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All it Takes is a Leap of Faith

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Being a single dad means twice the work, twice the stress and twice the anxiety; maybe more than that if you’re a father of triplets. Ohno became a widower at a very young age when he lost his wife through cancer. His children have barely even learned to read and write when he became fully responsible in taking care of them. The early years were very tough. The first one (and maybe eldest based on birth order), Masaki, is a goofball and very adventurous. He was often seen jumping from high places or getting injured every now and then. Ohno almost got a heart attack when he saw him bleeding on his head. It was due to the kid’s carelessness that allowed him to hit himself over a pole inside their house. Luckily, it’s just a minor injury. Despite all that, Masaki was a big ball of sunshine and would often praise his father in the most exaggerated way as possible.

The second one, Kazu, is quite unique. He may seem shy and quiet most of the time but he was very mischievous. Kazu loves pranking his father and brothers. The subject of most of his pranks was the eldest child because of how gullible he was. One instance, Kazu had told his brother that there were monsters hiding below their bed and so the poor child, Masaki, fearing the said monsters, did not sleep in their room for days and stayed with their dad for many nights. It took a very long time to convince Masaki that there were no monsters (but instead friendly creatures, a story crafted by Ohno to appease the kid). Even though he acts like that, Nino cares for them. He’s often seen clinging on Ohno’s legs whenever possible and at one point in time, he even promised his father that he would take care of him when he grows up.

Jun, the youngest and the cutest (as Ohno always told his neighbors) was a nice and diligent kid. He was the only one to finish his homework early. He also does his part in household chores like folding his clothes properly, cleaning up the table after every meal or putting back his toys in place after their playtime. The problem, however, he was kind of spoiled. He would drag his father to several toy or candy stores and would complain all day if Ohno did not buy the thing he wanted. Nevertheless, Ohno would still comply and spoil Jun.

Parenting can be quite tough especially if Ohno juggles it with his work as an architect. Fortunately, the company he works for is sympathetic over his circumstance and made adjustments to his work load and office hours. He’s also grateful to his parents who comes by almost thrice a month to help him care for the triplets.

Another thing. Ohno’s quite famous in the triplets’ kindergarten school for being a “Super Dad”. He’s the one who always accompany and pick up the kids to school. He never fails to make the kids’ bento fun and creative; he would put hotdogs in the shape of octopus, or cheese and nori in different images of animal characters. Even his miso soup is to die for. The teachers and mothers, alike, have tried to bribe Ohno in giving them the recipe but the guy always tell them, “It’s a family secret.”

He never failed to attend school events such as athletic meet, dance recitals and cultural festivals. When Jun was casted as a prince in a play, he brought with him a big black bag carrying a tripod, DSLR camera and extension tubes. He was often praised over how good he handles his triplets that he could get a PhD for that. Some mothers even brag Ohno to their husbands.

Neighbors, friends and family would often tell Ohno to move on, get himself a partner and settle down once and for all. However, Ohno doesn’t really mind doing those things alone. He’s content with what he have and what he can do.

—————

It was Saturday morning and the triplets were having fun playing with Ohno. Right after they ate breakfast, the three kids chirpily asked Ohno if they could ‘make him pretty’. Their father quite confused by what they meant still agreed on what his children wanted.

Masaki can be seen putting colored clips on Ohno’s brown curls. Red, green, yellow, blue and violet clips almost filled up his father’s hair. He did say earlier that the more colorful, the more beautiful his father would look. Kazu, on the other hand, was sticking his favorite action man stickers all over Ohno’s cheeks and forehead. Ohno would, surely, have a hard time taking it all off. The kid has stated, with much enthusiasm, that by putting those stickers on Ohno; there’s a big possibility that it might turn his dad into a literal superhero. Meanwhile, little Jun was playing with watercolor. He decided to paint Ohno’s nails with it. Similar to what Masaki believed, he decorated his father’s hands with combinations of bright colors to make him prettier. Ohno reminded himself to get some acetone or alcohol when he goes out later in the afternoon.

Amidst the chaos that was being done to him, Ohno didn’t mind and just started to hum and sing some nursery rhymes.
“Old Macdonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O…”
The triplets would join in the singing.

They were enjoying a peaceful morning when Ohno’s phone rang. Hastily, he moved from his position and picked up the phone from the coffee table, “Hello, Ohno speaking”

“Ah! Are you busy right now?”, it was his boss and Ohno can feel the worry emanating from the voice on the other line.

He glanced at his kids who by now were rearranging the things they used earlier and trying to decide on what they would do next. “Quite”, he replied.

“Souta got sick suddenly and the client that he needs to meet today is very important. I’m currently out of town and the only one I can lean on is you.”

As Ohno listened to the problem at hand, he kept his gaze over his children. Saturday’s a very bad time to leave his kids inside their apartment, who knows what chaos they would do if they were left all alone. The only thing he can think of is asking the help of his neighbor, Haruka, in looking after them.

“But if you’re busy… I can ask the other team but—
“No!”, Ohno cut his boss short and his loud voice caused the kids to pause and looked at him. “Ah… I mean… I can go if you want.”, lowering the volume of his voice

“Really!”, his boss sighed in relief. “You sure you’re not pushing it?”
Ohno shook his head acting as if his boss could see it. “I’ll send you the details right after this call.”, his boss happily said then he ended the call.

Ohno hung up and right after, he received a text coming from his boss with the details of the meeting.

Urban Café, 12 noon
Look for someone named Sakurai Sho

Ohno glanced at the clock by the wall and he immediately understood that it’s not a great time to take things easy. He has roughly 45 minutes before the designated time of the meeting. The café is one train away and his face is still drenched up with the mess done by his children. He stood up and approached the triplets. “Your papa needs to work for a few hours so you’ll stay with your Aunt Haruka.”

“The beautiful lady?”, Masaki asked.

Ohno nodded.

“Stay there. Papa needs to clean up first.” and proceeded to the bathroom removing every stickers and clips that have been placed by Kazu and Masaki. Luckily, the paint that Jun used can be removed by soap and water. He quickly fixed his hair and skimmed at his closet hoping to find a clean suit. Unfortunately, there were none. Laundry day would still be done tomorrow so he just put on a polo shirt and pants praying that his outfit would do and he won’t be scowled by his client.

Going back to the living room, he sighed in relief seeing that the kids were obediently sitting, waiting for him and have yet to cause any destruction. “Let’s go!”

————

Ohno was locking the door of their apartment when Kazu asked, “Can I play with the dog?”
Ohno patted Kazu’s head. “Sure, but ask Haruka first”, his father replied. Kazu has always loved dogs and unfortunately, he can’t give it to him because of the cost and the added effort to care for the furry animal.

Jun, then, said frowning, “I want to pet Chibi too but she’s scary.”

What Ohno knew based on Kazu and Masaki’s stories that dogs would always bark at Jun and even cats seem to hate him. Scratches would be seen in his arms whenever he pets one. He ruffled Jun’s hair and told him that Chibi just needs time to adjust to Jun’s presence because of how handsome Jun is. Happy to hear his father’s compliment, Jun’s face brightened up and sung loudly the nursery rhyme they were singing earlier. Barely audible to Jun, Ohno heard Kazu commenting, “Yeah, right…” and he shushed the kid.

When they arrived at Haruka’s, Ohno rang the door bell. No one answered. He rang it for the second time and dead silence ensued. He placed his ears near the apartment door hoping to hear slight noises inside. But the silence and lack of response can only indicate that the owner has gone somewhere.

“Oh no…”, he whispered in panic.

He looked at his watch and it’s now at 11:30. He can’t call his mother. She will be coming very far from the province and it would take her a lot of hours just to go their place. The old guy, beside them, would never be his option. Ohno believed that one should never judge a person by appearance. But, based on the old guy’s smoking habits, Ohno knew that it’s not a good thing to leave the kids with that guy.

The only option left was something that he never did, he never thought he would do and maybe any sane working man would not think of. Ohno gazed at his triplets, who by now looked as confused and worried as their father. He smiled and scooted at their eye-level, “Hey, want some cakes?”
Unaware of what will happen later, the kids celebrated with Masaki shouting, “Chocolate cake!”

