Hey, who wants a Momoharu fic? You? Okay! As a head's up, this fic is intended as a sequel to signelchan's "Shuichi and Kaede's Ultimate Love Song," but it's not like this hinges on that too much or anything. You can still enjoy this fic without having read that one. However, I do recommend it because signelchan is my lovely girlfriend and her writing is so so good. But anyway, please enjoy (un)Usual!
It wasn't unusual for Kaito to spontaneously decide he wanted to do something, so when he burst into their room and declared they were going out on a date, Maki knew to just go along with it instead of wasting time trying to argue. It wasn't like she had anything to do, so why not? "What're you waiting for, Maki Roll? Let's go!"
Maki sighed, setting her phone down next to her and stretching her arms over her head. "You should probably give me more than two seconds to react in between saying we're going somewhere and telling me to hurry up." She spat the words, but judging by the fact that she was getting ready anyway, she didn't mean anything by it. He was already fully dressed, so he stood against the door frame, somewhat patiently watching his wife get dressed. "What are you staring at?" she asked when she noticed his gaze. She paused, only wearing her underwear, and put her hands on her hips. Instead of responding, Kaito went slack-jawed, and his eyes widened. "Well? Stop staring at me like some sort of neanderthal."
The insult brought Kaito back down to earth, and he shook his head, chuckling as he did. "Sorry, Maki Roll. I just got distracted." He pushed himself off the door frame and walked into the room. Once he reached Maki, he put his hands on her hips and pulled her in close. "Sometimes you're just breathtaking, you know that?"
"I'd be more flattered if I wasn't nearly naked while you were saying that," Maki said, a small smile on her lips.
Kaito laughed again and pulled her closer. They shared a long, tender kiss, completely lost in each other's embrace. Maki wrapped her arms around his neck and laced her fingers in his hair, but came back to reality when she felt his hands move up her back and start fiddling with her bra strap. She moved her hands to his chest and pushed gently, breaking their kiss. "Hey," she said, still breathless. "I thought you wanted to go on a date."
Kaito's confused expression changed to wide-eyed excitement. "Oh, right! I totally forgot! Sorry, Maki Roll, we kinda started going out of order there. You get dressed, I promise I won't interrupt again."
Maki shook her head. "Idiot."
Once she was dressed and they were leaving their house, Maki's gaze was immediately drawn to the sky, where dark clouds were billowing just overhead. "What the hell is going on up there?" she asked.
Kaito shrugged. "Huh, it does seem a bit stormy for the middle of fall. Usually it's practically winter by now. Either way, we can't let it rain on our parade. Let's go!"
The couple piled into one of their cars, and as Kaito started the engine, Maki asked, "Do you even know where we're going?"
For a moment, Kaito stared out the front of the windshield silently. "I...hadn't thought of that. Well, I'll drive around our favorite spots and whatever tickles our fancy is where we'll go!"
As the car shifted into reverse and lurched backward down the driveway, Maki rolled her eyes. "Have you ever planned anything out in your life?"
"I planned to marry you," Kaito said without missing a beat. "I'd say that ended up working out pretty well."
Maki felt her face heat up. "Do you want to die?" she asked while she played with one of her pigtails.
Despite the lack of proper planning and the nearly explicit interruption, it was still a par for the course date night for the small Momota family. The only abnormality was the unseasonably dreary weather, but was that really so weird? Eventually, they decided on one of their favorite restaurants, one that was out of the way and typically didn't have too much going on at once. As per the usual, they were seated and had their orders taken quickly, but while they were waiting on their food, a larger family came in, toting three unruly children that immediately ruined the slow atmosphere of the restaurant. Maki puffed her cheeks out in a pout as she watched the children run around their table fighting over chairs. "Of all the places in town to take your brats," she grumbled.
Kaito turned around in his seat to watch the mess unfold. The children were still unseated, and the parents were throwing out desperate pleas for peace and quiet. "Yeah, I guess we can't win 'em all."
At that point, one of the children had quietly detached from the family entirely and started wandering the restaurant aimlessly. The small child nearly made a beeline for the table Maki and Kaito were at, looking up with wide-eyed wonder at the woman present. "Hello..." he said, waving a small, chunky hand in her direction.
"Well hey, little guy!" Kaito replied, waving one hand curtly. "Maybe you should get back to your mommy and daddy."
The child smiled wide simply because he was responded to, but seemed to ignore the follow-up comment, instead pointing at Maki. "You have lots of hair!" he said, bouncing in place and nearly losing his balance from doing so. "Like, boom!"
Kaito burst into laughter while Maki glared at the kid. Before she could say anything, he collected himself and reminded her, "Now Maki Roll, this isn't one of our friends' kids, so you can't get too rude."
Maki sighed, biting back the scathing remark she was about to make. Sure, Kaede and Shuichi would have forgiven her for telling their kids to buzz off, but a stranger wouldn't react so kindly to a child who perhaps didn't know how standoffish she tended to be. Instead, she slid off her chair and kneeled in front of the kid, getting on his level. "My hair does not go boom," she said, deadly serious. The big, dumb kid couldn't help but giggle at the silly statement, and the young child seemed entertained by it too. Maki put her hand on the boy's head and turned it back toward his family. "Now go back over there and let us eat our food, okay? If I hear you making too much noise, I'll put on a big hat and you will never see my big hair again, got it?"
