Title: bathroom flowers
A/N: For the Foreverbound Zine. I wanted to explore a possible post-canon scenario.
Summary: It was strange exploring their old high school. Kou felt oddly tall, Nene couldn't see the mysterious anymore, and all of their old haunts had lost their magic. The only thing they had left was their memories.
Kou felt tall. There were many emotions he'd expected when he strolled into his old school, but this strange sensation as he looked down at his old locker was not one of them. When he was younger, he used to lean on his tippy toes to look into his cubby. Now he had to lean down to peer inside, his shoulders hunched uncomfortably as he tried to put his sneakers into an empty space.
They ended up hanging out of the cubby. "I feel big," he muttered, frowning.
"Well, you are kinda big," Nene replied brightly next to him. She hummed lightly as she slipped off her sandals, her smaller shoes fitting neatly into a locker. Looking up at him, she added, "Though your brother is taller."
He flinched. It was a sore spot and she knew it. "By a centimeter," he mumbled, crossing his arms defensively.
"That's alright, you're still plenty tall," Nene consoled, patting him on the arm. There was something smug about her smile. "Just not as tall as him."
"And you're short as a kid," he grumbled, the words slipping out before he could stop them. In the five years since they'd graduated from here, Nene had only grown about a foot. Maybe. Now she was at the perfect height for the top cubbies and despite her pink sundress, she looked like she was still a student here. Even the daisies in her hand didn't shake that image. All she was missing was her uniform, and he was certain she could still fit into her old one.
"I'm not that short," she pouted, jutting out her lower lip as she looked up at him.
However time had changed them, it hadn't made her any less beautiful. Kou felt his neck flush as she glared at him. They could be a hundred and she'd have that effect on him. "It just makes you cuter."
"That's a given." Despite her confident reply, her cheeks were red. Nene tossed her long hair over her shoulder and marched past him. "I'm always cute. Now, let's go!"
A certain pink-haired photographer said the same thing once. The memory didn't hurt as much as it used to, but it ached nonetheless. Mitsuba would have been in university with them, majoring in photography. Maybe he'd still be cute. Maybe he'd have become handsome instead.
They'd never know the answer to that.
That jolted him out of his thoughts. "Coming!"
Scrambling to pull on his indoor shoes, he chased after Nene. It was Sunday, and fortunately there were no students around to witness their return. No teachers either—Kou didn't know what strings Teru had pulled to let them in, but it wasn't surprising that they were connected to someone high up. Even when they'd dealt with the supernatural, he'd never seen the school so empty and he suppressed an uneasy shiver. There was nothing dangerous here.
At least, nothing he couldn't handle. His powers might never be as strong as Teru's, but he had come a long way since high school.
"That tree…" Nene paused at a window, gazing outside. "Think it's the love tree?"
Kou followed her gaze to a small, broccoli shaped plant outside. It looked more like a miniature shrub than a tree, but the face on the trunk was unmistakable. "Yeah." He grimaced, remembering all the pairings that came from it. "I hope it doesn't get too powerful."
"Even if it did, I changed the rumour, remember?" Nene winked at him playfully.
"Right." He scratched his chin. "You changed a lot of rumours here, didn't you?"
"The staircase, the tree, the mokke," Nene counted off on her fingers slowly. At the last one, she paused and looked around. "Do you see them?"
Something soft landed on his head and he sighed. "Yeah, one's on my head right now." Immediately, he patted his pockets, checking that his keys and wallet were still in place. Kou could do without their sticky fingers.
"Really?" Nene leaned back, standing on her toes as she tried to look at the top of his head. "Lean down," she ordered, grabbing his shirt and tugging. "You're too tall."
"And you're too short." Obliging, he crouched, his hands on his knees as he lowered his head toward her. "Better?"
"Much better." She smiled brightly at his hair. "It's good to see you again, mokke. There's candy in my pockets, if you're hungry."
"Candy?" Happily, the mokke jumped from his head to hers, tugging on her hairs. "It's been so long!"
Kou straightened. When she looked at him blankly, he pointed at her head. "They're on you now. They missed you."
"Oh!" She kept her posture ramrod straight as she walked toward the stairwell. "I missed them too." Nene chuckled. "You know, it's strange not being able to see them anymore—they used to be everywhere in the school."
"They still are." Kou smiled at her fondly, reaching down to grab her hand. It was warm. He had spent so long fearing that it would turn cold. If living meant she'd lost the sight, it was an exchange he was fine with.
"I know, but it's different when you can't see them anymore." Nene sighed, her cheeks puffing slightly as she started to count the steps up. At the fourth one, she hesitated before stepping over it. "Can't risk it," she explained, looking at their clasped hands.
Kou hadn't thought it was possible to grow any happier, but apparently Nene was out to prove him wrong every single day. Still holding hands, they passed by the library, not spotting their spider teacher for once. A right turn and they were at the bathroom.
"Hanako!" Nene let go of his hand finally, pushing open the bathroom door cheerfully. "I'm back!"
Kou bit his cheek as he followed. Entering the girl's bathroom felt even more awkward now that he was an adult. At least it hadn't changed much inside—the mirrors looked new, but everything else was the same as it had been when they'd last been here. Nene twirled in the center of the room, clicking her teeth as she observed her surroundings. "I left this place so clean," she muttered, grimacing. "Hanako, you couldn't get anymore help?"
No one replied. Nene tucked a stray hair behind her ear as she went to the Hanako's stall, laying the daisies on the ground. "Thought you could use something to brighten the space up."
There still wasn't a response. Kou closed his eyes as he observed the place, focusing for any supernatural aura. The only thing blipping his radar were the mokke. Another one had stolen his keys and he opened his eyes with a grunt. "They mugged me."
"You need to be more careful." Nene smirked at him, hand on her hip. "They know better than to rob me."
Or maybe they just respected her for what she'd done. Kou didn't bother to burst her bubble. "I'll go get them."
"And I'll just clean the place up a bit." Nene walked over to the small closet on the side, yanking out an old mop. "I haven't used this in so long! Remember how he forced me to come here every day?" She stared at the frayed head, her hands clutching the wooden handle tightly. "Kou…you think he's really gone?"
Moving closer, Kou wrapped an arm around her shoulder, squeezing it tight. It had been years, but he could still remember the soft glow around Hanako as he passed on, his last snarky words of Take care of her.
I will, he hadn't replied, but somehow the spirit knew. He always had.
"Yeah," Kou answered softly. "He's at peace now."
"That's good." Nene turned toward him, burying her face in his shirt. "That's good."
Maybe it hadn't been the happiest ending, but when dealing with ghosts and spirits, there had been only one way it could all go. Well, two, but he didn't want to think about the other. Nene was alive, Hanako and Mitsuba had moved on, and that was all he needed.
Pulling back, he smiled at her. "Want me to help?"
"Nah." Nene sniffed, wiping her eyes, but her smile was as bright as ever. "That's my duty."
It hadn't been the best ending, but it was their ending. And for that reason alone, he was happy.