko. He's soft and warm, and his reassuring presence is enough to calm her on stressful days when she just needs a hug.
Nobu-chan the bear has seen better days. The stitching in his stubby arms has come loose over many a year of tugging and squeezing by children, stuffing occasionally falling out when handled too roughly. There are several stains on his fluffy white fur from frosting, chocolate sauce, matcha powder, and all things sticky. The bright, buttery yellow ribbon on his neck stands out in contrast to the lackluster state of his body - Kyoko herself had bought it to replace the one he had lost, hoping to soothe his besmirched honor.
He is old, battered, and Kyoko loves him fiercely.
"I had to let a few customers know he was spoken for today," a voice speaks up in amusement.
"Thanks, Hisui," says Hana. "You know how creepy Kyoko's love affair with that bear is."
Hisui laughs and promptly brings out a bear from behind him. "I haven't forgotten about you either Hana-chan. Ta-da!"
"Ugh," says Hana, but reaches out her hands in a 'gimme' motion. Hisui hands over the small brown bear and dashes off to get their drinks. Kyoko stares at Hana, a wounded puppy-eyed look that makes Hana wince.
"How could you?" she whispers, squeezing Nobu-chan tighter.
"It's a freaking bear!" Hana throws up her hands in exasperation.
"Not just any bear, he gave you Mitsu!"
"You're ridiculous. I'm going to get my Mille Feuille now, bye."
"He's a traitor! You remember Honnō-ji, right? Nobu-chan lost his ribbon in that battle!"
Hana's response to that is to walk away stomping towards the cake stands. Kyoko scrambles out of her seat after her, but not before glaring at Mitsu's suspicious, beady eyes. They are so, so cold.
"Not today, Mitsu," she says under her breath, and beelines for the cheesecake.
"Tadaima!" crows a jubilant Kyoko upon returning home.
"Okaeri to the extreme!" is the rambunctious reply, followed by loud footsteps and a welcoming grin. Ryohei skids to a stop before her and extends out his arms eagerly.
She pretends not to understand. "Do you want… some cake maybe?"
He shakes his head furiously.
"You sure?" she singsongs. "I've got Strawberry Shortcake."
He shakes his head again, wiggling his fingers for emphasis. She laughs joyously and stops pretending, throwing herself at her brother with an almost aggressive fervor. She's lifted off the ground and spun around once, twice, three times until she's dizzy and just a bit nauseous from her full belly.
"I'm home!" she giggles, squeezing biceps and warmth.
"Okaeri," says the sun, beaming down at her. "Welcome home."
Kyoko's mornings have been structured into a routine throughout the years, especially after taking up yoga. Routines made her feel secure, and had the added benefit of making sure she was never late to school.
Naturally, the day the greatest hitman makes his appearance is the very day Kyoko wakes up late. (She won't make the connection until much later, but by then it'll be just one more thing to blame Reborn for.)
Kyoko's hands are clammy as she takes the prepared bento and thanks Yamaguchi-oba-san fervently, promptly taking off at a sprint. Hana already called twice and sent a total of six messages, ranging from 'Where r u?' to 'do I need to call the police?'
It isn't an exaggeration on Hana's part - Kyoko really has never been late. But Kyoko will also never admit to Hana that she didn't actually oversleep, but rather spent the morning suffering from extreme(!) stomach aches that may or may not have been caused by the overconsumption of cake. She puts her money on the triple-chocolate Baumkuchen being the culprit. So dense (...but so good.)
"This is all your fault," she tells her tummy briefly. "You have no self-control - ooh how cute!" Kyoko skids to a stop and squeals.
"Ciaossu," says the cute baby with the curliest sideburns she's ever seen.
"Ohayo!" she beams, squatting down on the floor. "I like your suit. Are you going to a costume party?"
"No, I'm a hitman."
There's a strange, high-pitched noise nearby. Probably someone boiling water for tea or something, Kyoko muses distractedly.
