Arms full of folded clothes, Kamio made his way through the kitchen and towards the stairs, before nearly tripping over the two pairs of trainers scattered in the hallway. Growling, he set his load down and tidied them away, shaking his head and pushing the hair from his eyes as he straightened up. He was about to pick the clothes up again when the doorbell rang. Frowning and checking the clock, he went to the door and peered through the window. “Minagawa-san.” He greeted, as he opened it, offering the woman a smile. “What can I do for you?”
“Actually, it’s more what I can do for you,” she explained, sighing softly and looking past him into the dimly lit hallway. “Are the girls in bed yet? I was hoping to catch you alone for a few minutes to have a chat.”
Kamio blinked and checked his watch automatically. It was just past ten o'clock. "Actually, yeah. Michiko has an 8:30 bedtime, and Sachiko has until 9:15." He shrugged. "Early for a twelve year old, I know, but we have insanely early mornings here."
Minigawa nodded knowingly. "I don't see how you do it. Even after nearly three years, I still don't know how you manage a one hour commute."
Kamio grinned and shrugged. “We manage. The ride’s actually a great time to get some studying done, so I can’t complain.” He kicked the trainers that he’d set in front of the door to one side with his foot. “Please, come in.”
“Thank you,” Minagawa said, bowing lightly and entering the hallway. She followed Kamio into the living room where he motioned for her to sit down on the worn sofa. “Now, I know that you’ve probably been expecting this, but I assure you it’s a surprise when it happens. It even was for me, and I’m a woman myself. It doesn’t really click how fast they’re growing up…” She trailed off as she noticed the blank look on Kamio's face. "Oh."
"Expecting what?" Kamio asked, slightly confused. His mind raced over a dozen possibilities. "If this is about Sachiko needing a bra, An-chan's already promised to handle that for me."
Minigawa had a funny look on her face, almost like she wanted to laugh. "Kamio-kun,” she said slowly. “There's more to being a girl than just bra-shopping." She hesitated, tilting her head to study him thoughtfully. "What do you remember from health class when you took it?"
Kamio cast his mind back to when he was twelve years old, and vaguely remembered a lot of giggling, red-faces, and he and Shinji tuning out halfway through to pass a copy of Pro Tennis Monthly back and forth under the desk. "Um... not much,” he admitted.
Minagawa sighed and shook her head. “While it’s good that you’ve anticipated the bra shopping, unfortunately there’s an even worse obstacle.” She paused as Kamio’s face paled.
“Worse…?” he asked, dreading the response.
“Once a month, women have to contend with their period.” She paused again, searching his face for a spark of recognition. “It starts when they’re about Sachi’s age, and I’m afraid Hana got her first one yesterday, so I doubt that your sister will be far behind.”
Kamio was pretty sure that his face was turning fire-engine red as he finally clicked on to what Minigawa was talking about. "She's too young for that!" he protested numbly.
Minigawa chuckled sympathetically. "Believe me dear, I know what you mean. The very same thought went through my head when Hana came to me yesterday."
Kamio shook his head and tried to bury his face in his hands. “Please tell me this isn’t actually happening,” he moaned pitifully.
Minagawa smiled and laid a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, but it’s best to prepare yourself now.”
Swallowing, Kamio uncovered his face and nodded. “So…I…what do I tell her? Do you think she’ll have already learned about that stuff in school?”
"Hana-chan said they covered it in health class last month. It was fortunate timing. So yes, in all respects, Sachiko does know. And even if she didn't, I daresay by the end of school today, she'd have been well-informed, courtesy of my daughter."
"Girls talk about this sort of thing?" Kamio asked, aghast. He remembered the hell that was puberty and the havoc his hormones had wreaked on his system, and not once had he ever been tempted to sit down with the other Regulars and chat about who had a sexy dream the night before, and which lotion was better to use to...aid, the situation. Hell, it had taken him almost three months after first sleeping with Akaya to be able to even think about it without his face heating up. His ears flamed. "That's just wrong."
"No, it's natural," she corrected him. "And it will happen, whether you like it or not. You need to be prepared - your little sister will need your support."
“Of course. I’m always here for her,” Kamio said instantly, before his face twisted into a pained look. “But this has got to be one of the worst things I’ll ever be faced with. The only good thing is that I’ll be off the hook dealing with Michi.”
“Be thankful they weren’t twins,” Minagawa grinned. “You’ll do fine, I promise you. And I’m right down the street if you need any help with anything.”
