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The Art of Picking a Good Kabocha

Chapter Text

Rin shoves his phone back in his pocket, sighing in relief as he hangs his apron on the wall. 

“Oh, Okumura, you’re off now?” Suguro checks his watch. “Can’t believe it’s already one thirty. Have a good one."

“Yeah thanks, see you tomorrow!” 

He leaves the cafe hurriedly, rummaging through his backpack for his car keys when a flyer for the farmer’s market catches his eye. He’d been wanting to check it out for a while now, but they’d always scheduled it during his shift, so he never had the chance before. 

Tuesdays, 10 to 3, Ambrosius Courtyard. 

It's on campus then, and pretty close by too. 

He settles his hands in his hoodie, yawning as he passes a gaggle of freshmen. As he walks, a pleasant drizzle of rain scatters with the breeze outside and he racks his brain, trying to recall what they had in the fridge. Yukio needs to eat more vegetables. It’d also be good to buy apples around this time. How did they run out of eggs already, though? Oh, right, he’d used a bunch making that chiffon cake last week. 

He reaches the courtyard and there’s hardly anyone here; maybe because of the weather. Rin meanders through the stands, and his mouth waters as the hot clouds of enticing spices mingle with the mineral, sweet scent of rain. Maybe he’ll buy a snack—

He stops in his tracks as he spots a speckled green kabocha, heading over to the vegetable stand to inspect the price. “How much is this?” 

A girl about Rin’s age looks up, “Ah, they’re fifty yen per half kilogram,” she says. “Hold on, I can guess about how much it weighs.” 

Rin nods, picking the nice lumpy one as she moves around to the front.

There’s a soft wool blanket laid across her legs as she comes over slowly, rolling her wheelchair up next to Rin. She holds her hand out for the kabocha and smiles apologetically, “Our scale’s been acting up today, so my mother left to borrow one. She’ll be back soon though.” 

“Oh, okay,” Rin responds awkwardly, plopping the kabocha into her waiting palms. 

She scrunches her eyebrows, cradling it carefully, "This is about a kilogram, so it'll be a hundred yen."

"That's cool," Rin blurts. "I mean, you know, because you can tell just by holding it."

She nods quickly, brushing soft blonde hair behind her ear, "It's…I've been doing this for a while."

Rin nods too, and their conversation withers sadly as he stands there quietly for a couple of uncomfortable seconds. "These carrots are nice too," he says nonsensically, because honestly, he doesn’t know what’s going on with him; he just kind of wants to keep talking to her. 

It’d be too awkward if he stays silent. That must be why. 

He can’t help but feel as though there’s something familiar about her. It’s not really a nice feeling either. His gut churns uneasily as he tries to remember and he’s not sure why, but it doesn’t feel right.

He feels oddly...bad. The more he focuses on it, the worse it becomes. 

It feels like shame. 

"Thank you,” she laughs softly. "Those are a seventy yen for a bundle." She sets the kabocha on the table, "If you fill a bag, you can get everything for a thousand yen."

Rin crosses his arms as he considers. He doesn’t really want to buy that much though. Yukio had texted him to buy eggs, not more vegetables. Rin's not really keen on rushing to eat them before they go bad either. 

He just wants this kabocha and then he has to go to the supermarket for eggs.

But he has to stay here and wait until this girl's mom comes back with the scale or he'll end up like a total jerk—

If he buys a whole bag, they don't need to be weighed, but he really doesn't need that much, no matter how cheap they are. 

Rin scratches his cheek, trying to think of something he can say. His phone is nearly dead and he's just standing here waiting. 

He turns back abruptly, and their eyes meet—

She ducks her head immediately, brilliant green irises flitting away. 

Rin fiddles with his backpack strap, picking at the fraying edge. It's suddenly incredibly quiet in the courtyard, with only the pitter-patter of rain gliding off the covers of stands surrounding them. 

He's supposed to have decent conversation skills. Why can't he seem to stop staring? It’s not like he’s never seen someone in a wheelchair before. He doesn’t have to be so rude about it. She seems to be really nice and Rin seriously needs to stop staring like a total creep—

Scuffing a corner of the artful, mosaic-like concrete tiles with the heel of his sneakers, Rin bites the inside of his cheek with mild frustration. He needs to get his crap together. “That's really cheap. Aren't you pricing them a little low?" 

The girl smiles hesitantly, “If we can't sell all of them it'd be a waste, so…"

“Oh," Rin looks over the stack of empty crates, then back at the stack of carrots still laid out on the little stand, “...but you still have a lot left."

She nods, a little crestfallen, “It was raining earlier. Also, these ones weren't as good, I guess. None of this year’s has been...good."

Her tone of voice is gently resigned, carried by whispers of discontent. Her hands curl inward, grasping at the wool blanket with stiff fingers. 

Something about it makes him think he understands what she's not saying. It’s never so simple, is it?

The market's going to be over soon and hardly anyone's here anymore now that the rain is coming down like sheets of thin glass, relentless and sporadic. 

There's an unhappy buzz in the back of his head as Rin looks down at the remaining vegetables. The carrots are weirdly curvy, with extra offshoots and bumpy lines. There's also a daikon left that looks longer than Rin's arm, plus some curly zucchinis. 

It’s a little unreasonable though. This is a farmer’s market, not the grocery store, so of course their produce isn’t going to be perfect. Although, honestly, their vegetables are a bit off. If it was one or two, Rin wouldn’t mind much, but these ones are all too crazy looking. There’s got to be something weird about how she raised them. 

Rin picks up one of the gnarly carrots, “Yeah, it looks kind of cursed," he says bluntly, “like this one. It's like a little person. I wouldn’t really want to cook that.”

“...yeah, I know, right?” she whispers, fingers playing the edge of her blanket. “Sorry—”

“Don’t take me so seriously!” Rin huffs. “Who cares what it looks like? I mean, this one,” he holds up a potato, “looks like it’s got a face an everything, but as long as it tastes good, no one will care.” 

She nods a little, but Rin can tell she’s not convinced. 

It’s probably something she’s been told a few times already. 

...But it’s weird, because she must have been told these weren’t good enough by some jerk. Otherwise, she shouldn’t have had issues with this kind of thing. He doesn’t believe anyone really cares that much, and it looks like she’s sold a bunch already, so why is she still so bothered about this?