—————

Sakurai Sho was aware that it’s wrong to schedule a meeting on a weekend but he needed to finish this project on time. Feeling the pressure coming from his parents and coworkers, he wanted to live up to the reputation he had built up in the company. He was assigned to establish a branch of one of their popular restaurant chain in the southern part of the city. He’s thinking of making the design of the building unique in order to attract the attention of possible customers. Nowadays, it’s the aesthetic that’s important. If he can make the place “picture-worthy” then that would eventually result to an increase in the sales of the restaurant. He placed his trust on the architectural firm that was suggested by his college senior, Okada. The guy has a great track record and someone he really looked up to. He knew that Okada’s suggestion would be definitely fool-proof

or so he thought…

He did not expect that the architect that he would be meeting today would be accompanied by three little kids. He looked at them warily and in response, the kids all hid behind the man’s legs. Looks like the three children were scared of him. He glanced up to the man, who seems to be their father, and currently looking at him apologetically. Not sure what to do, he showed a strained smile to the man.

At the back of his mind, he thought that the kids, maybe, wouldn’t be such a problem. All they need to do is discuss the concept and then, done. He stood up from his seat and reached out a hand to him, “Sakurai Sho, and you are… Souta?”

The guy grabbed his hand and shook it. “No, it’s Ohno Satoshi. Souta’s sick so I substituted for him.”

—————

Ohno immediately realized that his decision was a very bad idea. He remembered how his boss emphasized the word “important client” in their conversation. The way the man had looked at his kids with confusion is one of the indication that he might have screwed up this meeting.

On their way to the café, he reminded his kids to behave and not talk too loudly. He did not expect that they would follow what he said. For the most part, they were probably scared. When he greeted Sakurai, he noticed how the three froze over the sight of a man who’s almost twice their height, fully suited in a businessman attire and quite intimidating. Kazu clung too hard on his legs and burrowed his face over his pants. Masaki peeked curiously in between his legs eager to see the stranger while Jun held onto Kazu’s arms and remained silent. Ohno explained the situation and fortunately, Sakurai’s nice and understood what he had told him.

In an outsider’s perspective, it was a weird set-up. Ohno with his kids on the other side of the table whilst Sakurai alone. Even though Sakurai said that he doesn’t mind, Ohno cannot help but notice how the man would glance once in a while on to the three children, who by now were sketching and drawing stuff in a piece of paper given by Ohno.
“…so I want the customers to feel that they are hanging out in a living room of their friend’s or a family member with a really nice house.”, Sho instructed.

Ohno, despite the teases over his unmotivated appearance, was good with his work. He has diligently taken note of the things Sakurai said and started to sketch a simple draft. “For the layout, this is what I would suggest and you can put a huge window over here to add brightness and airiness to the restaurant.” He was so focused that he almost forgot that his kids were sitting beside him. “Of course, I still need to meet with my boss and tell hi—

As Ohno looked up, he saw Sakurai grinning at him. Puzzled over Sakurai’s expression, he asked him, “Is there something wrong?” Sakurai directed Ohno’s attention to the right side of his hair and forehead.

Wondering what Sho was talking about, he touched the part where Sakurai was pointing at. He suddenly felt what seems to be plastic and that can only mean one thing, he left a hair clip on his hair. Immediately pulling it out, he dragged his hands down to his forehead where he noticed a sticker still sticking there. “Ah!”, he shouted loudly which interrupted the silence of his kids and they all turned to their father curious on what have occurred. “Sorry… we were playing earlier…”, he shyly said and blushed over how clumsy he is.

Sakurai drew laughter from what he saw and suddenly blurted out, “How cute” which deepened the blush on Ohno’s cheeks further. With the mood lightening up, Sakurai suggested to stop the meeting and grab something to eat because he’s already starved.

He called for the waiter and ordered today’s special. He directed his gaze at Ohno and asked him, “What do you want? It’s on me”

Ohno perked up. It was kind of weird to be treated by his client; furthermore, Sakurai might be obliged to treat his kids, as well. He was about to say ‘no’ when suddenly Masaki shouted, “Chocolate cake!” Stunned by what he heard, he rapidly shifted his eyes on to Masaki. Kazu followed suit, “Can I get a hamburger?”; while Jun with a small voice, “Cheesecake…”

Ohno promised to himself that he would definitely not bring his kids to work again. Embarrassed over what happened, he placed his palm on his face and said to Sakurai, “Don’t mind them” He knew his kids would be very demanding if this continued.

Sakurai laughed lightly. He was worried, at first, on how the talk would proceed with kids sitting there and all. But knowing that they remained quiet throughout the meeting, they do deserve a kind of reward. “It’s okay. Go ahead order what you want.”, he gladly said.

Ohno’s mouth gaped open, he can’t believe how nice Sakurai is. A true blessing.

Sakurai suddenly asked, “How about you?” and pointed at Ohno. Still not keen on letting Sakurai pay for everything, Ohno contemplated whether to accept his offer or not. It took minutes of silence before Sakurai realized that he won’t be given any reply. He decided to take matters into his own hands and told the waiter that Ohno’s order would be the same as his.

And as the waiter left, Ohno continuously apologized over what happened. A smile formed on Sakurai’s mouth and glanced at the kids who were happily shouting “Yay!”.

“So… What are your names?”, Sakurai asked.
Masaki with his loud voice, “I’m Masaki, this is Kazu, then Jun.”
“Hmm…”, Sakurai happily hummed.

Ohno, while glancing at his kids, apologized once again., “Sorry, they’re quite demanding…”
“Don’t worry. They’ve been behaved so I’m just giving them a reward.”, Sakurai assured him. He, then, added, “That clip thing earlier…”, he gestured his hands over his head, “Are you letting them play with your hair?”

Ohno scratched his head and replied, “They want to pretty me up so they put hair clips and stickers on me.”
“I’m quite lucky they did not use any make up.”, he chuckled.

Sakurai placed his chin on his hand with his elbow over the table. “Really…”, he looked at the triplets. “Why need to do that? Your father is already pretty”

Ohno was taken aback by what has escaped from the man’s lips. A hue of red spread throughout his cheeks and it burned due to the unexpected compliment. He barely heard what Kazu replied as he kept his sights on Sakurai.

Was he a natural born flirt?

Wait, does it even count as flirting? it could just be simple praising.

Ohno tried to recall the time someone praised his looks and that was a very long time ago around the time when he wore a tuxedo for his marriage.

Sakurai caught Ohno staring at him frozen, with cheeks in full red color. His words earlier doesn’t really mean anything. Just pure curiosity, nothing romantic. But, to tell the truth, at some point during their meeting, he did notice that Ohno’s kind of cute. Sakurai admitted to himself that he is quite curious over what kind of guy Ohno is. The kind of guy who brought kids into one of his appointed meeting.

Again, nothing romantic… Sakurai knew that Ohno’s probably happily married. Furthermore, he has a girlfriend, already. So, really… nothing romantic…

————

After finishing their meal, they bid each other goodbye. “See you then”, Sakurai said.
“Hopefully not with kids”, Ohno teased.

Sakurai laughed as he waved his hand goodbye and walked off at the opposite direction. Ohno remained standing outside of the restaurant maintaining his gaze on Sakurai’s retreating back.

He, suddenly, felt a nudge from his pants. Looking down, he saw Kazu pouting, “Papa, you’re smiling like an idiot.”

“Am I?”

“Yeah!”, Masaki said. “Like this”, and Masaki smiled widely with his teeth showing.

“No… You’re just imagining…”, he denied and looked at Jun trying to ask support from the little kid. However, the kid just nodded eagerly. “Eh?! Really??”

Masaki, out of topic, then uttered, “I like the guy earlier. He bought me chocolate cake. When will he visit, Papa?”

Ohno sighed. He needs to explain to his kids that they would probably not see the guy again. Most likely, Ohno, too, since it’s not him that’s assigned on the project but rather Souta.

He can feel disappointment brewing within him but he does not exactly know why.

Chapter Text

Who would have thought that instead of Souta, it would be him that would be assigned to lead the project? Poor Souta still needs to extend his stay in the hospital. Ohno has sent get-well flowers to his colleague with an accompanying “Why do you need to get sick?” note. As much as Ohno loves his work, he does not enjoy doing overtime. Extensions from working hours were frequent especially when one is designated as the lead architect. Much more when the client is very demanding and wants to finish drafts and proposals in a very fast pace.