Kamio nodded and stood up, politely escorting the older woman to the door. He waved goodbye and watched her make her way home. She was all the way down the street before he permitted himself to shudder. He sincerely hoped this wasn't something he had to deal with anytime soon.
o0o o0o o0o o0o o0o
(A month later...)
“Michi, please hold still!” Kamio pleaded loudly, as the ten-year-olds face screwed up and she shook her head violently.
“No! It hurts,” she complained, sticking her lower lip out in the mother of all pouts.
Kamio matched it with an Olympic-grade eye roll. “If you just stay still, it’ll be over with quickly,” he reasoned, and after much more fidgeting from his little sister, finally managed to draw the comb through her hair. She’d been the one to want the plaits a few days ago, and had refused to let him take them out. She'd come running into his bedroom, crying that her hair was frizzy that morning, and he’d consequently spent the next twenty minutes calming her down.
“Thank you, ‘Kira-nii,” she mumbled, eyes shiny with unshed tears as she gave her now smooth haired reflection a watery smile.
“Right. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me about taking them out.” He left her admiring her reflection and strode over to his other sisters bedroom, frowning when he noticed the door wide open. “Sachi?”
Rapping his knuckles against the frame, he stuck his head in and gave it a quick look. Empty.
"She's still in the bathroom," Michiko said, popping up behind him. "She was in there before you did my hair, and she hasn't come out yet. I have to go to the toilet too!" She raised her voice at that last sentence, directing it at the closed door of the bathroom.
"Shut up!" came an angry, tear-filled shout from behind the door. "Shut up and go away!"
Michiko balled up her fists and looked to be about two steps away from starting a fight. Kamio decided to nip it in the bud. "You can wait a few minutes, Mik," he said, putting his hands on her shoulders and turning her around. "Go and get dressed, please, while I talk to Sachiko. Okay?"
The pout made a return, but thankfully Michiko nodded and stormed off to her room, calling an ‘I’ll be back in minute’ to the firmly locked bathroom door.
Kamio sighed and rubbed at his eyes and leaned against the door. “Sachi? Is everything okay?” He tried to run through all the possible things his sister could be upset enough to lock herself in the bathroom for, when a voice somewhat quieter, and wavering, called back to him.
“I’m bleeding,” she said simply, followed by a small sob. “I think…I think I’ve got a period.”
Kamio froze. "Are you sure?" he blurted out, and then immediately slapped a hand over his face for saying something so stupid. "Never mind that."
A ragged sob drifted through the thin wooden door. "Nii-chan..." she whimpered. "I'm scared."
The pleading, desperate tone pierced through Kamio's initial embarrassment, reaching the core of him that was 'Big Brother'. Pulling himself together, he pressed his hand against the door, leaning against it. A connection of sorts, even though she couldn't see him. "I know you are, sweetheart," he said quietly, willing his voice to stay calm. "Tell me what you need me to do. Don't worry about anything else."
Silence reigned in the bathroom for a long minute. “Um…” She paused, and Kamio could tell she was probably as embarrassed about this as he was. “I need…towels,” she whispered, unnecessarily.
“Towels?” Kamio repeated, the confusion clear in his voice.
“Not -towel- towels,” she said exasperatedly, in a high pitched tone. “Pads. Sanitary towels. I knew I needed to get some, and I kept meaning to ask you to buy them when we go shopping, but I was too embarrassed to ask. I thought it would be ages before this happened,” she mumbled miserably.
Kamio took a deep breath and reminded himself that he was not supposed to bang his head against walls anymore. That lead to concussions, which led to hospitals, which led to Akaya yelling at him for being an idiot. "I...see. Okay. I can do that, I can get those." He wanted to cringe away from asking for details, but he needed to know... "Is there anything else?"
Another long pause from the bathroom. "Umm... I don't think so... but..." A sniffle escaped her.
Kamio was sure his heart was breaking over the sound. "Sweetheart, I'm not gonna laugh at you. I promise. I know this isn't exactly something girls like to talk about with their brothers, but I want to help."
"I know," she said, her voice cracking. "I need...." her voice trailed off into a whisper.
"Sachi?" Kamio strained to hear.
"More underwear," she repeated in a small, defeated voice.
Kamio told himself to keep breathing normally. "I'll get Michi to grab some for you."
A single sob rang through the silence and a few sniffles. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry! This isn’t your fault,” Kamio assured her hastily. “I’ll get Michi to get you some fresh underwear, and then she can keep you company while I run down to the store and get you some...things.”