Rin checks his phone, making up his mind. “Well, I’m just here for this kabocha, so work hard on selling the rest of them. You’ve still got an hour. Let’s sell them like crazy.” 

“Oh...yeah, I’ll do my best,” she smiles, but the corners of her eyes are disheartened, lined with an edge of reluctance. 

It’s vexing in a way he doesn’t understand, that’s not entirely unfamiliar. 

Before he knows what he’s doing, Rin chucks his backpack in the corner under the stand, rolls up his sleeves, and yells at the top of his lungs, “Fill a bag of vegetables for just a thousand yen! A thousand yen for a whole bag! Come over and see!” 

Rin takes another breath, but the girl’s expression is indiscernible to him, and for a second, he falters, wondering if he’s overstepping. 

“Th-they’re,” she lifts her chin with a flicker of determination, giving Rin an excited grin. “They’re kind of weird looking, but they’re really fresh,” she shouts, timidity dampening her voice as it strives across the courtyard. 

Still, it’s more than enough of the validation Rin needed to continue. Spurred on by her renewed enthusiasm, he grins, “Super cheap, all-natural vegetables! One bag for a thousand yen! We’ve got the ugliest vegetables ever! Buy some today to curse your roommates! One bag for a thousand yen!” 

“A thousand yen?” A middle-aged man wanders over along with one of his coworkers. “Did I hear wrong? What’s this bag look like?”

The girl wheels around, nodding quickly, “These paper ones. You can fill it with any of these and we’ll only charge a thousand yen.” 

“That’s a good deal,” the man mutters, “but I’m not sure I need this—”

“Why don’t we buy a bag together?” his coworker mentions. “These tomatoes are adorable. They look almost like hearts if you turn them a certain way.” 

“Thank you so much!” The girl beams, “Please come again sometime!”

“Yeah? We can do this,” Rin gives her a thumbs up, “and the rain is letting up."

It really is, by some strange miracle, and in the span of a few minutes, the market is bustling with people once more. 

There’s a rush of adamant confidence surging through his veins, bracing his every thought with a reckless optimism. He feels invigorated; he feels freer than before. Right now, the only opinion he cares for is hers. 

He really wants to cheer her up. The stagnant, uncomfortable hesitation clinging to him falls away and it feels right. Rin hasn't ever done anything like this before. 

It's kind of more fun than he expected. 

“Fill a bag of fresh vegetables for a thousand yen! Only a thousand yen for fall harvest vegetables! Come see! Buy our special voodoo carrots for—uh, how much was it again?” Rin asks. 

“Oh, um, seventy yen per bundle,” she replies, stacking bills carefully into a metal box. “We should probably mark them somehow. I forgot to bring the labels today,” she admits sheepishly. 

“Nah, let’s just convince them all to buy a bag,” Rin urges. “Ugly but perfectly flavorful vegetables! One bag for a thousand yen! Buy our special voodoo carrots for seventy yen a bundle! Or, fill a bag for a thousand yen!”

To his surprise, the girl laughs, and his heart skips a beat as she joins in, “Ugly vegetables! Come and see! Ugly tastes better! Buy a bag for a thousand yen!” 

“Yeah, see you got this,” Rin laughs too.  “Who knows, maybe before your mom comes back, they’ll all be gone.”

“Yeah,” she agrees, “that would be nice.”

He grins as a group of people wander over and soon, more and more people start coming to their small stand. Some only buy a few and others don’t buy anything at all—they giggle and snap pictures of the grotesque carrot Rin offers them—and little by little, people pick out the twisted cucumbers, lumpy squashes, mottled peppers and ginormous daikon radishes to take home. 

Rin turns back, taking in the nearly empty crates, and he can’t help the pleased grin that splits across his face, “Hey, we’re almost done.” 

It’s only when the girl lets out a sharp gasp that Rin’s rush of glee and accomplishment sputters to a pause. “I’m so sorry,” she says, wringing her hands distressingly. “I think we sold your kabocha!”

“Ah, really? It’s okay, it’s okay,” he says, waving his hands hastily, “it’s totally okay! I was—” he breaks off as his phone buzzes insistently, “sorry, I got to take this.”

It’s Yukio, of course, and Rin gets an earful of how he needs to come back and do your laundry and hurry and go buy the eggs already and pick up some more tuna for Kuro and for heaven’s sake, don’t walk in the rain, you’ll catch a cold. 

Rin grabs his backpack, cramming his phone into his jeans, “Sorry, I have to leave now. Good luck with the rest of your vegetables!” 

“Thank you!” she bows a little. “What...what’s your name?” 

“Oh, I’m Rin. What about you?” 

“Shiemi,” she smiles. “It’s nice to meet you Rin. I really don’t know how to thank you for your help.”

“Ah, don’t sweat it!” Rin waves. “See you around, Shiemi! You got this, okay? Hang in there!”

She smiles as she waves back. In a perfect moment, the wind cards lingering fingers through her hair, and Rin narrowly careens down the stairs, unwilling to tear his eyes away until the last second. 

Shiemi; her name is Shiemi. 

Shiemi, Rin repeats to himself, smiling as he walks away, relishing the cool rain that splatters onto his burning cheeks. 


He gets to the supermarket in a bit of a daze. His thoughts are tiny scraps of paper, scattered and elusive in the turbulent storm, and each one is impossible to grasp, to read. 

He picks out a kabocha; that’s what he came here for, wasn’t it? 

It’s not as nice as the one he wanted earlier. 

Only, it seems like he forgot what he was actually supposed to buy, because when he gets back to their apartment, Yukio fumes like a—muted—screeching train whistle in the midst of Rin’s buoyant, uninterrupted reverie.

He sits down on the sofa sleepily, waving Kuro over with a lazy gesture. Soon, he’s snuggled into the sofa with a pillow and a handful of warm fur nuzzling his cheek. 

Everything feels incredibly light, like he’s about to drift away as a hot air balloon; he feels some sort of tepid anticipation, swirling around inside him. 

“Nii-san,” comes with a nudge to the arm a couple of minutes later. 

Rin rubs Kuro’s fluffy belly absently, spacing out. His life is perfect right now. Everything is quiet. 

“Nii-san?” The sofa sinks a little as Yukio sits down next to him, “Did you hear what I said?”

“Hmm, yeah.” Rin murmurs. 

“Then, what are you still doing, sitting here?”

Rin yawns, “Yeah, I’ll go in a minute for the...the...whatever.” 