Just like what’s happening right now, meetings right here and there. Ohno can barely keep up. Sakurai Sho might be nice and handsome but Ohno does not want to work with him.

During their first official meeting, he was greeted by the guy, “No kids today?” Ohno laughed it off.

The truth is, he hasn’t told anything yet to his boss and decided, actually, not to. Upon hearing the details from Sho, he was utterly reprimanded. That particular event spread like wild fire in their office. Due to that, his office buddy, Matsuoka, started to make fun of him. “Really, with kids?”

Ohno, further, hated it when Sakurai scheduled video call meetings during late nights or early morning. It would be alright if Ohno’s single but he has three kids to take care of. He knew many were willing to help but he can’t rely on them 24/7.

“I need the initial draft by 27.”, Sakurai instructed in one of their meetings.
Ohno checked his phone to determine what day is 27. Turns out, it’s this coming Saturday. He wondered whether Sakurai works all day, everyday, non-stop. He wished the guy would just chill out for a moment.

“All right, I’ll see what I can do.” As an employee he can’t reject outright what was instructed of him thus all he can do is just to agree. Furthermore, Sakurai is one of the company’s important clients. He can’t fail this one.

He pressed the end call button and scratched his forehead out of frustration. Laying his head over the table, he closed his eyes for a moment. Not quite far from him, he can hear his kids shouting and screaming. After a minute, crying ensued. Ohno wondered whether Jun was the one who’s bawling or Masaki. He hesitantly stood up and muttered, “Let me sleep, kids…”

He entered the room at the far left of the hallway and saw a very familiar scene. The stuffed dolphin that he bought last week was lying on the ground, tattered to pieces. Beside it was Masaki crying his eyes out while his two younger brothers were just standing quietly biting their lips and holding back tears. “What happened?”, he softly asked as he approached and crouched eye level to them.

Jun, immediately pointed at Kazu and started to complain with his voice stuttering. The little kid was trying to not cry, “Iii— It— Kazu— dolphin—“ Ohno, without getting much words from Jun, can already picture what happened inside the room.

By his right side, he can hear Masaki shouting while crying, “Kazu won’t give me the dolphin!”
Kazu, with flushed cheeks, defended himself, “My time is not yet up. So I should be the one playing with the dolphin!”

Ohno sighed. He should have bought three. The problem, however, the store has only one in stock. It can’t be helped that he went home bringing only one. He did remind them to share the toy equally. Picking up the pieces of the foam that came off of the stuffed toy, he told them, “And you fought over this?” and showed them the broken toy.

The triplets nodded. This led for Jun’s tears to stream from his eyes. “Look at Mr. Dolphin, all broken.”, Ohno voiced out as he tried to squish the foam inside the cloth.

“Sorry…”, he heard Kazu apologized under his breath. He ruffled the little kid’s hair, “Next time share it with your brother.”

“You know, you have other toys.” Getting the stuffed giraffe near him, “Look, you can play with Mr. Giraffe, he’s lonely. Mr. Dolphin can wait.” And he squished the giraffe on Kazu’s nose. Kazu giggled over the action. He pulled the toy near him and hugged it.
“Apologize to Masaki too”, he instructed the kid. Kazu complied and held a hand to Masaki who by now is fixated on the giraffe toy Kazu was holding, “Sorry…”
Masaki’s expression shifted from gloomy to happy. He smiled from ear to ear and grabbed hold of Kazu’s hands immediately.

From the corner of Ohno’s eyes, he noticed how Jun has stopped crying and already laughing over the sight of his brothers reconciling. Ohno was delighted to see his kids smiling and getting along, again. He clapped his hands to get the attention of the boys. “Hey, want to play with Papa?” and the triplets screamed happily with Masaki saying, “Can we do pirate role-playing?” and their father nodded in agreement.

After playing with the kids all night long, their energy finally died down and he tucked them to sleep. Before he went on his way, he saw Jun staring at him like he wanted to say something. Ohno went closer to his little kid, “What is it Jun?” as he stroked the kids hair.
“I want sausage for my lunch.”
His father chuckled, “Sure! I’ll even add eyes and lips on it.”
Jun covered his mouth with his blanket, giggled and muttered a small, “Yay!”
Jun stared at his father’s eyes for a second and Ohno saw flicker in it. “Do you want to add more?”
The kid shook his head and with a smile said, “I love you, Papa…”

At that moment, Ohno wanted to cry. Trying to hold back his tears, he kissed Jun on his forehead and whispered, “I love you too…”

—————

Ohno worked very hard all week long. He was concentrated in getting the initial draft to Sakurai, on time. During this week, he was always late in picking up the kids. Luckily, their teacher, Toma-sensei was forgiving and would accompany the kids all afternoon until Ohno comes back from work. Nino teasingly demanded hamburgers as a way to accept his father’s apologies.

The night before the deadline, Ohno can be seen with a blanket, fully wrapped around his shoulder and in glasses typing seriously on his laptop. He was emanating a “do not disturb” aura. He asked the kids to sleep early and promised them that they would play at the park tomorrow. More or less, it’s just for him to finally focus and do some last editing on his report. Feeling a sudden chills, he sneezed. Still focused on his work, he did not pay any attention to it and continued to do what he was tasked on completing.

As he was about to finish the report, he saw a tiny figure peeking out from the wall separating the hallway and the living room. He narrowed his eyes to see clearly who it was and saw Kazu approaching him with his stuffed dog in his left hand. He removed his glasses and placed it atop of the table. “What’s wrong, Kazu?”

“I’ve had a bad dream. It’s scary.”, Kazu replied and clung on to his father’s arms.

Ohno patted Kazu’s head and hugged him. “Do you want to sleep with me?” He can feel Kazu nodding over his chest. Rubbing the tiny kid’s back, he said, “I’ll finish this up first, okay.”

He let Kazu sit beside him. Removing the blanket that was covering him, he wrapped it on to Kazu. The little kid pressed his side against Ohno’s and laid comfortably. Ohno chuckled over how cute the gesture is. Putting back his glasses, he continued to do his report.

Minutes have passed and his eyes started to slowly close. Fortunately, he was on the last part of the report and after a few sentences, he would be done. He noticed that the body beside him has already fallen asleep. Not wanting to wake the kid up, he decided to just sleep there. He felt the cold night rushing and rubbed his arms trying to get warmth. Seconds passed and he dozed off just below the foot of the sofa.

——————

Sakurai knew that he’s being very demanding but he has a goal to fulfill and an expectation to exceed. Just to make up for scheduling the submission of the initial draft during the weekend, he asked the architect on where is the most convenient place to meet up. He did not expect that Ohno would suggest for Sakurai to go to his house. “You sure? I mean, I’m alright with it”, Sakurai asked over his phone.

“My head’s been aching all morning. It might be hard for me to go out.”

Ohno gave him the address and then, drove off. It was a short trip to the south part of the city and when he arrived, he saw the apartment Ohno was talking about. Fairly-sized, white and as described, there was dog tied up at the entrance. He entered the lobby and rode the elevator located at the right side. He pressed 3. Walking past 309, 308, he arrived at 307 where Ohno lives. Nervously, he cleared his throat and rung the door bell.

It was Ohno who opened the door. By the sight of the dark swollen eyes and disheveled hair, Sakurai can infer that the man has worked all night long. He removed his shoes and Ohno placed it on the shoe rack by the door.

Comparing it to his apartment, it’s quite small. Nothing out of the ordinary except for a big painting of what seems to be a kid in a yellow shirt and blue pants at the center of the living room. Scattered on the table were papers and books that could likely have been used by Ohno as reference. The owner of the house invited him to relax by allowing him to sit on the sofa. Ohno laid out the initial sketch of the restaurant over the center table.

Sakurai examined it and indeed, his senior was right. They did fulfill what he had imagined and conceptualized. Even though it’s still an initial draft, Ohno has included everything that he needed. He listened to the guy explain the materials and furnishing that would be used as they construct the place. He applauded the hard work and the creative thinking that came from the guy.

Once done, Ohno gave the sketch and the written report to Sakurai. He apologetically said, “Sorry, you need to come all the way here.”

“I don’t mind.” Sakurai assured him. “The design is really great.”