“’Kay.” Sachi mumbled, still sniffing.
“Good, I won’t be long, Sachi, I promise.” He rested his head briefly against the door an then turned, only to find Michi there in the hallway.
“Why does she need new underwear?” Michi asked curiously.
“It's... a big-girl thing," Kamio said lamely. "Michi, look, Sachiko's not feeling very well right now. Can you please just go get her stuff from her room? I have to run to the store. I'll be back in fifteen minutes."
Michiko pressed her lips together, staring at him for a long minute. Then she nodded, turning on her heel and heading for Sachiko's room. Kamio turned back to the door. "Okay, kiddo. I'm heading out now."
A quiet 'kay' was all she said. Kamio pushed himself off the door and headed for the stairs. He passed Miki along the way, and quietly reminded her to be nice to Sachiko until he got back. Perhaps the serious look on his face had gotten through - Michiko nodded determinedly.
Kamio took the stairs two at a time and barely bothered tying his laces before yelling ‘goodbye’ up the stairs and heading out. He jogged the short distance to the shops, mindful that every second he wasted was another that Sachi would be locked, scared, in the bathroom.
Not even out of breath as he entered the mini supermarket, he didn’t bother with a basket, just headed for the toiletries aisle. His eyes skimmed over what he usually looked for; toothpaste, soap, medicines. He hit the hair dyes, and then an assortment of colored packages caught his eye. Packages which he’d never paid any attention to before today. “Oh God…” he breathed, slightly taken aback by quite how many kinds there were. They weren’t even different brands, there were subtypes within them. What the hell were ‘wings’?
Long, short, thick, thin, daytime, overnight, Plus, Ultra, and Kamio really didn't want to know the details regarding one package advertising 'perfect for extremely heavy flow'. His mind was spinning. Should he just pick one at random? What if it was the wrong one? Maybe he should buy an assortment...
"Rythmn-kun!" came a sudden, jovial voice from behind him just as he picked up a package. "Fancy meeting you here!"
Kamio froze. 'Oh God,’ played through his mind as he hurriedly stuffed the pack in his hand back onto the shelf. He discreetly side stepped right, back into the hair dye section, and pretended to be mulling over a decision between ‘midnight black’ or ‘ebony #42’.
He turned to the side and feigned surprise when he saw Sengoku waving and making his way over. “I didn’t expect to see you. What are you doing here?” he asked, a bit more forcefully than could be considered polite.
“I just-” Sengoku was cut off as the pack Kamio has so hastily stuffed back onto the shelf tumbled off, followed by a few more packs that rained onto the shop floor with little thuds.
Sengoku eyed them curiously, one eyebrow raised in obvious amusement as Kamio's face flushed deep red. "I see how it is," he chortled, clapping his hands together. "Have you broken up with Kirihara-kun then? Who's the lucky young lady whose got you running errands for her?"
"Shut up," Kamio hissed between gritted teeth. Dropping to one knee, he began frantically gathering up the packages. "And no, I did not break up with Akaya! These are for--" he stopped suddenly. It wasn't anyone's business but Sachiko's, and it certainly wasn't something he should be shouting out in public. Besides, he realized as he looked back up at the grinning redhead, Sengoku's eyes were twinkling, as though he knew the secret punchline to a joke. Kamio didn't consider his scared and likely traumatized baby sister to be a source of amusement, and so he glared hotly at Sengoku, silently ordering him to shut the hell up with his eyes alone.
Sengoku held his hands up and shook his head, the knowing grin still firmly in place. “Say no more, Rhythm-kun!” He bent down to help pick up packs, and slotted them back on the shelf. “My lips are sealed.”
“I’m not cheating on him!” Kamio defended, sending a glare to his fellow red head. He last thing he needed was to seed doubt in his boyfriends mind should this get out.
“Of course you’re not!” Sengoku replied cheerfully, placing the last pack on the shelves. "But it'd be bad manners for you to divulge the identity of the...young miss who has asked you to pick up some personal items on her behalf." Sengoku winked. "No more teasing, I promise."
Kamio shot him him an unconvinced look, but Sengoku had already turned and was heading back up the aisle. About to go back to his contemplations of the benefits of wings versus double layers, he was caught off-guard by Sengoku shouting from the end of the aisle. "My sister swears by Kotex!"
"Sengoku!" Kamio snarled. Sengoku laughed and disappeared. Shaking his head Kamio returned to the shelves and picked up a pink packet. Sachiko liked pink…but that was a stupid reason to choose one over the other. “Argh, think about it logically,” he told himself, ignoring the startled look an elderly couple gave him as they walked down the aisle.