Next week, he’s going to go to the farmer’s market again. 

“...Nii-san?” Yukio sounds slightly concerned, and his voice has a bemused quality to it, but it’s not serious. Rin plops Kuro into Yukio’s lap, sinking into the sofa as his eyelids droop. 

It’d be nice if he could get to know her a bit better. He wants to go see her again. 

Today...was a lot of fun. 


He ends up going the next week too, picking out the lime green tarp covering her stand easily. For a moment, he’s reluctant since there are a lot of customers, but his legs stroll over on their own. 

“Uh, hey, Shiemi,” Rin waves, “what’s up?” 

“Rin!” She beams, “I can’t believe you came again! Guess what, my mother was so surprised that I sold all of them!”

“Hey, that’s awesome. Give me five!” Rin raises a hand, grinning as she taps her palm hesitantly against his. 

Rin looks over at the vegetable crates curiously, “Your vegetables still look wacky.”

Shiemi smiles, “Yeah, I’ve been getting tips from a lot of people, but this year’s produce will probably all be a little off.” 

“Oh,” Rin picks out two sunny yellow zucchinis, grabbing his wallet, “I’ll take these two.”


“So...are you a student here?”

Shiemi shakes her head, organizing the leftover vegetables into a single crate, “I wouldn’t really know what I’d want to study anyway.”

“Hm,” Rin nods, “same here.”

“So, do you live close by then? I mean, because—”

“Yeah,” he gestures vaguely toward the far side of campus, “I’m sharing an apartment with my brother. He goes here, and we both work on campus.” 

“That sounds like fun,” Shiemi props her chin under her hand, leaning on the armrest of her wheelchair. “Rin,” she says, biting her lip, “I...I sort of realized I never told you thank you, for the first time we met. So, thank you.” 

“Ah, yeah, sure, uh, you’re welcome. All I did was shout a little. You did most of the work.”

“Oh, no I meant when we met before—” she breaks off her sentence as a customer comes over. “Hi, are you looking for anything in particular today?”

“Hmm, how much are these?” The guy points. 

“They’re a hundred yen for a kilogram.” 

Rin taps her shoulder lightly, “It was cool seeing you again,” he whispers. 

“Yeah, you too, Rin!” 


Somewhere along the line, as the fall leaves begin to fade from their vibrant sunset hues to the brittle, crumbling brown of heralded winter, he catches himself saying “see you next week,” as he leaves, entirely without hesitation. 

He’s been feeding Yukio a lot more vegetables recently, and he hardly stops by the produce section in the supermarket for much, other than fruits and some herbs occasionally. 

It’s getting a bit colder though. 

He’s later this time, and everyone’s basically cleaning up at this point, “Hey, Shiemi, did you sell a lot today?”

Shiemi brightens, “Rin! I was afraid you weren’t coming today.” 

“Er, do you want some help? I can help you carry some of those, if you want.”

“Ah, it’s okay,” she admits shyly, “I’m not, I’m not going to carry them anyway. My mother’s bringing a cart.” 

“Oh, I see.” Rin says awkwardly as he stands there. He wants to berate himself for his tactlessness. Sometimes he forgets, because most of the time it’s no difference at all, but every once in a while, he’s so stupidly obtuse. 

Obviously, she can’t—

“Look, Rin!” Shiemi points excitedly, “Do you see that dog?” She slides a little closer, tugging on his sleeve, “Over there, that brown one,” she smiles. “It’s so adorable.”

Rin swivels, spotting the shaggy ball of hair across the courtyard with some difficulty, “Yeah, it’s pretty cute. You like dogs?”

“Yeah! I really want one…” she fiddles with the edge of her blanket, “eventually.”

He has to wonder what that means. 

Part of him wants to ask. They’re...kind of close now; if typing ridiculously long text messages and seeing each other once a week counts as close. It’s probably something she’d tell him if she wanted him to know. 

She hasn’t though, so it must not be okay, for Rin to ask. 

So, he won’t. 

Shiemi this autumn sunshine. She’s just faintly warm across Rin’s skin, existing only on these Tuesdays, around this short, short time. Because of that, there’s a brittle delicateness to their relationship. It doesn’t help that Shiemi is frail too; the pallor to her skin is a graceful porcelain, untouched by wind and rain and sun. Rin finds himself holding his breath around her at times, when she’s not looking.  

He can’t help but realize that things like this have a penchant of crumbling, as the fallen, dead leaves scattered at Rin’s feet. 

It’ll be winter soon. 

“Huh,” Rin pulls his phone out, sliding his thumb across the screen, “I’ve got a cat. His name’s Kuro. Want to see? He was sleeping in an egg carton.” 

“Aww,” Shiemi coos, “how cute! I know someone who has a kitty just like him! I swear, their eyes are the exact same,” she says, eyes glimmering with mirth. 

“Eh, really?” Rin grins proudly, “That’s super neat.”

“Right?” she smiles, and the sun hits her eyelashes at an angle, lighting them almost aglow. The way her eyes curve when she laughs is really cute, he notes. 

She’s really pretty.

Rin blinks, trying to retrace his thoughts as he feels his ears heat up. 


“Uh, um, what’s your number?’ He holds his phone out, “I—I’ll send you some pictures of Kuro, if you want.” 

“Oh, yeah, sure! I’ll be sure to respond quickly,” she says with endearing determination, and Rin can’t help laughing, trying to cover the annoyingly huge smile spread across his face as he sends her a “hi this is rin,” text. 

Shiemi continues though, “I was really surprised to see—oh, Oka-san, you’re back,” she gestures to Rin enthusiastically, “This is Rin. He’s the one who helped me last time!” 

Shiemi’s mother nods kindly, “Thank you. It’s quite a pleasure to meet you.” 

“Ah, it was nothing,” Rin flounders, suddenly unsure of what to say. 

“Still, we do appreciate your help. Did you get everything you needed?”

Rin nods quickly, holding the paper bag up, “Yeah, I’m good. Uh, er, nice meeting you, see you again sometime, Shiemi,” he waves, wanting to hit himself for his awkwardness. 

“See you, Rin!” Shiemi smiles as Rin bumbles away. 

He doesn’t know why he’s acting so all over the place.

Maybe, just maybe, he has a crush. 

Chapter Text

One lazy Saturday afternoon, Yukio finds Kuro hunkered down in the empty egg carton Rin left out and he sidles over to take a picture. 