The compliment that he made did not equate to how good the layout is and the effort that was put on and he is quite frustrated by it. But seeing how delighted the guy was on what he said, he became satisfied.

Grabbing the papers, he bid Ohno goodbye, “Then, I’ll go now.”

He was about to turn on his heels when he noticed Ohno’s face going pale and with eyes slowly closing, the guy took a step forward and crumpled like a lifeless doll. Immediately, Sakurai threw the papers he was holding and caught Ohno before he fell face flat on the floor

“Hey! Ohno?”, he shook the man nervously. “Ohno?” He can feel Ohno’s ragged breath and quick gasps. Bringing his right hand over the man’s forehead, he felt the man burning. The guy’s cheeks were flushed and Ohno’s body was shaking all over. Ohno’s arms lose strength and remained dangling on Sakurai’s sides. He tried to hold on to the growing weight as the man becomes more and more limp.

While his attention remained on Ohno, a ball slowly rolled over his feet. He directed his focus to where the ball came from and saw a little kid standing motionless with a shocked expression painted on his face.

Oh crap!

The child remained rooted to the ground. Sakurai totally forgot that Ohno has kids, triplets, per say. From a distance he can hear a tiny high-pitched voice, “Papa! Let’s go to the pa—

Oh no!

Things started to get bad when another kid joined them and showed the same expression as the other two.

Stop…

Tears started to well-up over the kid, who’s wearing a Gundam shirt, and all of a sudden he bursted into bawling, “Papa!” The two joined in the crying.

Sakurai has barely caught up with the panic that have built up when Ohno fainted and it’s not helping that he could hear three crying children loudly in the background. “Papa!”, they continued to scream.

Ohno’s not getting any lighter as time passed and Sakurai knows that he can’t hold on to their position any longer. In order to calm himself down, he breathe deeply. Holding tightly on Ohno’s back, he stared directly at the three crying children. “Kids, calm down.”, he pleadingly said. But they only cried louder.

The cries brought tingles in his head making it ache. He, then, reprimanded them in a loud voice, “Your papa’s not getting any better if you keep on crying!”. This caused the three to zip their lips and stop crying. All three of them were flushed, scared and shaking all over.

“Listen to me.”

“You.” He pointed to the one at the far left. “Masaki was it?” The kid nodded. “Get a cloth” and Masaki ran off towards the kitchen to find a piece of cloth from the shelves that he can reach.

Then, he looked at the kid situated in the middle, “Kazu?” The child sniffed with his lips pursed trying to prevent tears from falling down. “Can you carry a bowl of water?” Kazu, while holding his shirt tightly, nodded.

He shifted his stare at the last one and instructed him, “Jun, tell me where’s your father’s room.” The kid rubbed the remnants of tears in his eyes and run towards the room beside theirs. Sakurai adjusted his hold on Ohno and carried him princess-style. He followed Jun and laid Ohno on his bed. The man was, now, completely drenched in sweat and flushed all over. Sakurai could hear Ohno coughing every now and then.

The children, he directed earlier, went inside carrying the things he asked. He gazed at them assuringly and smiled, “Good job, boys.” and proceeded in wringing the cloth in the bucket of water and wiped off the sweat dripping down on Ohno’s forehead and neck.

“Will Papa be alright?”, Jun asked as he hid behind Sakurai’s back and tightly grasped with his tiny fingers Sakurai’s shoulder.

Sakurai placed his hands over Jun’s head and ruffled it. “Don’t worry. Your Papa just needs some rest.” In actuality, Sakurai doesn’t know what to do when a person gets sick. He always takes his daily vitamins and minerals and follows a strict diet suggested by his nutritionist friend. Knowledge on when someone gets a fever was not his forte.

He picked up his phone and searched the internet on what to do during this situation. He skimmed through and found out that Ohno needs rest, medication and plenty of fluids. But before that, Ohno needed some food to fill up his stomach. This means cooking something light like rice porridge or congee. Sakurai gulped in fear. Anyone who’s close with Sakurai knows that he’s definitely no good when it comes to anything involving cooking and kitchen.

He glanced at the triplets on his back and they all looked helpless and worried. He noticed Kazu still trying to hold his tears. “Hey, what’s wrong?”, he went closer to the kid.

The kid hiccuped as he tried to form his words, “It’s because— Papa— gave— blanket—“

The lack of experience with kids did not help in getting information on what the child was trying to say. He knew that it definitely involved blankets but the real meaning was very vague.

Sakurai hugged Kazu and patted him on his back, “You’re Papa will be alright.” And he gazed at the other two, “Why don’t we cook something for him?”

The two perked up and nodded.

————

As expected, Sakurai was better off not associating himself in the kitchen. He do have one, back in his apartment, but he never used it. Lunch and dinner were always served in the office that’s why he never bothered to learn how to cook. But times like this, Sakurai wished that he paid more attention to the home economics class when he was in high school. He’s cluelessness was further heightened when the only company that he have were three tiny kids. What can they possibly do?

First and foremost, the kids must probably know their way around their own kitchen. He instructed the eldest to get the rice and wash it. He requested the remaining two kids to fill up a stock pan with water. All his directions were based on a recipe he lifted off from the internet earlier which seemed to be the easiest.

As he put on the apron that he saw hanging by the counter, he opened the refrigerator hoping to see the other ingredients listed in the recipe. Luckily, some were there: ginger and green onions. He believed that nothing weird would happen. What could go wrong with a simple boiling of rice?

Taking out the chopping board, he placed the green onions on top of it and started slicing. By his side, he noticed Jun staring at him quietly. He stared back at Jun.

“Finished already with the pan?”, he asked.

The kid shook his head and looked at him directly, “You’re cutting it wrong…”

Sho was surprised by the sudden comment made by the little kid. He turned back to what he was doing earlier and creased his brow wondering at what part he went wrong.

“What Papa does are little circles.”, Jun pointed out as he formed his hands in circle shape and showed it to Sho.

That was when it dawned on Sho that he has been cutting the onions lengthwise. It’s hard to admit that at just the preparation stage, he already got it wrong. He cleared his throat and averted his gaze on the kid. Still trying to maintain his dignity as an adult, he said, “I know that… I just have a different technique than your father...”

Jun just looked at him with scrutiny as if not believing what Sakurai has stated.

Trying to escape from the embarrassing situation he’s currently in, he decided to change the topic. “By the way, where’s your mom? Is she working?”

Jun did not respond.

Sho waited for like a minute but it seems he won’t get any replies from the kid.

Puzzled over the silence, he stopped chopping and looked back at Jun. He, then, saw how the kid has put on an unreadable expression looking like he have a hard time answering his question.

It was Masaki, bringing in the washed rice and placing it on top of the counter, who responded after a few minutes, “Papa said she’s up there.” and pointed his hands upwards.

“Upstairs?”, Sakurai tried to clarify what Masaki has said to him.

“No… Heaven.”, Kazu made clear of Masaki’s statement and the kid positioned the stock pan that was filled with water over the stove.

Jun with his tiny voice added, “Papa said she became a star.”

Oh…

Sakurai just assumed that the lack of presence of their mother during the weekend was due to work or any kind of gathering but it was deeper than that. Sho felt guilty for pushing the single father too far. He sighed sadly and moved on in placing the rice that Masaki prepared inside the pot. He, then, turned on the heat.

“We don’t know what she looks like but Papa told us that she’s so pretty.”, Masaki started to describe his mother. “He said she has pretty big brown eyes and beautiful smile.”

Sakurai leaned his back over the counter and looked down at the triplets as he listened to what they would say about their mother.

“He said that we were all handsome because of our mother.”, Kazu proudly declared and wrapped his arms over his younger brother’s shoulder. To which, Jun nodded with joy.

Sakurai chuckled. “That’s great, then”, he mused.

Out of nowhere, Kazu, suddenly, called on him, “Hey! Uncle!” He glanced back at the kid. “What should we call you?”, Kazu merrily asked as if they’re not talking previously about something heavy involving their mother and death.

“Sakurai… I guess…”

“Too long”, Kazu complained.

“Then… Sho?”

“Too short”, Kazu continued to complain. Upon seeing the smirk forming on the little kid’s mouth, he knew that Kazu’s out there to mess with him.