The kid nodded and wordlessly scurried back to his family, eager to share with them the story of his encounter. "I hate kids," Maki sighed as she resumed her seat, trying to ignore the awestruck look her husband was giving her.
"Wow, Maki Roll, you're like an expert," he said. "Why don't you do that more often?"
"Because if I did that all the time, our friends would all expect me to be their babysitter, and I'm not raising any children period, much less someone else's that they dumped on me because they suck at their jobs."
"I don't think Kaede would take well to hearing that," Kaito said, leaning forward, elbows resting on the table. "You gotta have more faith in our friends."
Maki could see their food leaving the kitchen and approaching their table, so she abruptly put an end to the conversation with a stern, "Get your elbows off the table."
Once the food was eaten and the bill was paid, Maki was ready to get out, but Kaito was in no rush. "Isn't it amazing how the kiddo you spoke to hasn't made a peep since he came over here? He musta taken you seriously."
"They tend to do that," Maki said, putting her light jacket back on. "Now let's go."
Kaito finally obliged and they stood to leave, immediately drawing that child's attention. "Bye bye, big hair!" he screamed after them, waving his now food-covered hand in their direction.
"See ya, little guy!" Kaito called back as they stepped outside.
"What the fuck?"
"What's wrong, Maki Roll?" Kaito asked. "I didn't want that kid to not get any reply at all, y'know?"
"Not that," Maki said. "Look around you, idiot."
Kaito did as she said and was made aware that they were already soaking wet from the torrential downpour that had stirred up while they were eating. "Holy shit!" he yelled. "I didn't think that cloud would cause so much trouble!"
"Shut up and let's get to the car," Maki said, practically sprinting for safety. The rain was coming down hard and fast; each fat drop felt like it was piercing their clothes and shooting ice-cold shivers radiating out from its point of impact.
They practically threw themselves into the car and panted heavily as they watched the sky fall around them. There was no thunder, lightning, or anything else that would signal such a sudden. heavy rainfall, but there it was.
"Well, time to drive home in this," Kaito said. "It's like the storm of the fuckin' century over here."
"You're being over dramatic. There's not even any thu—"
There was the thunder.
Maki jumped in her seat, taking a moment to collect herself after being interrupted. "Just be careful."
"Roger that, Maki Roll!"
It wasn't a long drive home, but the combination of low visibility, the heavy rain, and everyone else on the roads made it a much longer ride than it should have been. When they pulled into their driveway, Kaito shut the car off and slumped back in his seat, breathing a sigh of relief. "Whew, we made it. It is October, right? Am I dumb, or is this kinda rainfall at this time of year weird?"
"You've always been dumb," Maki said, ignoring the rest of the sentence. "Now how do we get inside?"
"We make a run for it?" Kaito suggested with a shrug.
"I'm still soaked from the minute we were outside the restaurant," Maki said. "This is just going to make it worse."
"Well, we can't just wait for the rain to let up in here, now can we?"
The conversation paused for a thunder clap that shook the ground. "Right," Maki said.
"Tell ya what," Kaito said, "after the next thunder, we make a mad dash for the door."
"Right." Maki nodded. She rested her hand on the handle and listened closely.
The sky lit up, and in the second between that and the thunder clap, Kaito yelled, "Now!" He scrambled for the door, Maki almost right behind him. He got to the door and fiddled with the house keys, struggling to put it in the keyhole for several seconds. Maki watched him drop them, frantically snatch them off the ground and finally unlock the door, not even waiting for him to open it fully before she ran inside. He slammed the door closed behind them and paused to collect himself in the entryway.
Maki had already made it to their room, but he could hear her yell back at him, "You mixed up thunder and lighting again, you moron."
"Oh, I guess I did, huh?" After catching his breath, Kaito moved into the bedroom to see Maki practically tear her soaking wet clothes off. "And then I dropped the keys like some kind of rocket scientist."
"Yeah, you did," Maki said, stepping out of her pants. This scene of her in her underwear and Kaito fully dressed was familiar, but she was more focused on something else. "Damn it, that rain was so cold, I'm still shivering." Indeed, the cold rain had penetrated all the way to her skin, even soaking her underwear.
"Yeah, me too," Kaito said, crossing his arms over his chest. "My clothes are soaked, they're doing a better job of keeping me cold than warm."
"Then take them off like I am, dumbass," Maki spat.
Kaito looked to her with a raised eyebrow. "I think that's a great idea, Maki Roll," he said, stepping closer. In a flash, his shirt was discarded, and once it hit the floor, Maki practically threw herself into his arms, still shivering. "Hey, d-did you have the same idea I did?"
"No," she said simply. "I'm so cold, I'll take all the body heat I can get."
"Well, maybe you should listen my idea," Kaito said, wrapping his arms around her and resting his hands on the small of her back. "It involves adding some extra body heat..." He moved his hands down, and when she felt his thumbs slide under the waistband of her underwear, she looked up at him. They made eye contact and within seconds, she could no longer feel the wet, cold garment on her bottom half, the sensation replaced by his warm, wandering hands.