He tries to keep track of interesting things to tell patients about most days, and it’s always easier to give them heartwarming things. 

A lot of times, he shows off Rin’s impressive culinary creations, and other times he’ll also show off Rin’s spectacular culinary failures. Interestingly enough, he finds they are almost equal in entertainment value, and always welcomed, so his phone is filled with them. 

He likes to take pictures and videos of Suguro’s coffee art too, because they are quite mesmerizing. Miwa’s desserts consistently receive many compliments as well. 

Yukio visits various patients each week, and although he switches around with a few of the other volunteers, there is one patient he sees constantly, and without failure.

That’s exactly why he’s noticed how much Moriyama Shiemi has changed these past two months. 

She used to be a bit quiet, but Yukio’s always here, and she’s always here too, so they did become friends almost naturally. He’s been helping her after physical therapy recently, and that’s precisely what’s different. 

Since a while ago, Yukio had stopped asking her about her day. It was getting repetitive, and Shiemi was only one of many patients who carried some resentment for the monotony of her situation. Yukio had understood, so he mostly filled their empty space with chatter about his own day, about any amusing news he could come up with. 

Recently though, she’s talking a lot more. 

The day before yesterday, she’d smiled through the entirety of their conversation. Yukio had listened carefully, as he always does, to her words. Most of it had been things he’d heard before: her garden is doing better now and she’s finally finished laying down all the mulch, her old lady cactus has a laurel of blossoms, she saw a cute dog, one of her favorite authors is publishing a new novel soon, her mother liked the new herbal tea mixture she came up with. 

Yukio is genuinely happy for her, and he’s grateful that there have been positive developments that she can look forward to. It helps break up the mundane rhythm she’s been experiencing, with the lack of progress she’s been making in her therapy. 

He’d worried for a bit, but since about two months ago, something has changed. The feeble reluctance that fueled her apathy has been kindly shelved away, shifting to a livelier volume which flitters from time to time as excitement in her eyes, in her movements. 

Yukio thinks he knows why.


“So,” he begins gently, “did you get to see him again this week?” 

Shiemi nods and a delighted curve lifts her cheeks into yet another smile, “I did! He’s been coming every week, and we’ve been talking a lot recently.” She laughs sheepishly, “I feel kind of bad because I’m always so happy talking to him, and I don’t even notice my customers sometimes.” 

“I’m sure,” Yukio smiles too, “they wouldn’t want to interrupt you.”

She sighs, “Sometimes, I think I’ve made him feel awkward and I just don’t want to—he’s just so nice.”

They’re trying to finish the puzzle again today. The volunteers set one out each month and the patients work collectively to complete it. This month’s is a thousand pieces and Yukio’s been fastidiously keeping track of all the pieces, doing everything from storing them in their box to rescuing them from the vacuum cleaner. He’s seen it finished a few times since he’s been volunteering for so long and it’s quite a beautiful underwater scene; vast and blue. He thinks Shiemi will like it. 

Yukio doesn’t bother asking why she thinks this boy would feel awkward. He knows her insecurities well now, although he’d been forced to exchange for a few of his own to learn them. 

“Do you feel awkward around him?” 

Surprisingly, she shakes her head, “No, not at all! He’s...really fun to talk to. We text sometimes too.” 

“That’s great to hear,” Yukio slots two pieces into the corner. It’s likely they won’t finish today after all. She seems to be losing interest. “Do you talk about specific topics, or just things that come to mind?”

“Ah, mostly just anything. I…might talk about my garden a little too much. He talks about all sorts of things though, like his work or manga he’s reading or what kind of tea he likes or, like, last week he talked about the fine arts museum on campus and how there’s a big botanical garden up near the mountain.” 

Shiemi stretches her arms, “It sounds so nice. I really want to go sometime.” 

Yukio’s told her about the botanical garden before too, about two years ago. 

He knows why she can’t go yet. Her choices strike him as rather cruel, but her resolve...isn’t something he’s unfamiliar with. Sometimes, Shiemi seems to think it’s necessary not to have things; to wish for them, but not to actively seek them out. In Yukio’s eyes, it doesn’t make it any less painful, but perhaps she needs a little more confidence still. 

He’s glad the farmer’s market is going smoothly. Yukio had proposed it to her a little while ago, and he’d spoken with her mother about it as well. 

Yukio’s certain he has her new friend to thank for how happy she seems recently. 

“Here, I have a photo of Kuro from yesterday,” Yukio offers. 

“Aww,” Shiemi smiles, “cats really like egg cartons, don’t they?”

“Of course,” Yukio replies. That doesn’t mean he understands where, or how she thought of that idea, but that’s fine. 

He fills out his volunteer survey at the end of the day and adds a brief comment at the bottom of Shiemi’s chart. 

Moriyama-san was in high spirits today. She’s been doing very well recently. In my opinion, she’s ready. 


Even so, it takes a couple of weeks. Yukio’s never there during her sessions, but he can tell it hurts, hurts unbearably.

He offers what encouragement he can and brings her many more pictures. 

“Ah, this is kind of harder than I thought. Sorry, I’m so slow, Yuki-chan.” 

Yukio opens the next door for her, “Not at all. Take your time.” 

She props the crutches against her armrest, relaxing into her seat. “I’m so excited to show him tomorrow. Do you think he’ll be surprised? I think...” she covers her face with her hands momentarily, “he asked me...not really, well sort of go on a date!” 

Yukio nods, “You’ve been working especially hard this week.” 

“Yeah,” her smile brightens, “I really want to show him.” 

They’re folding cranes today, for the little boy on the third floor. It’ll be his birthday soon, so everyone’s contributing; planning ahead a bit. They might have the party early, if they have to. 

Yukio creases his next fold too quickly, and the edges miss each other by a slight margin. It’ll still look decent, but some part of him wonders if his inadequacy truly stems from a lack of dexterity. 

On the other hand, Shiemi’s completely forgotten her task, so...well, at least he’s making some progress. 

“That’s wonderful.” Yukio smiles, “I have faith in you, Shiemi-san.” 

He’s somewhat curious who she’s so smitten with. 

...Which brings him to his other concern. 

For the past month, Rin has been acting odd. 

Just the other day, Yukio had asked him, “Nii-san, have you seen my microbiology notes?” 