Obviously the night ones were for night-time, so he’d get a packet of those. Encouraged, he tried to eliminate a few of the others. On Sengoku’s advice his gaze traveled to the Kotex ones, but they weren’t the cheapest, so he ruled them out. He found the cheapest brand and worked from here. Were wings, whatever they were, really that necessary? They were a lot more expensive…
Kamio's spine stiffened at the familiar voice. It couldn't be - was everyone he knew shopping today? Turning around slowly, he grinned weakly at his old captain. "Hey Tachibana-san," he said, trying for casual. "How's it going?"
Tachibana Kippei stood at the other end of the aisle, an orange shopping basket looped over his arm. His brow was furrowed, watching Kamio in perplexity. "What are you doing?"
Kamio looked at the package of night-time pads in his hand, and then back at Tachibana. "I'm... shopping."
"So I see," said Tachibana.
For a long moment old and new captain just stood staring at each other, neither really seeming to know what to say. A few times Tachibana’s eyes would flicker to the towels in Kamio’s hand, and he would bite off a question.
“Um…nice weather, isn’t it?” Tachibana asked awkwardly, looking as if he wanted the floor to swallow him up as much as he did.
Kamio was saved the indignity of having to answer when An bounced up to her brother and slipped a carton of milk into the basket. At the lack of attention, she frowned and followed his gaze, waving and grinning when she caught sight of Kamio. “Hey! How are the girls?” She suddenly caught on to the rather tense atmosphere, and noticed exactly what Kamio was standing in front of. “Ah.”
Kamio blinked - and suddenly felt a huge wave of relief rush over him. An-chan! She'd know the secret to solving the maxi-mystery. "An-chan..." he waved his hand weakly at the wall of pink, purple and blue packaging. "...help?"
An smiled, moving up next to him and bumping her shoulder against his. "You are one heck of a big brother," she murmured. Then she clapped her hands loudly. "Okay, Kamio-kun! Your education begins now!"
Kamio's eyes widened. “I…uh…” His eyes sent a silent signal for help to Tachibana, who had moved over to them and hung back, eying the wall as if it were packed with explosives. No help seemed forthcoming from his former captain.
“Right.” She said, eying the night-time pads in his hand. “Good start; she’ll need some of those.” Her gaze fell upon the brand he had been looking at and she selected a pack labeled ‘normal with wings’. “She’ll want ones with wings; trust me, they're worth the extra. They hold the pad in place,” she informed him. “And normal thickness is perfectly fine most of the time.”
Tachibana began rifling through the contents of their basket, his blush all the more evident now that his hair was back to being blond.
"Long pads are good. If you get the shorter ones, she may need to double up for maximum coverage to prevent any accidents," An continued briskly. "The best bet is to go for long pads with wings until she figures out in time what her needs are going to be. Some girls have it worse than others. Others have really light periods. This can change, especially as she gets older." She held up a small box. "These are tampons. I don't really recommend these since Sachi's still a virgin--"
Kamio made a small choking sound.
"--but if she wants to go swimming during her time of the month, she'll need to use them. I wouldn't worry about it today, though."
Seriously thinking that he was going to faint as the blood rushed from his head, Kamio nodded dumbly and attempted to process the overload of information he’d been given. He picked out a couple of packs of long, normal thickness (with wings!) sanitary towels, but left the tampons well alone for now. He’d cross that bridge when swimming lessons started up again next term.
“Th-thanks, An-chan. I really have no idea what I’d have done without you.” He offered her the best smile he could, considering how traumatized by the experience he felt.
An returned it sympathetically. "My pleasure, Kamio-kun. How's Sachiko doing?"
"Not so good," Kamio said quietly. "She locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn't come out. In fact, I have to get going because she's still in there, as far as I know."
An's eyes widened. "Oh, poor baby. Kippei?" She turned to her brother. "We're going to Kamio's house first, before we finish the shopping today. Kamio's an awesome brother--" She shot Kamio a quick reassuring smile. "--but Sachi might want to talk to another girl."
Kippei looked pained. "Why do I have to go?"
Kamio glared at him - well, as much as he could glare at his tennis idol. "Moral support," he told his ex-captain.
"I thought that's why An was going!"
Kamio set his jaw, and pushed Kippei ahead of him. "My moral support."
o0o o0o o0o o0o o0o
They hurried through the check out, the Tachibana siblings paying for what they had already put in their basket, before starting off towards Kamio’s home. The bag felt heavy in his hands, and he couldn’t help peeking in a few times, trying to work out if he had everything.