They kissed each other again, but this time, they didn't break apart for a much longer time.
Trouble was brewing, but the Momota family had no way of possibly knowing that. Instead, Maki was focused on the very next week and trying desperately to wiggle her way out of having to dress up for the Halloween party. Kaito was insistent, and he promised his matching costume ideas were going to be great, but Maki knew that whatever they did would be overshadowed by a certain couple who were going to be there, and as the designated driver, she preferred not to have to drive to and from the party in some stupid costume.
Kaito eventually came up with a compromise, which was how she ended up wearing a headband with a small star-shaped pin on it. The house the party was set to take place at was decked to the nines, complete with fog machines, jack-o-lanterns with bizarre faces carved into them, and yard decorations that made it look like a mausoleum in the middle of a graveyard. Kaito shivered as he took in the sight. "I appreciate one of our old classmates deciding to organize a get-together like this, but I'm starting to have second thoughts about this."
"Scared?" Maki asked, turning off the car and sticking the keys in her pocket.
Kaito shook his head. "Of course not! I'm the Luminary of the Stars, and I never get scared! I just know this particular old friend of ours likes to tease me about...certain things." The couple got out of the car and he adjusted his big, unwieldy astronaut costume. "He knows he always gave me the creeps and uses that to his advantage."
Maki didn't feel like teasing him again, so she started towards the house. Kaito scrambled to keep up with her, making sure they didn't get too separated in the spooky front yard. Maki hadn't even begun to raise her hand to knock before the front door slowly slid open with a loud, over dramatic creaking noise. A wave of fog came rushing out of the house as a creepy, high-pitched laugh rang out in the middle. "A pleasure to see you both here tonight," the voice said. A gloved hand reached slowly out of the fog and beckoned them to step forward. "Please. Do come in. This gathering is open to both the living...and the dead."
As the hand retracted, Kaito audibly gulped and stayed rooted in his spot. He merely stared at the receding fog, waiting for the owner of the house to appear from inside. When the fog cleared and nobody was in the doorway, he audibly whined, but Maki dragged him inside by his forearm regardless. She would have been lying if she said she didn't find amusement in watching Kaito get freaked out by the holiday, but she could only get so much mileage out of that by standing on Korekiyo's front porch. "Thank you for inviting us," she said as the door screeched closed behind them. "Are we the first to get here?"
Kiyo appeared from the shadows, shaking his head. His costume seemed to be a somewhat generic uniform, but on his face he wore a mask, a zipper where his mouth would be. Despite the zipper being firmly closed, they could hear his voice perfectly when he spoke. "No, I should be the one to thank you for coming. I know how one of you feels about my...aesthetic, and it means a lot to me that you came regardless. Some of us have already arrived, so please feel free to mingle."
"So what're you supposed to be?" Kaito asked.
Kiyo shook his head. "My costume does not have any deeper meaning, don't think too hard about it."
"That's not unsettling at all," Kaito grumbled as he and Maki made their way to the kitchen, leaving Kiyo's smart remark about the astronaut costume to fall on deaf ears. Three of their old classmates were already present, and they all greeted the couple with wide smiles (for the most part.) "Hey, Tenko's here!" Kaito called, waving at the friend they had the most contact with.
The red jumpsuit-clad woman nodded at him and gave a warm smile to Maki. "Hey, Maki," she said. "It's nice to see you, as always!"
"What're you?" Kaito asked, unfazed by her attempt at ignoring him.
Tenko's face morphed took on a displeased expression. "Typical. You would use that kind of language when I'm dressed as a badass woman."
One of their other classmates giggled, using this as a good point to jump into the discussion. "In his defense, you are a female version of a character who's typically a male, so it's understandable he would take a moment to recognize you."
Tenko rolled her eyes, putting her hands on her hips. "Don't make excuses for him, Tsumugi! Superheroes become the fairer sex all the time!"
Tsumugi pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Yeah, but Daredevil? Hardly anyone's first choice for a genderbend."
"We're here for ten seconds and you start spewing nerd shit," Maki said flatly. "Never change, Tsumugi."
Tsumugi gave Maki a smile. "I could say the same to you, Maki. Do you like my cosplay?" She showed off her costume by twirling, putting her hard work on full display. If not for her blue hair and glasses, she would have looked like a stunning recreation of a character. "I'll admit it's re-used from the last con I went to, but I didn't think you guys would mind too much."
A deep, gravelly voice sounded out from just out of sight, saying, "And here I am, wearing a red hat and calling myself a gnome."
Kaito laughed and jabbed a thumb in Maki's direction. "Don't sweat it, Ryoma, it's still not as lazy as Maki Roll's costume."
"I wasn't going to dress as the sun," Maki said.
"You weren't gonna be the sun," he grumbled. The rest of his complaint was cut off though, as the door creaked open again and screams rang out through the house. The two voices were all too familiar to Maki, but she was grateful for the head's up that she could use to start preparing herself for having to interact with children again.