All of a sudden, Masaki shouted, “Shochi!!”

Jun followed, “Shochi!”

“Sho— Shochi?!”

He felt like he is being made fun of. But, he reminded himself that they were just kids and these kind of things were very common in their age. He decided to let them be and allowed the triplets to call him by his brand new nickname, “Shochi”

—————

While they were conversing, he faintly smelled something burning. He immediately looked back at the porridge he was cooking. Examining what went wrong, he scoot his head over the stove and realized that when he turned on the heater, he set it at high.

Oh no!

When he opened the lid, smoke rose and black burnt marks can be seen. By looking at the disaster that occurred on the porridge, one can say that it was no longer edible. Sho tried to recover the parts that’s not been affected and scooped up that portion and placed it on a separate bowl. The kids, curious over what happened, tip-toed and peered over the pot that was now in the sink.

“Shochi, I think that is not how the soup with rice looks like.”, Kazu said.

Sho already knew and Kazu did not need to point it out for him. This is a very big problem. He could either fix it or start again on something new. Either way it would take a lot of time. Furthermore, he cannot let the sick eat something that looks like a black moss. Ohno might even get worse when he eats Sakurai’s rendition of rice porridge.

Still worried over what to do to remedy the situation, all of a sudden, he heard stomach grumbling coming probably from one of the three kids. He looked at his watch and realized that its already past one in the afternoon and the kids have every right to be hungry. He assumed that they have been hungry since a long time ago but because of their concern for the well-being of their father. They all remained indifferent to their own hunger.

Sakurai sighed and scooted eye-level to the kids. He told them, “Let’s eat, first?”

Jun touched his stomach as a sign that he is getting more and more hungry, then, he responded to Sho, “We don’t have any food”

Sakurai thought for a moment. “How about we do delivery?”

“Ah!”, Masaki suddenly thought of something. “Let’s call the ramen lady.”

“Ramen Lady?”

“Whenever Papa gets lazy to cook, we call this ramen store.”, Kazu clarified. “It’s delicious” and he went to a nearby side table opened the drawer and looked over through the pile of papers. He picked up a yellow colored paper that has a “Crazy Ramen” written on it. Kazu handed it over to Sakurai.

Sakurai took it and glimpsed over on what the store has to offer. He knew it’s not the time to be choosy and so he decided on getting their lunch from this ramen store.

“Okay… What do you like?”, he asked.

“Butai!”, the three said in unison.

Sakurai laughed lightly. “Alright.” And he started dialing the number.

————

An hour has passed and the door bell rang. Sho, still wearing an apron, answered the door. It was the delivery girl from the store they ordered from.

“Wait a minute..”, he said as he pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and started counting the bills for the payment. When he glanced up, he noticed that the girl was staring at him with curiosity.

“Oh my gosh!” She, suddenly, blurted out, “Satocchi finally has a partner.”

Still holding the bills that he had counted earlier, he questioned the girl, “What? Satocchi?”

“Ah! I’m so so sorry.”, she apologized. “that was my nickname for him. So, don’t be jealous.” and she patted Sho’s shoulder making Sho jerked and moved away from the touch.

“Wai—“ Sho held up his hands to the air trying to calm the girl down and he slowly begun to understand what the girl has assumed since earlier. “Oh— No no no no”

The girl eyed him from top to bottom and placed her hands over her hips, “Not bad Satocchi.”
She, then, smiled from ear to ear and chirpily said, “Since I’m happy for Satocchi, today’s delivery is on me. Enjoy!”

“I’m no— and before he can even correct the misunderstanding. The girl merrily went off on her way.

Sho, still trying to mend the mistake shouted to the girl who by now was waiting for the elevator. “Hey! I’m not Sato—
“Shochi!”, he heard Kazu calling from the inside. “Where’s the ramen?”

He sighed in exasperation. Today he have many things to let go off.

————

“Shochi… What are you doing?”

Who’s Shochi?

“Shochi, what’s that? A snowman?”

Who are the kids talking to?

Ohno’s senses were slightly picking up the voices and conversations occurring outside of his room. Wait… Why is he in his room to begin with? He can vaguely recall that he was standing and bidding Sho goodbye when at an instant, he felt dizzy. His vision darkened and his feet lose its strength. But after that, it was all blank in his memories.

His head started pounding and begun to ache. He curled to his side and held on tightly on the blanket covering him. What he felt was the worst. Burning sensation begun to build up within him and his sweat was dripping a lot. He tried to open his mouth and voice out what he’s feeling but it was of no use. He doesn’t even have a strength to produce a sound. Feeling helpless, he just hugged a pillow nearby hoping that it would take a little of his pain away. Suddenly, a hand touched his cheeks. It felt nice and cool that Ohno leaned in to the touch.

When was the last time someone touched him like that?

“Satoshi…”, he suddenly heard a female voice spoke

He tried to recognize the voice.

“You’re such an idiot…”

“Satomi?”

“You always forgot to take care of yourself…”, she teasingly scolded him

“Satomi?”

“…”

“Satomi, where you?”

He started to panic. He cannot hear the voice of his wife anymore. He called her name repeatedly.

“Satomi!”

In fear, he stood up from his bed and grasped tightly the hand that was now caressing his hair. He panted and made a quick gasps. Ohno’s heart was beating fast. He gulped multiple times. That was when he realized that it was all just a dream. He looked around his room and spotted by his side, Sakurai with a surprised expression. His sight traced along the hands that he was holding and noticed that it was Sakurai’s.

He blushed realizing that Sakurai was there and he was holding his hands very tightly. Embarrassed, he let go of Sakurai’s hands and looked down in shame. It was seconds before he brought himself back to composure. Without looking at the person beside him, he asked timidly, “What happened?”

Sakurai sat on the bed and scooted his face close to Ohno’s. “You fainted and you have a fever.” And he brought his hands back to Ohno’s forehead. “Looks like your temperature went down”

The action caused Ohno to jerk and darted his eyes over to Sho’s. The man’s face was filled with worry and unease. He could feel the heat growing in his cheeks not because of the fever but due to the short distance between him and Sho. He can feel Sho’s breath on his face and can see clearly the man’s plump lips. It was pale pink and looks soft to touch. His sight remained on it. He gulped and licked his lips in reflex.

The moment was suddenly interrupted when Ohno noticed a small figure peeking out from his bedroom door. Apparently it’s Jun and the kid is sporting a concerned look on his face. He was suddenly joined in by his two other kids and all at once they ran near the bed and shouted, “Papa!”

They were about to jump on the bed when Sho laid down, making himself the wall dividing the kids and their father. “Stop!”

The kids frowned over what Sho did. “Why!”, Kazu shouted

“Your father is still sick. We don’t want you getting sick too. That’s twice the effort, you know.”, he scolded the kids.

The three children just pouted in reply. Behind Sho, Ohno was amused over the authority being directed by the guy to his kids. He laughed causing the man who was laid out completely on his bed to turn around and look at him. The children who was just standing by the foot of the bed started to giggle.

Ohno, then, noticed orange lights peeking out from his curtain window. It dawned on him that Sakurai have stayed the whole day taking care of him. He looked back at Sakurai and asked, “You stayed the whole time?” He covered his face with his hands. “I’m so sorry.”

Sakurai chuckled over Ohno’s reaction. He pushed himself up. “I don’t mind.” And he ruffled Ohno’s hair as a way to reassure the guy. “You should eat.” Once again, Ohno blushed due to Sho’s gesture.

————

Ohno had a hard time getting up but he knew that if he stayed in the bed all day, all of his remaining strength would just be drained right away. He saw how the kitchen was a complete mess. Sakurai remained tight-lipped over what had transcribed but he can get the kids to talk about it later.

He saw the pot that was on the sink. It seems Sakurai tried to cook porridge for him. He glanced at the guy who by now was cleaning up the ramen bowls that he ate with the triplets. There was a separate bowl containing what seems to be porridge, as well, and looks kind of edible. Ohno decided that he can settle with that for his lunch or snacks since it’s already 5 in the afternoon.

He took it and saw how Sho’s eyes widened and he was suddenly reprimanded, “Don’t eat that!”

“You cooked it for me, right?”, Ohno declared. “I’ll eat this”, he raised up the bowl at Sho and smiled.