“I’m back,” he called, the second he opened the door, holding his breath as he waited to see if Michiko was going to come running down the stairs in tears to tell him something horrible had happened.
When nothing happened, he entered warily, awaiting an ambush of tears and melodrama. An-chan pushed past him roughly, muttering something about boys and chickens, and headed directly up the stairs, carrying the bag of necessities. "You two stay down here and keep out of trouble."
Kamio and Tachibana exchanged baffled looks.
"Soooo..." Kamio said awkwardly. "TV?"
Tachibana nodded. "TV."
The two boys hurried to the living room and claimed the sofa, turning it on to a freeview channel that was showing extreme sports, to counteract what they had just endured. “Hey…thanks for coming back with us.” Kamio said, eyes glued to the television, but not actually seeing anything.
Tachibana shrugged, also extremely interested on the show, even though it had cut to the adverts. “N-no problem. An let me in on all the details when she was going through hers. Something about if she had to suffer, so did I.”
"And I thought we had it rough," Kamio muttered. Tachibana made a faint noise of agreement, before turning the volume up.
A few minute laters, Michiko came down the stairs, settling herself in between them. "An-chan's in the bathroom with her," she reported.
Kamio nodded. He'd send her up to spy if there was no news in the next five minutes.
At the four minute-thirty mark, An-chan came back downstairs. She smiled at Kamio. "She's in her bedroom lying down," she said. "She's not feeling well. Girls can sometimes have really painful cramps during this time."
Tachibana nodded, a pained look on his face told Kamio that he knew this only too well.
“Can I give her painkillers then? Would then help?” he asked uncertainly.
“Of course, she could probably use a dose right about now. She’s a little…embarrassed about the whole situation, and it goes without saying this is one of those things you never tease girls about,” An said sternly.
Again, Tachibana nodded. Kamio blew his breath out in a huff. "I know that," he said. "I don't wanna tease her - I was worried about her." He shuddered. "Hearing her crying, sounding so scared... it made me..." he stopped, frowning.
An tilted her head to the side. "Made you what?" she prodded.
"...It made me angry," Kamio muttered. "Angry because mom should be here to deal with this. Sachiko and Michiko deserve a mother to walk them through this. And it makes me angry because even if she were still here, she still wouldn't be any use."
An remained quiet for a second, any and all memories of Yukio Kamio resurfacing; and not one of them showed the woman in good light. She sat down next to Kamio and rested her hand on his arm. On his other side Tachibana awkwardly patted his back by threading his arm around Michiko.
“You’re here. You’ve always been here for them, and that’s what Sachiko needs right now,” An assured him. “You’re doing a fantastic job.”
"I think that goes without saying," Kippei added solemnly.
From her perch between them, Miki suddenly turned and crawled into Akira's lap, wrapping her arms as best she could around him.
Akira stroked her hair. "Miki?"
"I don't want a mom," she said, her voice muffled from having her face pressed against his shoulder. "Want you. And Kiri-nii, and An-chan, and Kippei-nii and everyone else." She punctuated her words with another hug.
Kamio buried his face against her hair, hugging his little sister tight. Then he pulled back and gently handed her off to An who switched places with him. "Love you, Miki," he said softly. "I'm gonna go talk to Sachi, okay?"
"Okay," Miki said, curling up next to An. "Tell her I hope she feels better."
"I will." Kamio smiled as he left the room, his sisters and friends words still fresh in his mind. As he made his way up the stairs he heard the sounds of blankets moving from Sachiko’s room and sped up.
“Hey,” he greeted, stepping into his sisters bedroom and moving over to sit on the small bed next to the lump of blankets.
Sachiko peeked out, looking thoroughly miserable. “Hurts,” she complained.
"So I heard," Kamio said. He rested one hand on her shoulder through the blankets. "I'll get you something in a minute. I just wanted to know how you're doing."
"Better," she said, in a small voice. She lowered her eyes. "It's embarrassing." Her voice was strained, like she was trying to hold back more tears.
"It's a part of life, kiddo," Kamio told her gently. "Sachi, I'm not about to make fun of you. You know that, right?" He rubbed her shoulder soothingly. "I know you were scared today. Heck, so was I."
"You were?" Sachiko turned to face him, rubbing her eyes with one small fist. "Why?”