Rin hadn’t even bothered glancing in Yukio’s direction, lying stretched out on his back, dead-center in the living room as though he couldn't possibly be bothered to stand anymore, busy typing away on his phone, “Uh, yeah, it’s in the fridge. I put it in there yesterday.”

“I'm sorry, what?” 

“Ugh, I said it’s in the fridge,” Rin had waved a hand dismissively, “just go look and you’ll find it.”

Yukio, feeling ridiculous, had actually checked in fear for his poor brother’s sanity, and of course he hadn’t found them. 

Rin’s been checking his phone constantly, and it chirps back when he’s cooking, sleeping, brushing his teeth, playing with Kuro, working, almost all throughout the day. Yukio’s been observing him for a while, and his behavior has become concerning. 

From what Yukio has seen, he reads the texts once, grinning to himself happily, then he reads them again, and at least two or three more times before he ever replies. 

The other day, he’d asked Yukio out of the blue, “Do you think I should cut my hair? Does it look okay?”

Then he’d proceeded to dig out some hair gel Yukio didn’t even know they had. Rin had pestered him for a whole hour, trying to copy some movie actor’s comb over and when Yukio had asked, he’d responded with an absent, “She said he looked cool,” and gone back to preening in front of the mirror. 

Yukio wants to know who he’s texting. 

At first, it was just a passive interest. He’d walked past Rin in the kitchen and taken a glance over his shoulder. He’d managed to catch a glimpse of a truly exorbitant number of emoticons before Rin had twitched away, frantically hiding his phone.

It is all very suspicious. 

Rin’s been taking more and more pictures of the food he makes and he’s…

Well, there’s no other way to describe it. 

Rin is being bubbly

Yukio is very, very curious.


It’s a quiet day at the cafe and there’s an impressive hail outside, most kindly pelting any passerby straight into their humble little shop. 

Yukio’s taken about ten or twelve or maybe twenty two orders of coffee; in other words, Suguro and Shura have been incredibly busy. 

He’s been getting a lot of tips, which he can always appreciate. 

What he can’t appreciate, is Shima chattering his ear off. 

“Okumura-sensei,” he whines, “how do you always get so many tips? Please, just let me in on your secrets, sensei.”

“It’s called charisma, Shima-san,” Miwa interjects. “Also, Okumura-sensei has class,” he says bluntly. “Here, Bon messed up on these two. Want some coffee?”

“Koneko-san,” Shima slumps against the kitchen counter, prying both lids open, “as ruthless as ever, aren’t you?” He slaps one of the lids back on and slides the other in Yukio’s direction.

Yukio pushes his glasses up to rub his nose bridge, “Perhaps if you didn’t ask for their numbers all the time, they wouldn’t mind so much.” 

“I didn’t this time,” Shima protests. “Sensei, come on— oh, what’s your glasses? If I had glasses would—”

Yukio whacks his reaching hands away, “No.” 

“Hey, I’m off!” Rin yells, throwing his apron off, booking it out the door. 

Shima raises an eyebrow, “He’s been awfully busy recently. Any ideas?”

Yukio takes a sip of coffee, “Not particularly.” 

He’s only secretly fond of pumpkin spice; therefore, it disturbs him slightly that Shima seems to be aware of this. 

“Okumura-kun’s always like that on Tuesdays,” Miwa cups his chin. “Maybe he’s seeing someone?” 

Tuesdays, around two in the afternoon…

When his pumpkin spice latte suddenly goes down his trachea instead of his esophagus, Yukio coughs hard, fighting to breathe as the realization hits him like a slap in the face. 

“Sensei?” Miwa looks over, “Are you alright? Do you need some water?”

Shima pats his back a few times and Yukio waves a hand hastily, “I’m—I’m okay,” he wheezes. 

Now that he thinks about it clearly, things were mildly obvious. Tuesday, two in the afternoon, the farmer’s market...

This is certainly a pleasing development. 


Chapter Text

“Say, are you free Friday afternoon?” Rin jabs a fancy toothpick into the sandwich, passing it to the left. 

Shima grabs the platter, balancing it deftly with one hand, “Yeah? Why?”

“Can you switch me shifts?” 

“Uh, sure, I guess. What are you doing—”

“Thanks!” Rin beams, “I knew you’d have spare time.”

Shima shrugs, “Well, Okumura-kun, you see, I’m actually quite the busy person. I was going to go on a date—”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s okay, Shima. Someday.”

Shima shoves the platter to Yukio right as he comes back in, “Here, go take this, sensei.” He turns back to Rin, propping a hand on his hip, “What makes you think I can’t get a date?” He smirks. 

“Quit your yapping,” Suguro hisses, shaking a canister of whipped cream furiously, “and move those hands, Shima!”

“Jeez,” Shima gestures an “OK” with his fingers, grabbing his notepad, “I’m just curious...why Okumura-kun is—”

“Get going already! And tell that dude in the corner to buy something or he’s got to leave.” Suguro frowns, “We’re not an internet cafe.”

Shima sighs, “On it.”

Rin gives the tempura a few jabs before taking it out, laying them on a sheet to soak up some of the extra oil. He plates it neatly with the tentsuyu and steps back for a second, admiring the bright, crispy batter as he snaps a quick photo. Then, he’s off to making the next order, slicing an egg salad sandwich into slightly uneven halves. Next is the croquettes, then the karaage, then the curry, and more and more orders flood in every minute. 

Lunch rush is distressingly busy all the time, but today he doesn’t mind it too much. 

Once in a while, he’ll think back to the farmer’s market and a little warm cloud of content will float in his chest for a few minutes. 

He’s going to try asking her—

“Nii-san?” Yukio leans against the counter, straightening the pens in his little apron pockets, “I think it’s your turn for break.”

“Oh,” Rin glances up at the clock, “right. Suguro! Watch the curry, okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” 

Rin totters over to a table, slumping into the chair as he pillows his head on his arms, letting out a slow exhale. Maybe he’s tired after all. 

Yukio comes over and fastidiously rearranges the salt and pepper shakers around the soy sauce container. “So, what are you doing on Friday?” 

“You too?” Rin groans, “I’m going...somewhere.” 

“Oh?” Yukio smiles, eyes alight with keen interest, “You’ve never asked to change your work schedule before. Is this important?”

Rin makes to swat at him, but Yukio leans away, barely out of reach, “It’s nothing, okay? Go bus your tables already, glasses.” 

“If you say so, Nii-san,” Yukio pushes his glasses up, and the corners of his lips curve infuriatingly as he walks away. 