The conversation resumed, but Maki could hear four distinct sets of footsteps approaching, and the dread it filled her with was enough to counteract her excitement to see the two people who were arguably her best friends. The Saihara family, complete with their two children, burst into the kitchen triumphantly. Of course, they were all wearing matching costumes, and most of the party-goers admirably cooed at how sickeningly adorable it was.
Maki, however, was more annoyed than anything. "Of all the things you could dress as, you chose the fucking shark family?"
Kaede put a finger to her lips, struggling to reach her hand over the fake foam teeth that circled her neck. "Watch your language around the girls, Maki."
Aika, the older daughter, started clapping her flippers and singing the song in question, and Kochou—her sister—eagerly joined in.
Tsumugi's smile faded as the young girls sang and danced in circles around their parents. "Okay, it's slightly less cute when they start singing the song."
Shuichi smiled sheepishly. "The moment they laid eyes on these costumes, they had their hearts set on it, and we couldn't let them down." Aika pointed at her dad when she reached the pivotal verse about daddy shark, and Kochou did the same.
"You gotta admit that's cute," Ryoma said, putting his hands in his pockets.
Maki didn't agree. "You should have let them down."
The sound of her voice snapped Aika out of her trance-like state and she whirled around to face one of her favorite people in the world. "Maki!" she screeched, clapping her hands. "What are you for Halloween?"
Maki pointed at the shitty star pin on her headband. "Star."
"Not just any star," Kaito said, ready to pick up his rant where he left off. "Good ol' Maki Roll is Polaris, the North Star!"
There were exactly two proper nouns Aika understood in that sentence, and she happily clapped along to the second one. "North Star! I heard about that!"
Kaito grinned proudly. "Did you know Polaris is about four hundred light years away? That means the North Star we see in the sky tonight is how much light it was giving off four hundred years ago, so it's like looking into a window to the past. It could have exploded two hundred years ago and we wouldn't even know it!"
Aika and Kochou stared at Kaito blankly. Kochou's face scrunched up into a confused and vaguely concerned expression, but Maki determined it seemed to be caused by a tuft of her dark hair falling into her face.
"Anyway," Kiyo said, entering the kitchen with another guest at his side. "It's good to see you two. I believe this is the first time I've seen you since you...reproduced."
The new guest, decked out in pirate gear, chuckled at his side. "A weird way to put it, but yeah. I think the last time I saw you was right before the older one was born."
Kaede smiled at him and gave him the best attempt at a hug she could in the big, awkward shark costume. "Good to see you again too, Rantaro."
Shuichi nodded at Kiyo. "And it's always a pleasure, Kiyo. You'll have to tell me about your latest findings before we leave tonight."
"Yes, I do have much intrigue to share with you," Kiyo said. "I look forward to it immensely."
Rantaro wasn't the last guest to show up, but that was when the party started, some people splitting off into groups and others moving between old classmates to mingle. Rantaro and Kiyo, who were both notorious for spending more time out of town than in it, made it a point to catch up with each and every one of their classmates that showed up.
"So did you invite our whole group here?" Kaede asked Kiyo when he was with them.
Kiyo responded by shaking his head slowly. "No. I realized some of my guests would be with their offspring, so I neglected to invite the less...savory ones for their sakes."
"Thanks for that, Kiyo," Shuichi said, adjusting his shark costume. "I don't know how I would have handled Miu traumatizing our kids."
"I would much rather avoid making them watch her grope me," Kaede agreed.
Kiyo nodded sagely. "A sight none of us would want to see either. As far as I understand it, that job falls exclusively to Shuichi, and I'd say he's pretty good at it, judging by the evidence presented."
The couple immediately blushed and averted their gaze. "D-don't say something like that where they can hear you," Kaede stuttered.
During that conversation, Rantaro was busy catching up with Kaito and Maki. Kaito was coming up with excuses as to why he hadn't gone into space (yet) and almost everything one of them said reminded Rantaro of an anecdote from his travels that he could share. Eventually, though, Aika wandered to them and tugged on Maki's pant leg. "Maki," she said. "Maaaaki."
Maki sighed and looked down to the intruder. "Hello," she said flatly. "Go back to your mommy shark, please."
Aika smiled wide and giggled loudly as he scurried back to her mom, humming the baby shark song loudly. Rantaro watched her and laughed. "You're still just as good with kids as ever, I see," he said to Maki.
"Unfortunately," Maki agreed.
Rantaro twirled a lock of his hair around his pointer finger as he shifted his gaze back to the couple. "So..."
"I don't think I like your tone," Maki said. "But continue."
Rantaro held his hands up defensively. "I'm just saying, you're getting older, and you've been married a while..."
Kaito blushed and Maki glared daggers at Rantaro. "Do you want to die?" she spat. "That's not gonna happen."
Rantaro opened his mouth to speak, but Kaito interrupted. "Say, didn't you have a kid recently, Rantaro?"
"Yeah, sure did," Rantaro said. "She's a cute one, too. Would you like to see her?"
The couple gave two opposite answers at the same time, and while Kaito moved around Rantaro's shoulder to watch him pull out his phone, Maki turned and marched toward someone else. Despite how often they saw each other, she decided to end up at Tenko's side, praying she wasn't talking about her own child. Unfortunately, the moment she had reached the group of Tenko, Ryoma and Tsumugi, one of them was asking questions about family. "Don't you have a kid, too?" Ryoma asked. "Where's your family at?"