“You were upset and I had no idea what to do. I panicked.” He moved his hand to brush a few strands of crimson from her eyes. “It’s scary to know you’re in pain and there’s nothing I can do.”
“Did pretty well,” Sachiko mumbled, offering a watery smile, her hand slipping out from under the blankets to latch on to her brothers.
“Yeah, well, if it hadn’t been for An-chan I’d probably still be at the shop debating what to buy,” he laughed dryly, watching his sister nuzzle his hand. "I keep forgetting that you're growing up."
"I can't stop myself from getting older," Sachiko said reasonably.
"I know," Kamio said, quirking his mouth. "But I can dream."
“And it’ll be Michi next,” Sachiko pointed out, offering another somewhat brighter smile. “I didn’t tell her much today, but when she’s a bit older, I can explain it all to her,” she offered.
“That’s…probably a good idea,” Kamio said, laughing softly. “I really do appreciate that.”
"I figured you might only want to go through this once," she said. A yawn escaped her. "I'm tired. And it feels better when I lie down."
"Have a nap then," Kamio told her, rubbing her shoulder and standing up. "I'll wake you up before lunch."
"Okay," she agreed, and snuggled down into her pillow. Kamio headed for the door and flicked off the light. About to leave, he was stopped by Sachiko again. "'Kira-nii?"
“Nothing to thank me for,” he assured her, quietly closing her bedroom door.
o0o o0o o0o o0o o0o
He rejoined the others back down in the living room. “Sachi okay?” Michiko asked, her gaze glued to the television, but having caught her brothers entrance in her peripheral vision.
“She will be,” Kamio confirmed, pausing in the doorway and smiling to the Tachibana siblings who both turned to him. "An-chan, did I thank you already?"
"Yes, you did," she said with a laugh. "But go ahead and say it again, if it makes you feel better."
"Thank you," he said fervently. "I don't know what I would have done without you."
"You're one of my boys, silly," she said with a wink. "I don't even want to know what trouble you'd get into without me around."
"Me neither." He turned to his former captain. "Thanks for postponing your shopping to help out."
Tachibana shrugged and offered a half smile. “Haven’t got anything pressing to do, and I’ve told you before if you ever need help you just have to ask…Not that I was much help,” he conceded, his smile brightening a little.
“Moral support.” Kamio reminded him, matching the older teen’s smile. Kamio saw them to the door. He and Michi stood there waving until the other two were out of sight. Then Kamio turned to his youngest sibling. "Wanna help me plan a special lunch for Sachi?"
Michiko agreed, but en route to the kitchen, the phone rang. Kamio told Michi to go and take an inventory of what they had while he answered it. "Hello?"
"Hey, 'Kira." Kirihara's usual exuberance echoed in his ear. "What's up?"
Kamio almost grinned at hearing his boyfriend’s voice. “Much,” he said, sending a glance up the stairs. “I’ve just had one of the most embarrassing mornings of my life.”
There was an interesting sounding ‘hmm?’ from Kirihara’s end of the line, and Kamio could picture the smirk on Kirihara’s face. “Well?” he prodded, badly concealing the amusement from his voice.
"Let's just say that Sachiko is not exactly a little girl anymore," Kamio said. "And I now know more about the feminine hygiene aisle at the drugstore then I ever wanted to in my entire life."
Kirihara was silent for a few seconds until his brain kick-started, and he burst out laughing. "Oh no," he said, trying to mask a giggle. "Really?"
Slightly put out at being laughed at Kamio growled. “No, Akaya, I just decided to buy some sanitary towels for the hell of it,” he snapped, killing the laughter on the other end of the line. “And of course, I couldn’t just be left alone to my shopping…” He trailed off angrily, fingers gripping the plastic of the phone.
A single burst of laughter, before Akaya’s voice came back – it sounded as if the other boy was trying very hard not to laugh. “You met someone you knew?” He asked innocently.
“Bloody Sengoku.” Kamio winced as Kirihara was unable to stop his laughter. “Yeah, thanks for the support. If you hear weird rumors about me seeing a PMS-ing girl on the side you won’t be laughing.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Kirihara didn’t sound remotely sorry. After a few seconds Kirihara was able to pull himself together enough to continue more seriously. “How is she now?”
"Lying down. She says it hurts, and An-chan says it's normal." Kamio shrugged, even though Akaya couldn't see it. “I wonder if that's true.”
"It is. My sister used to get wicked cramps and threaten to kill me if I came within a twenty-foot radius of her on the days between the 17th and the 22nd of each month."