He went over to the dinner table where the triplets were happily conversing with each other. He took up the sit beside Jun and placed the bowl of porridge on the table. He noticed how the three stopped talking and was just looking at him. Kazu, then, spoke, “Papa, are you sure you’re gonna eat what Shochi cooked?”

“Ye—, he paused and realized something off. “Shochi?”

He can hear Sakurai laughing from behind. The guy went closer to them and occupied the last seat that was at the middle of the dinner table. “Kazu kept on saying that my name was either long or short and so they came up with, let’s just say, a cute nickname.”

Ohno face-palmed. He can’t believe why his kids were like that. And they even nicknamed an important client of his. He looked at Sho, “I’m so sorry you even took care of them.”

Sho snickered. “You’re apologizing a lot today.” Ohno’s head hung low.

He can hear Masaki talking and discussing about Sho’s earlier drawings. It was Kazu who pointed out that Sho’s not good with arts and cooking. Jun did defend the guy by saying that Sho helped him in doing his math homework. Ohno gazed over as the three kids were teasing Sho happily as if it was all natural.

He glanced at the dinner table and remembered the first time that he and his wife bought it. That was the time when they learned that they were having a triplets so they decided to buy a 5 seater dining table. They fought over two dining tables and he insisted that the one his wife picked was small. His wife was very stubborn and pushed Ohno to buy it. In the end, he complied.

However, due to an unfortunate circumstance, they have never dined together as five. Whenever he eats together with his kids, there’s always one empty seat. He never realized how small the dining table really was until Sho joined in.

Told you, it’s small…

He smiled and continued to scoop from his porridge as he listened to his kids make fun of Sho.

Chapter Text

A knock was heard coming from the entrance of Ohno’s apartment. Upon opening, Haruka was there standing with a box of newly harvested grapes.

“Delivery!”, she happily exclaimed.

Ohno delighted by what he saw, let Haruka in and she, immediately, placed the box over the kitchen counter. She sat at an empty seat by the dining table and let Ohno sort out the good quality fruit over not.

Remembering what she had heard from Megumi, she looked at Ohno and begun to speak, “Hey, I’ve heard something.”

“What?”, Ohno asked as he picked up a piece of grape and put it in his mouth. He mouthed in a small voice, “Delicious!”

Changing her tone to an annoyed one, she started complaining, “First of all, Why did I need to learn something new about you from Megumi?! I thought we were close.”

Ohno turned around and faced Haruka with his forehead all crinkled. “Who’s Megumi?”

Haruka placed her right cheek over her palm, “The one who delivers the ramen...”

“Oh! The ramen lady.”, Ohno just then realized. “Yeah, what about her?” and he took a piece of grape, once again, and ate it. 

“She told me that you have a boyfriend.”

Ohno ended up choking in surprise. The grape that he was chewing blocked his throat. He hastily grabbed a glass of water and drank it to relive his air passage. Gasping, he glanced back at Haruka and said, “What?!”

“She said that your boyfriend is hot.”

“I don’t have one!”, Ohno corrected her. 

“Eh! Then, who’s Shochi? Your kids always talk about Shochi.”

Ohno clutched his hands over the backrest of the chair near Haruka. He begun explaining the misunderstanding, “That’s Sakurai Sho. The one I told you about. The demanding client.”

Haruka clapped her hands in realization. “The one who took care of you when you got sick.” and she smiled knowingly.

Ohno held out his hands in front of Haruka, “Wait! I think you emphasized the wrong part.” 

“What I want to say is he is nice and good-looking.”, Haruka pointed out. “Why don’t you let what Megumi thinks be a reality?”, she happily said as her feet bounced up and down from the ground out of excitement.

Ohno, finally, sat getting tired of all the things they’re talking about. “No! Who dates his own clients?”

“You!” and Ohno face-palmed over Haruka’s answer.

“Your kids also like him so everything’s all good.”, Haruka further added.

Ohno stretched his arms over the table and pressed his face flat over it. “That’s the problem.” and he sighed. “Whenever we do video call meetings, the kids would always join in and talk to the guy.” 

“And… does he get angry about it?”, Haruka asked while raising her left brow

Ohno turned his face over to the right still with his head lying over his arms. “He doesn’t. At all!”, confusion can be noted from his voice. “Maybe, he’s just trying not to be rude.”

“I don’t think so…”, Haruka assured the guy. 

They were in the midst of the conversation when they heard a voice coming from behind. “Haruka!”, a tiny voice called out.

They turned and saw Masaki standing full of glee. “Masaki!”, Haruka called back and the little guy run towards them.

“Hey! Want to play with Chibi?”, she chirpily invited the kid in which Masaki eagerly nodded.

————— 

“How many times have you cancelled our date?”, Sakurai’s girlfriend scolded him as she sat across of him in a round table.

“That’s why I’m trying to make up for today”, Sakurai defended himself while sipping at the glass of wine he was holding. He held out his hands and gestured over the large window by their table. “Look, we’re dining in a five-star restaurant with a great view of the city.”

Sakurai’s girlfriend sighed in exasperation. “It’s not always about fancy things, Sho.”

He was about to say something when the waiter came in carrying with him their order of lamb and pasta. As they laid it out over the table, he noticed how his girlfriend looked at him with annoyance. Waiting for the waiter to finish setting up their meal, Sho uttered, “What do you want?” 

“Last Saturday, you were thirty minutes late in saying that you won’t be able to go. Yesterday, you told me you have to focus on your work. Is it always about work?”, she started to complain. “Is it really just work?”, his girlfriend begun to doubt him.

For a moment, the image of Ohno and his kids came up on his mind. He shook his head trying to remove those thoughts. He glanced up and looked directly at his partner’s eyes, “Aoi.”, he softly said. “I told you I don’t have anyone but you” 

Well aware that she should not ruin date night further, Aoi sighed and said, “Make sure you’re telling me the truth.” and she reached out for her fork and ate pasta.

He was truly guilty on all the accusations his girlfriend has said to him. It was a fact that he cancelled most of their supposed meet ups. Recently, he could only talk to her through phone calls and Skype due to his busy schedule. Today was the first time in this month that they have met in person. He breath heavily and just focused on the lamb that he ordered. He cut a piece and put it in his mouth. While chewing, he noticed that something was off. For some reason, the meat is not as tender and flavorful as it always should be. His meal is not as delicious as before. Sakurai was not an expert in culinary but surely he knew that there’s nothing wrong with how the food was prepared and presented. The chef (which was his friend) would have told him if he made changes on the recipe.

He, suddenly, remembered the ramen he ate at Ohno’s house. There was nothing special about it. It’s just a broth with noodles and an added pieces of meat (that you can count with just one finger). It was, definitely, done in some run-down, probably unsanitized, dirty kitchen. He had eaten ramens that have been prepared by professional chefs. Even the lamb that he was eating right now was cooked to his liking using the finest ingredients. But, here, he was sitting in a five-star restaurant with a sumptuous food in front of him, wishing that he was eating the Butai from Crazy Ramen in the small dining table at Ohno’s house.

————— 

“To infinity and beyond!”, Masaki proudly shouted as he tried to jump off from the stool. As expected, Ohno was quick in catching the little guy.

“Don’t do that! We don’t want injuries, today.”, he scolded the kid as he laid him down the ground and picked up the cowboy hat that fell off from his head. 

Today was the annual halloween fest of the company Ohno works in. Kids were invited to join in the celebration. It’s not entirely required that the employee would come in costume as well, but Ohno thought it’s fun to dress up with his kids. Last year, they went with Marvel theme: he was Hulk, Kazu was Black Widow, Masaki was Thor and Jun was Nick Fury. Ohno had bad memories of that. His kids insisted for him not to take off the Hulk’s mask and so, he had a difficulty eating all the delicious foods that were prepared.

Every year his coworkers were anticipating what the Ohno family would wear for the festival. Today, they decided on Toy Story, the film his kids loved the most. The roles on who or what they would wear is based on lottery. He would prepare strips of paper, write the characters involved and they would draw from it.

Jun entered in the kid’s room looking all annoyed. “Why do I have to wear a skirt?”

He was dressed as a shepherdess with a polka-dotted skirt and a pink cloth tied up on his hair. Ohno also put on some make up on Jun in order to achieve the look. That’s why his face was utterly pink due to the blush on.