Tenko seemed visibly pained to have to talk to a man, but it seemed her pride about her family had overridden that. She puffed out her chest and put her hands on her hips. "I'll have you know my beautiful baby Toumi is resting back at home with Himiko. She never did like Halloween, so she chose to spend quality time with the baby."
"You adopted, right?" Tsumugi asked, receiving a nod in return. "Right. I think I'd end up adopting too, honestly. Either way, my career as a cosplayer would be done, but I'd rather that happen from the financial strain of having a kid over my body getting ruined."
"Your body wouldn't get ruined!" Tenko spat. "Why, just look at Kaede! She's had two and she's still just as gorgeous as the day I met her. The only reason Himiko and I adopted our dear, sweet little Toumi was because I'd rather die than get pumped full of a male's spe—"
"I've heard enough," Maki said, frantically looking for someone else to talk to. Everywhere she turned, there were either conversations about children or the Saihara kids themselves, and the only relief could find had to come in the form of the religious fanatic or the entomologist, and neither of those topics were particularly appealing to her either. She was left with no other option, so she ended up at Gonta's side, hoping that his intimidating figure would ward off the ankle-biters. Sure, the anecdotes and bug facts he was spilling in his strange manner of speaking were completely uninteresting, but it wasn't enough to give her a headache.
It wasn't long before Kaito appeared at her side, Rantaro presumably missing to show someone else baby pictures. "Hey Maki Roll, hey Gonta," he said, wrapping an arm around the former's waist. "Whatcha talking about?"
Maki put on a smirk and said, "Gonta was just telling me about the praying mantis. Hey, could you remind me what the female does to her mates?"
Gonta put a finger to his chin. "Gonta don't remember that, but Gonta can say that praying mantis tears her mate's head off."
Maki shot a menacing look at Kaito. "Interesting."
Kaito raised an eyebrow. "I don't get it. Hey, what are you dressed as, Gonta?"
Gonta looked down at his khaki clothes and shrugged. "Gonta didn't have costume ready, so Gonta just put on expedition clothes."
Tsumugi peeked over Kaito's shoulder, her sudden appearance startling Maki. "Weird," she said. "With those muscles, you look just like a character in an anime..."
Suddenly, another screech echoed through the house, causing everyone at the party to jump. "Oh my god!" Gonta screamed, cupping his cheeks in his hands.
"Yeah, that one," Tsumugi said under her breath.
Maki investigated the source of the screeching, which seemed to be coming from just around the corner. When she poked her head into the next room, she saw Kochou and Aika, shivering on the floor in each other's arms. Kiyo was sitting in a chair nearby, but he seemed to be the only adult in the room. "What's going on here?" Maki was wary of making her presence known, but the fact that the kids were apart from their parents was mildly concerning.
"Maki!" Aika yelled, trying to get up to run to her "auntie" but getting tangled in her sister's frantic limbs.
"Ah, hello," Kiyo said, giving Maki a small wave. "I was providing entertainment by telling the children a ghost story."
"Kiyo's so scary," Kochou whined.
"Little ones," Kiyo said, taking on a tone that made it sound like he was reminding them of something he'd said before. "Halloween is meant to be scary. Cultures all over the world have relished in being scared on this night for centuries."
The girls merely whined in response, but Maki wasn't phased. "Where are their parents?" she asked.
"Enjoying the festivities without worrying about tripping over their own spawn," Kiyo explained.
Maki left the room without another word. As much as she bemoaned them, she did miss being able to spend time with her friends without the children being present, so she wasted no time in tracking them down for that exact purpose. When she found them talking to Kirumi, she wordlessly slipped into the group to listen to one of Shuichi's stories from work. He was occasionally interrupted by Kaede making a smart remark, and always responded by shooting her a pointed, somewhat charged look. The conversation they shared from there was nice, and once Kaito joined in, the way everyone laughed and exchanged jokes reminded Maki of the good old days, before the other couple got weighed down by the decisions they had made. The realization that she truly, deeply missed her friends hit her hard, and if it weren't for the light-hearted nature of the conversation, she would have had a hard time keeping a straight face about it. Over the course of nine months, their entire lives had changed from one decision, and this kind of conversation was a relic of times long gone, now more of a pleasant surprise than a regular occurrence.
What else had been lost to time that she hadn't realized was missing? What else had the Saiharas taken from them? How could they be so selfish? And did they need to add insult to injury by having two of the little parasites? As Maki's train of thought wandered, she must have shown her emotional journey on her face, because after giving Kaede another wink and eyebrow wiggle, Shuichi caught her gaze and seemed to become concerned. "Maki? You alright?" he asked.
A tipsy Kaito seemed to notice her expression for the first time, craning his neck to see her face. "Oh, you know all about her resting bitch face, bro."
"Yeah, I'm fine." Now that she was snapped back to reality, Maki rejoined the conversation, determined to actually try and enjoy the time with her former best friends.