"That's right!" Kamio blinked. "I forgot you had an older sister."
"Since you've never met her, I'm not surprised," Kirihara said. Akaya's sister was seven years older than him, and super-intelligent. Kamio only knew that because Akaya had told him once that Akane had been accepted to a prestigious university in America three years ago, and hadn't been home since. "You should have called me."
“I didn’t even think,” Kamio sighed, wondering how much easier it would have been if he’d taken a moment to think things through more clearly. “She was just so upset I figured I had to do something. And I panicked.”
“”Well, she’s okay now, so that’s all that matters. Sounds like super-brother strikes again.” Kirihara’s attempts to cheer him up were dampened by the memory of standing outside the bathroom door listening to Sachiko’s sobs. He didn’t feel like super-brother. "I can hear you moping from here. Knock it off."
"Sorry," Kamio apologized automatically. "It's a habit."
"I know. It's also annoying. No one's perfect, Kamio. Not even me, believe it or not."
Kamio rolled his eyes, but grinned.
"Tell Sachi I'm bringing her a present," Akaya went on. "That'll make her feel better."
"What are you bringing?"
"Are you Sachiko?" Kirihara demanded. "No? Then you don't need to know."
Kamio’s lips twitched into a smile and he nodded, though his boyfriend couldn’t see it. “Thanks, she’ll really appreciate it.”
“All girls appreciate gifts,” Kirihara retorted. “I’ll swing by in a little while, see you then. I shouldn’t be too long.”
“Yeah, okay. See you soon.” He set the receiver down and went to the kitchen, where Michi was crouched down, poking around in one of the cupboards. "Come to a decision yet?"
"Pasta," she said promptly, holding out a package of noodles and Italian-style tomato sauce. It was a favorite of both her and Sachiko.
"But that's more of a dinner thing..." Kamio's voice trailed off as Michiko set her jaw and glared at him. Well, he had said she could make the choice. "...Pasta it is."
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Wiping the last bit of sauce from the floor – how it had managed to splatter all the way to the other side of the kitchen, Kamio wasn’t quite sure – he threw the tissue away just as the doorbell rang. Michiko was upstairs ‘helping’ her sister finish off the pasta, so Kamio quickly made his way through to the hallway, wiping his cheek as he realized he’d managed to get sauce there too. That was the last time he let Michiko stir, until she was able to reach the pot without him having to hold her up. As fun as it may be, it took ages to clean up…
“Hey.” Kirihara greeted, scanning his boyfriends rather disheveled look with a raised eyebrow as Kamio opened the door. “I though Sachiko was the one on her period - shouldn’t she be the one looking like she was dragged backwards through a bush?”
"Very funny," Kamio snorted, but he leaned forward for a kiss anyway. "I hope you don't plan on saying that to Sachiko."
"I know better than that," Akaya assured him. He held up a plastic bag. "And with this, I'll be on her good side forever."
"What is it?" Kamio's innate curiosity got the better of him, and he snuck a finger forward to tug at the lip of the bag. "I thought I got everything she'd need."
Kirihara yanked the bag back. "Ah ah ah, no snooping. It's not for you." He smirked. "And these are a few things that she may not technically need, but she'll definitely appreciate."
"Buying their loyalty again, I see."
"Hey," Akaya said, shrugging. "Whatever works."
“You spoil them.” Kamio said, shaking his head as he closed the door behind Kirihara.
“Still in bed?” Kirihara asked as he kicked his shoes off and nudged them towards the pairs lining the hallway.
“Yeah, go on up. Michi’s keeping her company and probably eating her dinner. I doubt I’ll need to make her anything, though, so I can’t complain,” he said with a grin.
Kirihara disappeared up the stairs. Kamio went back to cleaning the kitchen, mopping up the last of the spaghetti stains and running water into the sink to soak the dishes until he could pry the girls downstairs to help him out. He didn't even consider asking Akaya - his boyfriend had a dishwasher at his own home, and refused to suffer from 'dishpan hands', even though he obviously didn't have a problem with Akira's. As he finished up, a squeal broke out overhead, and more incessant curiousity made him toss the dishcloth he'd been using to wipe the counters down onto the kitchen table. He jogged upstairs and stuck his head into Sachi's room. "Who's being killed in here?"
"Look!" Sachiko beamed, holding up what had to be the biggest Dove chocolate bar he'd ever seen in his life. It had to be at least a foot long. "Akaya-nii brought it for me!"