("Hiiieeee!" screams Tsuna, seeing his crush completely ignore him in favor for that weirdo stalker baby. No wonder they call it crushes, the disappointment is indeed crushing.)
"Oh, how cool!" Kyoko checks her phone briefly and grimaces. "Well, I have to go now or I'll be late for school. Have fun, ne? Bye bye!"
"Bye bye," he echoes cutely, beady eyes staring at her fixedly.
(She feels his stare until she turns the corner and is out of sight.
Babies are so strange.)
Good news is that she isn't late.
Bad news is that she can never go back to school ever again.
"You're being dramatic," Hana tells her as she's frogmarched into the gym. "Two guys fighting for your affection? Isn't that exciting?"
"You're right. Mochida's passable, but Sawada on the other hand," Hana grimaces. "I guess if bean sprouts are your thing…"
"Alright, alright, I'll stop teasing. I know this whole thing is embarrassing for you, but remember your brother's going to be there if it gets out of hand."
"That makes it worse!" Kyoko nearly wails. She should've stayed home. Maybe her stomach aches were a warning for things to come. Bad things. Horrible, embarrassing things.
"Kyoko!" Ryohei yells once they're inside the gym. He means well, she knows, but his sudden declaration also alerts everyone in the room of her presence, and in a blink of an eye she's being swarmed.
"Sasagawa, are you alright?"
"Mochida will teach Sawada a lesson!"
"The utter nerve of that no-good loser! How dare he -"
"-to our own idol, too! Unacceptable!"
"Get the hell out of our way, you monkeys!" Hana barks, holding an arm out in front of Kyoko. Unbidden, Kyoko's heart swells with affection and gratitude. Hana teases and prods, but she's always protecting her too.
"Kyoko!" calls out another voice, and silence descends the gym.
"M-Mochida-senpai…" she smiles weakly, wishing her name was Keiko or Kyomi or anything that didn't sound like Kyoko.
The kendo captain opens his mouth to say something, and then -
"He really came!"
"No way," whistles Hana next to her, eyes wide. "I made a bet with Megumi that he would chicken out. Damn."
"Hana-chan!" Kyoko admonishes, but it's half-hearted at best. Sawada-kun showing up means there's going to be a fight. A fight. Because of her.
"Not again," she whispers, heart clenching as Sawada makes his way to Mochida-senpai on trembling legs. He looks scared, but something in his gaze is resolute.
Please, Sawada-kun, walk away. I'm not worth it! She begs.
He marches on, and while everyone watches in amazement as the impossible unfolds, all Kyoko can do is watch helplessly.
When the last bell rings, Kyoko doesn't wait for Hana or her brother to catch up with her as she runs out of class and straight to the gates. She ignores her classmates' shouts of concern and dashes past the Disciplinary Committee members attempting to stop her from running in the halls.
She just wants to go home, take a nap, maybe trek all the way to Cafe Kuma to snuggle with Nobu-chan. She wants a warm cup of tea and a plate of Yamaguchi-oba-san's umeboshi onigiri.
She wants -
"Sasagawa Kyoko," a squeaky voice interrupts the silence, startling her out of her frenzied thoughts. She looks around and is taken aback when she spots the baby from that morning, still impeccably dressed in his suit and fedora.
"Hey there little guy," she greets, peering down at him warily. "Are you lost? Can I help you with anything?"
He stares at her with fathomless dark eyes, and Kyoko feels a little silly for the sudden frisson of unease running up and down her spine.
"You can start," he says casually, "by explaining why a civilian girl in middle school with no prominent connections or previous affiliations has some of the most potent active Mist flames I've seen from someone who shouldn't, by all accounts, even know of their existence." He cocks his head, and the threat in his voice is as real as the gun in hand. "And Sasagawa? You've been using illusions to cover that stain on your shirt since lunch. So talk."
Chapter one, also known as Kyoko's no good, very bad day.
Review for more sibling love and savage Hana!