The party ended and the class went their separate ways, complete with empty promises to get together more often. On the drive home, Maki heaved a deep sigh, her entire petite frame slumping as she exhaled. "Kaito, I think I hate them."
"What?" Kaito was drunk, but he was able to keep his composure long enough to hear Maki retrace her steps from earlier, telling him about how she resented Shuichi and Kaede for making such a huge decision. When she was done, he shook his head. "Come now, Maki Roll, you don't mean that. Kaede and Shuichi will always be our best friends, and they could have a million babies before that changes."
Maki sighed. "I guess you're right."
"I think you're just being overdramatic," Kaito continued. "Are you moody because you're on your period or something?"
Maki gasped at his blunt wording. "No, you idiot, I'm on birth control."
They shared a laugh, after which he leaned back in his seat, eyes closed. "It was nice having some time to the four of us. And Kirumi for the time she was there."
Maki nodded, eyes glued to the road. "Yeah, but I bet they were ready to have time to the two of them."
"Did you see the way Shuichi was looking at Kaede all night?" When Kaito didn't respond, she continued, "Those horny-ass sharks are going to bang tonight, and you don't need to be the Ultimate Detective to see that."
As they tend to do, the end of year holidays kept coming, and it was only a matter of time until The Big One was upon them.
Christmas started like most other mornings. Consciousness slowly crept up on Maki, but the warmth of her husband's embrace kept her in place until he started rousing from his own slumber. His big, obnoxiously loud yawn was the sign that he was awake, and the arm draped over her tightened around her slowly, like a tree snake lazily constricting its perch. His palm found a perch of its own, and Maki could feel her face heat up at the sensation.
"You're not slick," she said. Her hand moved to his, holding it in place to tell him that she was being playful in her scolding.
Kaito laughed, kissing Maki's neck and pressing closer to her. "Merry Christmas, Maki Roll. I love you."
Against her better judgment, Maki let a pleased noise leave her lips. "Did you get me anything this year?"
"Of course I did," Kaito said sleepily. "Why?"
Maki smiled. "I'm not going to have sex with you if you're going to do it to make up for not getting me anything."
She heard a chuckle and a promise that he did, in fact, get her something, and that was all she really wanted to hear. She turned around and the only words spoken for the next little while were whispered, gasped, and moaned.
Once things had calmed down and pajamas had been put back on, the two laid in bed doing their usual morning phone routines, catching up to social media and seeing what had happened while they were asleep.
Kaito gasped loudly, darted wide eyes to Maki's phone screen and looked back to his own. "What?"
"You'll see," Kaito said, jumping to his feet in a hurry. "But later. For now, let's open presents, yeah?"
Maki raised an eyebrow, but followed him into the living room anyway, warily pocketing her phone. This kind of behavior wasn't too unusual from the easily excited Kaito, but the dead serious expression he had when he gasped and the way he seemed to be purposefully distracting Maki from her phone gave her a bad feeling.
She decided it would be easier to trust that she didn't want to see whatever it was, so she shifted her focus to the modest gift exchange waiting for her in the living room. Kaito sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree with a small box nestled in his lap. Just like every year, the sight made her nostalgic for the Christmas mornings at her orphanage, where kids would gather under the tree and enjoy each other's company in lieu of any gift giving. She knew he always did that on purpose, and every year she forgot whether she appreciated it or despised it.
She sat in front of him and he gave her a smile that seemed ever so slightly forced. "I'll go first this year, Maki Roll." He extended his arms, presenting the package wrapped in purple, glittery wrapping paper. As Maki started delicately unwrapping the package, Kaito gave her a quick disclaimer. "It's not the fanciest gift I've ever given ya, but I hope you like it anyway."
Under the wrapping paper was a small brown box that was obviously meant to hold jewelry, and inside sat a modest yet beautiful charm bracelet. The charms hanging from it were mostly space-themed, with stars, rocket ships and the occasional heart-shaped moon. In the middle, the biggest star was engraved with Maki's name. "Your name was an extra charge," Kaito explained. "But I wanted to get it to show you that you're the brightest star in my sky."
The sentiment almost brought tears to Maki's eyes, but she held them back in favor of a scathing remark about sappy her husband was. Despite the venom, she slipped it on her wrist with a quiet "I love it."
She had hoped he didn't hear the more tender expression, but judging by his shit-eating grin, she couldn't get it past him.
The next order of business was the significantly bigger box behind Maki. She lifted it and handed it to Kaito, careful not to jostle it too much to betray what it was. Of course, he noticed this and shook it the moment he had his hands on it, hearing all the little parts tumble around inside. "Hmmm…" He put on a contemplative look, but he clearly had no guesses.
"You'll never figure it out unless you open it," Maki said, reaching up to fiddle with her new bling.
What came next was a flurry of wrapping paper getting ripped to shreds, and the dark red paper made the surrounding area look a little like a crime scene. "Holy shit! It's—" he paused to check the box, "—that many inches would be...uh…
"It's a really tall Saturn V model! How much cash did you drop on this, Maki Roll?"
"You don't want to know," she promised him.
"Damn, Maki Roll, it's so cool!" Kaito was like a wide-eyed child, examining all the specifications on the side of the box. "This is, like, a real collector's item!"