Kamio stared for a few seconds, open mouthed. “Chocolate?” he asked, turning his confused gaze to a smiling Kirihara. “How does chocolate help with this situation?”
“I don’t know the mechanisms behind it either, but it works,” Kirihara shrugged, ruffling Sachiko’s hair as she began unwrapping it, slapping Michiko’s hands away as her sister offered to help.
Kamio shook his head in disbelief, before taking a seat on the bed next to his boyfriend and watched his sister snap a piece off and smile as she let it melt in her mouth. “Actually, An gets a craving for chocolate once a month, now that I think about it. It usually coincides with the time she starts yelling at us as for being born male.”
"Chocolate is nature's pacifier," Kirihara said simply. "And considering girls are nothing but big babies--" he broke off laughing as Sachiko immediately grabbed a pillow and tried to brain him with it. Michiko used the diversion to try and break off a corner piece for herself, but Akaya, ducking Sachiko's swing, caught her hand and dragged her away. "Here, brat." He pulled a second chocolate bar out of the bag. It was smaller, but no less tasty.
“Yay! Thank you ‘Kaya-nii!” Michiko squealed, accepting the chocolate and tearing into it.
“Oh for the love of…she’s at least two years away from this!” Kamio protested, but was smiling. “You wouldn’t think they’d just had dinner. Try saving some for later, huh? Especially you, Sachi, that’ll last you for weeks!”
“Mm-hmm.” Both girls nodded, mouths full of chocolate and totally ignoring what their brother was saying.
Kamio threw his hands up in despair. "I give up," he sighed. "'Kaya, there'd better be one in there for me."
"Like I'd ever come unprepared," Akaya snorted, pulling the last chocolate bar out and tossing it at his boyfriends head.
"What a Boy Scout," Kamio snickered.
Akaya ignored him, and pulled something else out of the bag. It looked like a small, peach-colored towel with a cord attached. Michiko poked it gingerly. "What's that?"
"A heating pad." Kirihara set it on the floor next to Sachiko's bed. "My sister used to swear by it."
Sachiko was turning red, but she looked interested. "What's it for?"
“Helps with the cramps,” he said, finding an electrical socket on the wall and plugging it in. “Just hold it where it hurts, and it should take the pain away.”
Sachiko’s cheeks burned as she accepted the pad, but grinned and thanked him.
“I really should have called you,” Kamio realized, as his sister lay back down and hugged the pad close to her.
"Yeah, well, hindsight's twenty-twenty, or so they say," Kirihara said smugly.
"Whatever. And on that note, let's stop embarrassing Sachi and leave her alone for a while," Kamio said, standing up. He grabbed Kirihara's hand with his right, and Michiko's with his left, pulling them both off the bed at the same time. "Call us if you need anything, Sach."
Sachiko nodded. "I will."
Michiko made a wild grab for her chocolate bar as she was dragged from the room, and soon Sachiko was left in peace. The trio made their way back downstairs, though Kamio guided them into the kitchen. “I’ll do the dishes,” he offered, as Kirihara had already started towards the seats, and Michiko was nibbling happily on a corner of chocolate. Nobody rushed to offer their assistance.
“Okay,” Michiko said happily, crawling onto a chair opposite Kirihara and grinning her thanks for her own present.
"But you have to dry," he added, and grinned as Michi's face fell. Then her expression turned calculating, and she turned to Kirihara, who glared mildly at her and waggled his finger.
"Don't even, little girl," he told her. "I don't do dishes."
She turned large eyes to Kirihara and her grin widened. “You can have a bite of chocolate?” she offered, even as the tea towel was slung onto the table in front of her.
“Sorry Michi, big brother wants you to get the experience,” he explained, as if his hands were tied in the matter. She ‘hmmf-ed’ and crawled off the chair, pattering over to stand beside her brother and wipe everything dry as it was handed to her.“Besides, ‘Kira, that chocolate wasn’t just for you. Notice I didn’t buy myself one.” Kirihara said suggestively, leaning back in the chair and tipping his head so he could see the back of his boyfriend.
“That’s if I’m willing to share,” Kamio said hotly, passing a dish to his sister. “Maybe I want it for myself.”
“You’d never eat it all in one. I know you – you’d have to ‘savor’ it,” he said, mimicking his boyfriends voice. “We’ll savor it later.”
“That had better be a promise,” Kamio said, pulling the plug from the sink and turned to grin at his boyfriend, Michiko happily wiping a spoon dry, oblivious to the flirting going on in front of her.
“It is,” Kirihara confirmed. “Very much so.”
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