What’s up with all of them today? 


Except, before Friday has the chance to come around Shima gets taken out by the flu, so Rin ends up being assigned that shift anyway. 

“Yo, Rin, why you lookin’ like a drowned cat today?” Shura asks, pumping way too much syrup into the latte, “I hear Shima bailed on you.”

“Nah, he’s sick,” Rin shrugs. “Tomorrow will probably be slow anyway.”

Izumo comes back into the kitchen, setting a stack of dirty plates next to the sink. She stretches her arms above her head, nabbing a stool to perch on. “I heard you were going somewhere though,” she poses casually.

“Hmm, not really. Wait a sec, you heard...from who?”

“Uh, no one in particular,” Izumo stares at her phone evasively. “...But I can take it for you, if you really need it.”

“Seriously? Izumo,” Rin breathes, “you’re the best! Hold on, I’m going to text her right now—”

Shura pounces, swiping his phone out of his hands, “Ooh, who? You going on a date?”

“Okumura-kun’s going on a date?” Paku leans over the counter, “With who? Do you have a picture?”

“Wait, Paku, the register, the register,” Izumo waves frantically.

“No—she, she,” Rin wipes his hands on his apron, “I haven’t asked yet.” 

“Aw, good luck, kiddo!” Shura hands his phone back. “Where you going?”

“Not telling,” Rin sniffs. 

“Come on,” Shura slings an arm around his shoulders, “Izumo wants to know too, right?”

“Huh? No! Why would I—”

“Spit it out, Rin! Ah wow, our little baby is growing up—”

“Shut up about it already!” 


It’s just, one afternoon, when he’s sorting Yukio’s laundry out from his own, he runs his fingers over the gentle blue scrubs and it comes back to him in a dream-like bout of clarity. 

It was a few years ago, and the old man was at the hospital getting surgery for appendicitis. Rin had been hanging around the deserted lobby, trying to decide what to get from the vending machine. It was late, almost eleven at night, and he remembers she’d stormed—well, maybe not stormed, but she’d certainly been angry enough—out into the hallway, arms working furiously as she pushed her wheelchair to the side, slamming the door shut. 

Then, she’d proceeded to settle in the corner, becoming incredibly small, nearly unnoticed. 

Rin can’t seem to recall where Yukio had been, only that he wasn’t there. 

It sucks, because Yukio is the type to know what to do, not Rin, never Rin. 

Despite that, the two of them were in the lobby filled with heavy white noise of things Rin couldn’t be bothered to identify and amidst all that thick, anonymous noise, she’d begun to cry. 

He hadn’t noticed at first. Another thing he can’t remember was what he was doing over there in the first place, and why he’d stayed for so long. 

She’d started crying, with soft, restrained sniffles, like a movie actress; sorrowful, but not too unbearable.

Except, it wouldn't last. 

Rin hadn’t had the slightest idea what to do. As her crying got worse, his fears came true and no one appeared to comfort her. 

By now, he’d realized she wasn’t aware he was there at all. He's painfully ashamed to admit that at one point, he’d been resolved to just stand there and hope she’d calm down and leave. 

She didn’t at all, and seconds dragged slowly, excruciatingly, to minutes. By then, his situation had progressively worsened as her crying turned ugly, as all and any type of crying eventually does. 

It was then, that a helpful—if somewhat naive—idea came to him. He fed his crinkled bills into the vending machine and as the chocolate bar fell to the slot with a dull thunk, he heard her sniffle again, followed by a hiccup she couldn't manage to hold in. 

He'd finally mustered the courage to walk up to her, prepared to give some kind of polite consolation, only to freeze up. So, like a totally useless idiot, he'd frantically dropped the chocolate bar in her lap, along with the box of tissues he'd snatched off the receptionist's desk, muttering a quick, “sorry" as he'd ran away, face burning with frustration. 

It was, in general, a pathetic memory that he'd been reluctant to recall. 

But now he thinks he understands what she meant by, “when we met before."

It’s really embarrassing that she still remembers that though. 


He didn’t have the guts to ask over text because it’’s not a date, but he doesn’t want to—it’s impolite to ask like that, and he—

Rin pretends to inspect an attractive radish. “Hey Shiemi?” 


“Oh, I was thinking, you know, because this is the last week—er, are you busy on Friday? In the afternoon?”

“Nope, why?”

“I uh, do you want to go somewhere? Like, maybe the botanical garden?”

He hears her sharp intake of breath and there’s a tormenting silence that follows it. 

Then, as a quiet whisper, “...Sorry, Rin. I...I can’t go there yet,” she says, “um, does it have to be there?”

“No, not at all. Uh, where do you want—”

“Can we go visit that cafe you work at?” she asks abruptly, “Please? You’re always talking about it, so…I kind of want to see, you know? It sounds really nice.” 

She smiles and before he realizes it, he blurts, “Sure, we should totally go."

Why does she want to go there of all places? He’s never going to live this down. 

“Really? I’m so happy!” Shiemi clasps his hands and Rin feels the blood rush to his face—crap, he probably looks like the older sibling of one of those heirloom tomatoes right now—

“Thank you, Rin! I’ve been wanting to go for a while now,” she beams. “Ah, what should I order? I haven’t been to a cafe for so long.”

It’s okay, he tells himself. He’s willing to suffer through the embarrassment. 

In all honesty, Rin’s heart is nearly bursting with happiness too. He’s just so, so glad she didn’t say no.


“Are you sure this looks okay?”

“Nii-san, I’m going to be late for my shift if you don’t hurry up. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind even if you showed up in your pajamas. Let’s go already,” Yukio replies unhelpfully, “please.”

“Tch,” Rin passes him the car keys, “this is a horrible idea. I shouldn’t have agreed to this.”

“I think it’s a nice idea though,” Yukio mentions, “going to the cafe, I mean.”

“Ah, wait, just drop me off right here. I told her I’d wait for her at the courtyard.” 

Yukio smiles, “See you soon.”

It’s a little chilly today, and as Rin sits on the stone bench, he rubs his arms, tugging his coat a little higher. The sun’s nowhere to be seen and he wonders if it’ll snow soon, with how white the sky has turned. 

There’s a soft click-click that draws his attention and his jaw drops as he spots Shiemi. 