Maki shrugged. "I know you're not much of collector, but the website said it was a must-have for your favorite astronaut, and I figured only astronaut was close enough."
Kaito broke out into hearty laughter, and once that had subsided, he set the box aside and pulled Maki in for a hug. They embraced and exchanged another "I love you", content with just holding each other under the tree.
After a few minutes, they broke apart and Maki put on a serious expression. "So what were you trying so hard to hide from me?"
Kaito blushed and averted his gaze. "O-oh, it was nothing. Don't worry about it."
Maki was unimpressed. "I hope you know I'll probably see it when you aren't keeping me off my phone anymore."
Kaito sighed and slumped his shoulders. "I just didn't wanna ruin your mood, y'know? But maybe it'll be better if you hear it from me."
"I think you should, uh, look at the Christmas post Kaede made."
Maki raised an eyebrow and fished her phone from her pocket. The journey to what was supposed to be Kaede's professional page was a short one that Maki knew all too well. A tense couple of seconds later, everything clicked into place at once. "Are you kidding me?"
Kaito winced as she read the post that had the nerve to show itself in front of her. The picture was Kaede sitting in an armchair with Aika and Kochou in her lap. A Christmas tree was set up behind them, and on one of the arms of the chair sat an all too familiar chalkboard. Kaede was teary eyed, probably from crying happy tears about the message on the board. The big Christmas present the Saiharas had for everyone was the announcement of a new arrival, due sometime in July. The idea of having to deal with another child in her life immediately soured Maki's mood, and she showed it by dropping her phone on the ground in between her legs.
"So you found it?" Kaito asked.
"Unfortunately," Maki sighed. "Good god, those people need to learn what a fucking condom is."
"Hah, that's one way to put it." Kaito leaned forward and tried to gauge Maki's expression. "I guess whatever makes them happy makes us happy, yeah?"
Maki groaned and brought herself to a stand again. "I don't have to be happy for them. In fact, I feel bad that Kaede's only ruining her body further."
Kaito followed her lead, coming to his feet as well. "Oh, please. If she cared that much about that she would have been more careful. I think they just wanted a mini Shuichi instead of two mini Kaedes."
The old point of contention that had gotten him in trouble countless times brought a smile to Maki's face. "Don't let them hear you say that," she warned. "Kaede would beat your ass. Besides, what makes you so sure it's a boy this time?"
"I can feel it in my gut," Kaito responded, pounding his fists together.
"That's what you said about the first one."
"W-well, I'm sure about it this time!" he insisted, pounding his fists again.
"And that's what you said about the last one. Now let's get some food and try to forget the worst present of the year."
Kaito was put in charge of congratulating the Saihara family on their imminent third child so Maki could avoid interacting with them as long as possible. However, the pettiness only lasted until their New Years Eve get together the next week. Kaito, again, was in charge of coordinating, and since it was being held at their house that year, Maki was more than prepared to drink without fear of anything going wrong. The only hitch in her plan was the fact that she didn't have faith in herself to hold her tongue around the couple that had slighted her.
The party (if it could be called that) was off to a bad start before the door had even opened all the way. As soon as there was enough room to squeeze their little bodies through, Aika and Kochou were running around the house like bats of out hell. When Kaede and Shuichi waltzed in after them, they were met with a glare unlike any other. "Sorry we're late," Shuichi said, trying to ignore the aura of malice Maki was emitting. "Getting two hyperactive dancer children dressed and ready to go is a lot harder than it sounds, and it already sounds pretty difficult."
"I wasn't told they were coming today," Maki said, trying to keep her tone under control.
Kaito raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I kinda assumed they'd have a babysitter too."
Kaede shook her head. "Yeah, that wasn't gonna happen. Ever since the girls learned about their new sibling, they've stuck to me like glue."
"I'm gonna be favorite sister!" Aika screamed from across the room, picking up on the s-word.
"No, I'm best sister!" Kochou countered.
Maki pinched the bridge of her nose and growled, "You brought your kids to a party where you knew there would be alcohol."
Kaede blushed and sheepishly smiled. "Y-yeah, I don't think Shuichi was planning to drink tonight anyway."
Now Kaito was displeased, though to a much lesser degree. "Whoa whoa, bro, we always drink when we get together on New Years. We even splurged for the nice alcohol! Do you want all that to go to waste?"
"We didn't drink together on New Years when Kaede was pregnant with Aika," Shuichi said. Kaito didn't respond, forcing him to continue. "But if you actually got good alcohol this time, I guess just a little bit won't hurt."
"There's my sidekick!" Kaito cheered, slapping a hand on Shuichi's shoulder and leading him toward the kitchen. "Now let's get you a glass. Want one, Maki Roll?"
"Please," she called after him.
After the guys disappeared into the kitchen, Kaede crossed her arms and turned to Maki. "Is everything alright, Maki?" She asked. "You seem unhappy."
Normally, Maki would have shrugged off Kaede's concern with a lie, but hearing the children holler and scream at her feet only soured her mood to the point that hiding her displeasure would be impossible.