Masaki stepped up close to Jun and blatantly showed him the controls crafted by their father from cellophane. “That’s because you’re Bo Peep!”

Jun was tempted to push Masaki. However, his father was intently looking at them; telepathically telling him not to do what he was planning. He just crossed his arms and pouted. 

Suddenly, someone bumped him from behind and turned to see who did that. 

“At least, your face can be seen. Look at me.”

Due to the mask, the face was not at all visible but from the voice, one can easily perceive that the kid was Kazu. “I don’t want to be Forky!”, he grumbled. 

Ohno’s aware that his two youngest would complain a lot today. By just the expressions they made upon knowing who they would be for the halloween, he knew that this day would be as difficult as last year.

His coworkers started going in the kid’s room ready with their camera and glancing over who was the cutest out of all the kids. Matsuoka rushed in and wrapped his arms over Ohno’s shoulder, “Hey buddy!” 

Ohno hoped that Matsuoka would stop doing that. His arms were heavy and he’s afraid that his shoulders would break if he kept on greeting him like that.

“Hey…”, he said back.

Matsuoka pointed at the little girl dressed as the little mermaid, “Look at that! My princess is popular.” Ohno could see how girls from their department were lining up just to take a picture with Matsuoka’s daughter. He turned towards his kids who by now were swarmed with the ladies from the accounting and finance. He looked back at his office buddy and smirked, “Mine too.”

Matsuoka released his hold on Ohno. “I should also take a picture with the cowboy over here.” and he took out his phone and made a selfie with Ohno. As Matsuoka saved the photo, Ohno saw how it went to the folder, “Mao’s future father-in-law”

He snatched the phone from Matsuoka’s hold and skimmed through the folder. It was full of pictures of him.

Looking at Matsuoka with contempt, he questioned the guy, “Future father-in-law?”

The guy took back his phone and placed it back in his pocket. “I mean, Mao would marry Jun in the future, right? At least, she should be aware on who you are earlier on.”

Ohno crossed his arms. “I haven’t agreed to that.” 

“Yeah… yeah…”, Matsuoka said indifferently.

He peered, once again, to the group of kids in costume and back at Ohno. “You really up your game this time. That robot thing.”, he gestured his hands on his chest. “That’s hard to make” 

Ohno responded with a nod and a shy smile. He was about to explain how it was done when he realized that he needed to capture his kids in costume and sent it to his parents. ”Wait”, he told Matsuoka. “Need to get my camera”

“The famous black bag?”

“Shut up” and he kicked the man on his side lightly.

Leaving the kids still being mobbed by the office ladies, he proceeded back to his office. Without looking straight, he turned towards the left alley of the hall way causing him to bump into someone. “Ouch!”, both him and the person he hit said in unison.

Still touching his forehead, he looked up and saw a familiar face. “Oh!”, he pointed at the person in front of him.

Sakurai Sho was standing before him with his hands brushing over his suit trying to smoothen it. The man glanced up and upon noticing Ohno, smiled widely and greeted him, “Hi!”

That was when Sakurai realized that Ohno’s attire is not as simple as it always seem. “I’m wrong… It should be Hey Howdy!” and he laughed.

“He—Hey?”, Ohno’s greeting came as a question and offered him a slight smile. Sakurai made him nervous. It was the first time since that day he got a fever that he have seen the man in person. For the past days, they were just talking on-screen through Skype. It’s not even helping that he remembered the conversation he had with Haruka, yesterday.

Indifferent to what Ohno has been feeling, “So, Why is Woody here?”, Sakurai questioned him as his curiosity piled up wanting to know why the architect is in a cowboy get-up

“You know him?”

Sakurai nodded eagerly. “I like Toy Story so much. I even lined up for the advance screening of Toy Story 4.”

“I fought against many kids for a good seat in the cinema” and he chuckled.

He begun singing,

    “We stick together and we see it through

    Cause you’ve got a friend in me

    You’ve got a friend in me”, Ohno joined in at the last part and both laughed over how they looked like idiot for their shared love of a kid’s movie.

“I think I can sing the whole soundtrack of the movie”, Sakurai proudly said

“You should compete with my kids to see who knows well”

“I might wi— Sakurai paused and noticed a black dirt right on Ohno’s cheek. “Wait a minute.”, he stretched his arms and placed his hands over the cheek. With his thumb, he tried to remove the dirt.

Sakurai kept on running his thumb on his cheek. Ohno’s eyes fluttered open and became motionless on the spot. It’s as if he forgot to breath for a second. His face burned up and his cheeks slowly formed a blush. Sakurai’s face moved closer and muttered with a low voice, “Why won’t it come off…” He felt his breath ghosted over his face. The remaining digits in Sakurai’s hand slightly brushed and tickled the back of his ears. His gaze rest on Sakurai’s face and saw in close distance the long eyelashes and big brown eyes. In that moment, he realized how beautiful Sakurai’s eyes were. He was captivated by the honey-colored orbs that seem to shimmer. But more than the color and shape, Ohno was drawn to the warmth that those eyes hold.

The man he’s carefully looking at, all of a sudden, shifted his sight and locked on Ohno’s. For half a second, both stared at each other. It took minutes for Sakurai to realize that he was in close proximity to Ohno. He blinked a couple of times and a reddish hue developed on Sakurai’s cheeks which almost mimics that of Ohno’s. He, immediately, averted his gaze and released his hands from the touch.

“Ah—“ He stepped back and scratched the back of his head while his sight remained low. “Ther— There was something— on your— face”, he fidgeted while stammering over his words.

Ohno’s eyes were never still, staring everywhere except at Sakurai, “It must have been the make-up I used on Jun…”, he said without looking as he touched the part Sakurai stroked earlier.

Silence ensued between the two. Both just stood there looking everywhere except each other.

Cutting in the awkward atmosphere, someone shouted from a distance, “Ah! Shochi!” Both turned to see who called and it was Masaki. “Hey! Shochi’s here!”, the little kid told on his brothers

Two children peeked out from the door and once they have recognized the figure Masaki was excited about, both shouted, “Shochi!”

The three ran towards the two of them. Sakurai, trying to recover from what has occurred earlier, slowly gazed back at Ohno and asked him, the obvious, “They’re also here?”

Ohno, the same as Sho, peered on Sho steadily and nodded with a slight smile. “Our company holds a trick or treat every year”, he explained

When Sakurai spotted the little Buzz Lightyear almost near them, he stooped down and caught the overexcited Masaki in his arms. The tiny fingers wrapped around his back and Sakurai smiled over how small the body he was hugging. The other two had already caught up to their brother and the triplets surrounded Sakurai. He released Masaki from his hold and examined their costumes carefully. “You’re all cute!”, he complimented them and pointed at Kazu. “There’s even Forky here.”

“Papa did all of these”, Masaki proudly proclaimed as he showed off his costume while raising his fists up in the air.

Sakurai’s eyes motioned over Ohno who by now was trying to calm down the excited kids. “You did all of this? You’re good!” Ohno shyly nodded and said in a whisper, “Thanks…” Sakurai chuckled over how bad Ohno reacts when he gets complimented.

Sakurai felt a nudge on the sleeves of his suit. “I want candies.”, Kazu suddenly uttered.

“I think there’s a better way to say that.”, Sakurai reprimanded the little kid as he searched in his bag for candies. He sighed in relief upon knowing that he has stored some candies there.

Jun happily moved closer to Sakurai and said with a loud voice, “Trick or treat!”

Sakurai was overwhelmed with the cuteness that was presented to him. He brought out the candies that he had in his bag and handed it over to Jun. “I think Little Bo Beep here will be given candies but Forky won’t”, he teased Kazu. He gave some to Masaki, as well.

“Yay!”, Jun and Masaki happily exclaimed

Kazu grabbed hold of Ohno’s pants trying to find support from his father. The kid sticked out his tongue; unfortunately, due to the mask, his actions were not at all visible. Ohno ruffled Kazu’s hair and whispered to him, “Don’t worry he’ll still give you candies…”

Out of nowhere, Matsuoka pulled Kazu and Ohno apart and from behind, wrapped his arms on Ohno’s neck. Feeling the heavy weight, Ohno hit Matsuoka’s arms; at the same time, complaining about the pain.