Her hair is pinned into a messy bun with a few strands framing her face today and as always, she’s dressed in a kimono, plus an enormous pastel pink puffer coat. She’s really pretty, but she’s always pretty anyway and—more importantly, there’s something else that’s different—

“Wha— Shiemi? You’re on crutches?” Rin jogs over hastily, and he marvels that incredible moment when he looks into her eyes and she’s, she’s a lot taller? “Wow, wow, wow, you—did you walk all the way over here?”

Her cheeks are flushed as she smiles proudly, “Just from the curb. My mother dropped me off. I’ve been getting better though! The doctor said I’d be able to walk all on my own soon!” 

“Whoa, that’s super cool!” Rin gushes, “Holy crap, that’s amazing! Shiemi, you’re amazing!” 

What the—his vocabulary right now—crap is he saying? Can’t he say something better? He sounds like an elementary-schooler, and all he can think of saying is cool—

“Uh, what are we waiting around for, let’s go then?” 

“Yeah,” she says, breathes coming out in warm puffs as they stroll over to the cafe. He’s really happy for her—he never even imagined she’d be able to walk, let alone really, really soon. 

Was that part of what she meant by, “I can’t go there yet” or was it something else?

It feels like every time they talk, he wants to get to know her better, like the more he learns, the more interested he becomes. 

Rin reaches for the door, determined to open it for her, when it swings open by itself.  “Welcome to True Cross Cafe,” Yukio says, smiling way too widely

“Ah, Yuki-chan!”  

“It’s nice to see you, Shiemi-san.”

Rin’s brain stutters to a halt, then proceeds to short-circuit. “What? You know each other?” Rin asks incredulously as Yukio ushers them inside. Rin makes for the counter, but Yukio sets a hand on his shoulder, seating them at a table instead. 

“Yeah,” Shiemi nods shyly, “Yuki-chan’s always at the hospital.”

Yukio sets two menus down, whipping out a pen, “May I get you anything to drink?”

“Why didn’t you tell me,” Rin hisses at him, “you knew each other? What are we, a sit-down restaurant now? Where’d these menus come from anyway? Don’t expect me to tip you for this—” 

“Wow, I don’t know what to pick,” Shiemi laughs, “ah, I haven’t really had coffee before. What do you think I should get, Rin?” 

Rin looks down at the menu, trying to collect his thoughts, “Depends on if you’re okay with bitter stuff, I guess. We’ve got tea too.”

“No, it’s okay!” Shiemi says resolutely, “I’m going to get coffee today.” 

“Might I suggest,” Yukio points to the menu, “our White Chocolate Hazelnut Latte? The savoriness of roasted nuts dresses the bitter tang of our beans quite well. Along with the white chocolate, which adds a hint of sweetness, it’s a delicate balance to the depth of our other sensations. I believe you’d like it, Shiemi-san.” 

“Sure, that sounds great! Could, could I get that then?” 

“Of course, and for you?” Yukio prompts. 

“I’ll just have Iced Coffee,” Rin says, smoothing his thumb over the corner of the menu, “er, actually, make that Dutch Coffee.” 

Yukio nods, scribbling onto his notepad, “Allow me to confirm, I have one White Chocolate Hazelnut Latte and one Dutch Coffee. Will that be everything for you today, or would you like to keep the menu in case you change your mind later?”

“Um, maybe let’s keep them for a bit?” Shiemi asks.

“Absolutely,” Yukio clicks his pen, “I’ll have your orders in just a minute.” He reaches over to the next booth, “In the meantime, please enjoy our complimentary meringues.” 

“Wow, Yuki-chan is amazing. He’s so cool and mature,” Shiemi sighs, “I wish I could be like that with customers.”

Rin plays with a napkin idly, “Yeah.” 

It’s not a date, so he shouldn’t feel peeved that they’re sitting here, complimenting Yukio...but he does anyway. 

“Have you known each other for a while?” Shiemi inspects the meringues, picking one up delicately.

That’s what Rin wants to ask, really, but he’ll grill Yukio about it later. “We’re twins.”

Shiemi looks up with a dumbfounded expression and Rin wants to laugh a little at her surprise, “Really? You seem so different!”

“Well, we’re fraternal,” Rin shrugs. 

“I only found out just barely that you two knew each other,” he adds, trying to keep his tone casual. 

“Yeah, that’s such a nice coincidence. I suspected you worked at the same cafe, but I never thought you were the one Yuki-chan always talks about.”


Yuki-chan. Are they really close or something? 

“These meringues are so intricate! I can’t believe they’re cats,” Shiemi laughs. 

Just like that, his mood lightens, and Rin finds himself easing back into their familiar rhythm. “Yeah, Konekomaru makes the best desserts. Here,” he grabs the menu, “I’ll tell you about the cakes. You said you wanted to try some before, right?” 

Shiemi nibbles on the meringue, eyes shining with barely-withheld anticipation, “They all sound so good, I can’t decide. I love the feeling of this place. It’s so cute and cozy! This menu is quite pretty too.”

Rin glances over the menu. It looks like Paku's handwriting. “Yeah, I didn’t even know we had these—”

“That’s because we didn’t,” Yukio sets Rin’s glass down in front of him. “It was their idea, to make menus for you two,” he smiles. “Your Dutch Coffee. Please enjoy. Shiemi-san, our barista will be bringing your latte shortly. I hope you’ll like the surprise,” he says, heading to the next table.


RIn shrugs again, “I guess Yukio must have realized, and told them. It’s slow right now, so they like to do stuff for customers,” he waves a hand like you know, but she really doesn’t.

Yukio must have blabbed about his plans. Now they’re doing all this extra fancy stuff like these menus and free meringues—

“It’s mostly just Suguro though,” Rin gestures with a hand lazily again, “he’s an overachiever in everything. None of us can even keep up with him.”

“That sounds like so much fun,” Shiemi props her hand under her chin. “Have you all worked here for a while then?”

“Yeah,” Rin waves as Suguro comes over, “are you going to do your cool thing?”

Suguro smirks, “Better tip well, Okumura.” He nods politely at Shiemi, “Please forgive our idiot if he ever says anything stupid. He means well.” 

Shiemi giggles a little, but soon, she's leaning on the edge of her seat, watching as Suguro shapes a pair of puffy white rabbit ears out of foam. He dots two eyes and an x for a mouth with a flourish, grinning proudly, “Enjoy!”

“Wow, thank you!” Shiemi claps cheerfully. “This is so amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“No problem,” Suguro waves, “see you around.”