But that didn't mean she couldn't at least put off talking about it. "I am unhappy, but let me get some alcohol in me before I tell you why."
Kaede tried to press the issue, but didn't get anywhere before the men were back, Shuichi with one half-empty cup and Kaito with two full glasses.
Aika, being a three-year old, took one look at her father holding something and reached up to grab it. "Can I have a drink, daddy?"
"Oh, absolutely not," Shuichi said, holding his cup higher despite where it was being perfectly out of her reach already. "You and your sister can get juice."
"Speaking of which, is there any juice we can give them?" Kaede asked, pointedly turning to speak to Kaito.
But Maki wasn't going to be swerved so easily. "Probably not, considering this is a child-free household. We could give them a hell of a lot of caffeine though."
Kaito handed Maki her glass and took a swig of his own before answering. "Actually, I think I have some orange juice hiding in the fridge somewhere, if you wanna look."
Kaede clapped her hands together and gave Kaito a wide smile. "Great! Come on, girls, let's get some juice."
"Juice!" The girls scream-chanted the word over and over as they followed their mom into the kitchen.
The living room was quiet at last, which Maki used to finally take a sip of her drink. However, the second the liquid passed her lips and sank into her throat, her typical favorite drink was more unappealing than she could ever remember. "Ugh, did we really get the good stuff? It tastes like garbage."
Shuichi shrugged. "I watched Kaito pour it, it's definitely your drink."
"Maybe they just got a bad batch," Kaito said, his cup noticeably almost empty.
Maki puffed her cheeks out in a pout and seriously contemplated handing her cup off to Kaito. "Tonight gets better and better," she grumbled, taking another small sip.
Even though it tasted like ass, she wasn't going to waste expensive alcohol, so she drank it little by little as the night wore on. Despite their valiant efforts, Aika and Kochou were unable to stay up long enough to celebrate the holiday and ended up crashing in the guest room until it was time to leave. That stroke of luck instantly improved Maki's mood, but Kaede didn't seem pleased for some reason.
It could have had something to do with the conversation she was having with a clearly inebriated Kaito while Shuichi was tucking the girls in. "So, d'ya know what it is yet?"
Kaede shook her head, a look of exasperation on her face. "We told you this the last two times, Kaito, I'm not far enough along to know what gender they are."
A perfectly valid answer that Kaito was not willing to accept. He put his free hand on his hip and took another swig of his alcohol. "Okay, but like, do you have any ideas? Like, a gut feeling?"
Kaede sighed, knowing full well where this question was going to go. "No, Kaito, I have no idea what they could be."
"Well, I have a feeling in my gut!" Kaito paused to burp, which cracked himself up and even earned a chuckle from Maki. The pregnant woman who just got a face full of beer burp was less excited about it, though. "Well, besides that one," he continued. "I just know that this one's going to be a min—"
"Don't even bother finishing that thought," Shuichi said as he stepped back into the room. "Whatever gender they end up being, I think we've made it pretty clear that there is not going to be any mini-anyones."
"The other two are proof enough of that," Maki said.
"Aika and Kochou sure are," Kaede said, emphasizing each name with a pointed look in Maki's direction.
Sensing irritation, Maki said again, "The other two."
"Do you have a problem with those two, Maki?" Kaede asked, putting her hands on her hips.
"Not a one," Maki said, taking another baby sip of her drink that was just now reaching the halfway point.
Kaede seemed unconvinced. "I don't know if I believe that, seeing as you've been in a shitty mood all night."
The way she spat the curse caused Shuichi to gasp, but Maki merely raised an eyebrow at the other woman. "Have I? Maybe it has something to do with my drink being bad. Or perhaps it's because I've had to deal with children all night. Something that could have been avoided if my friends cared about how I feel about kids."
Kaede's jaw dropped and her eyes widened. "Don't talk like we brought them over specifically to mess with you. Besides, Aika and Kochou are total sweethearts, which you'd know if you gave them a chance!"
"I'd rather not," Maki said.
Kaede put a hand on her stomach, making Maki think about how much smaller it used to look before carrying two children, and then how it would look in a matter of months. "Well, if that's how you're going to be about our kids, maybe I don't want them around you anymore."
Maki rolled her eyes. "That would be ideal, yes."
"Hmph," Kaede spun on her heels and started marching toward the guest bedroom. "Well, if you have a problem with my babies, you have a problem with me. Let's go, Shuichi."
By the time Kaito had processed what the argument was about and tried to help out a stop to it, Kaede was already out the door with Shuichi hot on her heels. "Happy new year, Maki," Kaede spat before slamming the door closed dramatically.
"What the hell just happened?" Kaito said, sobriety slowly creeping up on him.
Maki didn't respond, instead glaring at the closed door. She wasn't sure what she was feeling. Was it satisfaction over telling off Kaede? Was it anger about her deciding that time with her children was more important than time with her friends? If that was the case, was that really worth getting angry over?
Whatever it was she was feeling was going to have to wait until her alcohol wasn't making her feel nauseous anymore. "You can have the rest of my drink," she said, handing it off to Kaito. "And Shuichi's, since he barely took a sip."
"Maki Roll, wait!"
"No, you wait until after I throw up."