Rin sips his cold, cold coffee and it still feels like fire through his veins, and he’s sort of...really proud and really warm right now. He’s so grateful, that she’s happy. 

“So, let’s pick out a dessert!” Rin smiles. 

It’s kind of dumb, but he feels a little like he’s in a dreamy version of Cinderella or whatever silly princess story, only all the parallels are wrong and neither of them have a stepmother, and there’s nothing actually magical about this—

He wants to stay here, with her, with the people most important to him. He wishes the time would go a little slower. 

After about ten minutes, neither Shiemi nor Rin can decide, and they force Yukio to pick for them. He does so without any hesitation, glasses glinting merrily, and Rin suspects he and Izumo have been scheming this whole time. Both of the choices seem like stuff she would pick, even if she’d deny liking cute things. 

Yukio whispers something in Shiemi’s ear that makes her look at Rin, then they share a grin as he saunters off. 

Rin’s definitely going to grill him about this later. 

Shiemi spends a whole minute taking pictures of her bumblebee cake roll and Rin’s panda mousse cake. Initially, she’s super hesitant about eating it, like her latte, but once she does it disappears with frightening speed, despite how daintily she does everything. He ends up sharing his panda with her too. 

They usually take turns playing whatever music in the cafe, but today, he can tell it’s all Izumo’s refined piano pieces, mixed in with a few of Suguro’s enka. It’s quiet and nice. 

It’s easier to talk here, unlike the market, and he wants to remember the words and inflections to her voice, latching on to each and every sentence.

Rin talks about the happiest parts of his past, growing up in the monastery surrounded by the kindest people. He glosses over some of the fights he used to get into but is still a little proud of, his first job that he totally screwed up on, that weird period of time when he worked in the mall making ice cream, and funny antics Kuro gets up to. She laughs at all the right moments, and he laughs too. 

The cafe gets gradually emptier and soon all the other guests are gone, so his laughter gets louder, freer and his heart likes to skip beats every time he manages to make her laugh. 

They spend the rest of the afternoon drinking way too much coffee and Yukio keeps bringing them other tidbits to try, like candied strawberries and macarons and a really bitter tea mix and sort of malformed fish-shaped marshmallows and cookies hard as bricks.

Shiemi talks too, about how her grandmother taught her everything related to gardening, to medicine. Her face is really, really red when she admits she’s terrible at cooking. All the things she makes are healthy, but inevitably taste like grass. She talks about liking rain and being afraid of fuzzy whitish-green mold and the darker shades of the color purple. 

Rin asks about her kimonos and she swats at his arm lightly when he laughs at her for her answer. 

He’s laughing so hard he’s almost crying at this point, and his stomach kind of aches from how much coffee and food he’s had, so he escapes to the restroom. 

When he comes back, he finds Yukio in his seat, along with Izumo, and Suguro and Konekomaru and they’re just casually talking about carpet squares? What? What, is everyone here today? Why does he have to be friends with such nosy people? 

The cafe’s pretty much empty at this point and Konekomaru produces a deck of cards from nowhere. Their tiny table is soon cluttered with all the day-old pastries and cakes—cut into twelve miniature sections courtesy of Izumo, some more of the bitter tea they’ve started using like penalty shots for losing, a really random bag of wasabi peas, a box of matcha pocky—raided from Paku’s secret stash because she’s on an actual date, very old rubbery mochi, also really random blueberry cheesecake kit-kats. 

Shiemi is brilliant at Old Maid, yet somehow terrible at Go Fish. Well, everyone’s terrible at Go Fish because Suguro wipes the floor with all of them. Then they teach Shiemi how to play Scum, but with a bunch of extra rules and crap so it’s like she’s part of the team already. Rin suspects they go way easy on her, or Yukio’s cheating somehow because she gets out right after him every time and Izumo and Suguro are cutthroat for third place and Rin’s been scum four times in a row now. 

It’s getting late though. When Shiemi’s phone rings like the twelfth chime on their little party, Konekomaru gives her a takeout box with a bunch more desserts and lots of numbers are exchanged with promises to meet again. 

As they sit on the bench by the curb waiting for her mother to pick her up, soft white snowflakes puff about in the air, swept around by the wind. 

“Thank you, Rin,” Shiemi cradles the takeout box to her chest. “I really had a lot of fun today,” she smiles. 

“Yeah, me too,” Rin grins. “I—” 

He sneezes suddenly, and Shiemi sets her takeout box aside hastily, “Here, do you want my coat?”

“What? No way, I can’t take your coat,” Rin protests vehemently. “Besides, it wouldn’t fit—”

“But you’re walking back to the cafe, right?” Shiemi urges, “When my mom comes, I’ll give it to you, so promise me you’ll wear it! You’ll catch a cold,” she insists. 

“Uh, okay,” Rin relents. It’s dark, and...whatever. Her coat looks really warm anyway. He’ll just drape it like a pink puffy cape. No problem. 

 “Really though,” Shiemi smiles, reaching a hand out to catch a few of the cotton-like snowflakes, “I’ve never had this much fun. I’ll remember it forever,” she says, eyes narrowing with promise, “and ever and ever.”

Rin laughs softly, “What are you talking about? We’ll have lots more fun from here on out, got it?”


The searing glow of car headlights sweeps across the quiet courtyard and Rin takes the box from her, so Shiemi can stand. 

It looks hard, really hard when she walks—it’s so effortless to him that it’s almost uncomfortable to watch her. Some part of Rin wants her to take it easy, because it looks hard

But she’s gritting her teeth and edging forward like an enormous pink penguin and he doesn’t ever want to tell her to give up on anything, especially not this. So, he holds the box, and they walk the distance of about twenty steps to the curb like climbing a mountain or scaling a barbed wire fence and all he can do is give her a high five at the very end as her mother opens the door. 

“See you again soon, Rin!” She leans out the window, “Thank you!”

“Yeah! See you soon!” Rin yells, clutching the really warm pink coat like some fluffy animal, standing at the curb, watching her pumpkin—no, it should be kabocha—carriage amble away into the snowy blur.

He should be the one saying, “thank you.” 

This is the happiest he’s been in a while too. He has everyone to thank for that, and most importantly, he has Shiemi to thank for this incredible lightness in his chest, like he’ll float away any minute now, just from how happy he is. 

He wants to go to that botanical garden with her someday.