“Tell me, when did you two become so close that your kids are calling him Shochi now?”, Matsuoka questioned the guy as he continued to wrestle Ohno from behind

“We’re not!”, Ohno said while trying to break free from Matsuoka’s hold.

“Hmm…”, Matsuoka smiled knowingly. He released Ohno and crouched down. He called on Jun who by now was twirling around after getting his candy.

“Hey, Jun…” The kid looked at him with a questioning look. “What’s with Shochi?”

Jun crossed his arms over his chest. “Shochi? I like Shochi! He helped me with my math homework.”, He thought for a moment, “Ah! He even took care of Papa all night long.”

Surprised over Jun’s words, Ohno’s mouth gaped open and he looked straight at Sakurai who apparently has the same expression as his. Matsuoka, meanwhile, who found the answer satisfying grinned.

“All night long…”, he repeated while casting a skeptical eye at Ohno.

Matsuoka continued to tease the two, “So… What did Shochi and your Papa do?” Jun indifferent as he seems almost blurted out the answer when Ohno covered his mouth preventing the little guy to speak.

“Hey kids… Don’t you think you need to practice for your performance, later?”, Ohno said as he gazed at each of his kids threateningly with an arched eye brow

The kids looked at each other with confusion and nodded. They still wanted to stay but if their father insisted for them to go back then they have no choice.

Before the kids went on their way, Matsuoka begun to speak, “Are you busy, Sakurai?” This led for Ohno to cast a shifty look on his friend confused on where is he going about.

Sakurai not expecting that kind of question from the stranger that seems to be close to Ohno still answered him properly, “I just met up with Tackey.” He looked at his watch to check for the time and said, “I think I have time to spare.”

Matsuoka’s eyes flickered as if he has something great planned out. “Why don’t you watch the talent show? These kids will be performing.”

The words that came out of Matsuoka caused the triplets to halt from their movement and turned to look at Sakurai, who by now was astonished by the sudden invitation. Ohno, meanwhile, eyed Matsuoka as if he did something ridiculous.  

Masaki, then, asked, “Shochi’s gonna watch?”

Sakurai was dumbfounded at first, “Is it alright for outsiders to watch?”

“Everyone’s invited. I mean, you’re our client so of course you’re pretty much welcomed.”, he said trying to push Sakurai to agree to his invitation.

He was inclined to decline knowing that their were several pending reports that he’s needed to finish. All of a sudden, he felt someone pulled his pants down lightly and saw Jun looking at him with bright eyes. The little kid asked him, “You’re not gonna watch?”

He was swamped by the sight of Jun looking at him with puppy eyes. He gulped trying to assess the situation. He glanced up at Ohno trying to find support but same as him, the guy is as confused as he is. His sights traced over the two kids which apparently has the same expression as that of Jun. Feeling defeated, he agreed to watch the show, “I’ll go…”

The three enthusiastically jumped near Sakurai’s feet upon hearing that Sakurai would watch them perform.

 

Ohno went close to Matsuoka and whispered, “What are you doing?”

Matsuoka wrapped his arms on Ohno’s shoulder and whispered to his ears, “I’ll be your wingman for today.”

Ohno hit him on the side lightly. “I don’t need one!”, he scolded his friend in an unintentional loud voice. It caused him to get the attention of his kids and Sakurai. Embarrassed over what he did, he ducked his head down and said, “Ah… It’s nothing…”

 

“I wonder what Matsu-nii did again?”, Masaki pondered

Sakurai gazed at Ohno and Matsuoka who by now were conversing amongst themselves. Sakurai tried to grasp what they were talking about but both talked in a whisper.

With his stare fixed momentarily at the two, he asked the kids, “Are they really that close?”

“Yeah, he even wants Mao to marry Jun in the future.”, Kazu said.

“Who’s Mao?” and he turned towards Kazu wondering over the unfamiliar name.

“His daughter, our classmate too”

“So, you mean this Matsu-nii has a daughter and a wife?”, he pointed at the guy beside Ohno

“His wife is scary…”, Masaki described

 For some reason when he heard that, Sakurai felt relieved.

——————

“Hold the camera for me.”, Ohno instructed Sakurai as his attention went to his black bag and rummaged through it.

Sakurai was astonished over the sudden familiarity. It’s no joke what this Matsu-nii has said to him. When it comes to his kids, Ohno was freaking serious. Thirty minutes before the performance, the guy was already setting up his DSLR attaching several tubes on it. He detailed to Sakurai the importance of those extensions. He listened despite the fact that he did not understand a thing. Sakurai noticed that Ohno’s a man of few words but when the topic is of his interest, he would go on and on about it. He saw the flicker in the man’s eyes and somehow, he enjoyed every minute of seeing the enthusiasm Ohno was showing.

“Found it”, he pulled out what seems to be a charger and took back the camera from Sakurai’s hands. Plugging the charger in, Sakurai questioned him, “It’s still 80%, why need to charge it?”

“What are you talking about?! What if it discharges while the performance is on-going?”, Ohno pointed out as he checked the camera, once again.

“Told you…”, Matsuoka whispered from Sakurai’s back. Sakurai finally understood what this guy has been talking about ever since they sat in the hall.

Suddenly, he was poked on his side. He turned and saw Ohno smiling and pointing his finger at the stage. That was when he realized that the triplets have started performing. And, wow they’re good — no that’s an understatement — they’re super awesome. They’re dancing in accordance to the beat of music. All movements were fluid and on time. What surprised him was when Forky or Kazu backflipped perfectly and the audience cheered after it. The kid must be proud of what he did.

He shifted his gaze at Ohno and saw how the father’s eyes became misty. He chuckled and leaned his body close almost bumping his shoulder over Ohno’s. He whispered, “Are you crying?”

“I’m— not…”, Ohno stammered as he tried the tears slowly building up in his eyes. His focus remained on the camera he was holding. Sakurai stayed in his position, feeling quite comfortable with it, and chuckled over how cute Ohno’s reaction was.

“Kazu’s backflip was great, by the way…”, Sakurai told Ohno.

It was seconds before Ohno said something, “I taught him that…” he paused. “At first he can’t do it but he still did it perfectly…” When Sakurai glanced back, he saw how Ohno looked at his kids proudly and he can’t help but to smile back. 

—————

The kids, as expected, won with their performance and they excitedly ran towards Ohno and Sakurai. Kazu enthusiastically bragged about his backflip, “Papa, did you see that?!”

Ohno nodded and ruffled the kids hair, “You did great!”

Masaki and Jun trying to compete with Kazu started to brag what they also did. “Papa! I did my robot moves.”, Masaki happily said. Jun, meanwhile, “I twirled this baton too.”, and he raised the cane he was holding.

Ohno’s face made a brilliant smile as he listened to his kids. He scooted down and pulled out his arms. The kids all flocked to him and received a big hug from the guy. He sweetly praised them, “I’m proud of all of you”

He released them and pointed at Sakurai who was standing beside him, “You know, Shochi here was also excited about what you all did.”

Sakurai blinked a couple of times, surprised over what Ohno called him. This was the first time he heard “Shochi” coming from the man’s lips. It was kind of nice hearing it from Ohno.

“You all dance really well”, he complimented the kids and the triplets were overjoyed when they heard Sakurai praised them.

The phone in Sakurai’s pocket suddenly vibrated. He took it out and realized that its already afternoon. The vibration was a notification reminding him that he has a planned date with Aoi. He glanced back at Ohno and sighed. He wished to stay for a little while. With a slumped back, he went back to his chair to pick up his bag.

Ohno, noticing Sakurai, called on him, “Where you going? There’s still an after party.”

“After party?”

Ohno shrugged his shoulder and said, “Just dancing and eating… But if you’re busy, then it’s alright.”

Sakurai was aware that he made a promise to Aoi that he would meet up with her. There’s no way that he should break that promise. He’s a man responsible for his own words. He decided to decline this time, no ifs… no buts… no kids who will plead…

or so he thought…

The music started playing in the background. The lights slightly dimmed down and flashing red, green blue lights, slowly, filled up the room. The triplets excitedly went towards the center of the hall and enthusiastically shouted the names of their father and Sakurai pushing the two to join them in the dancing. He stared at Ohno and they made a meaningful eye contact. He was, immediately, drawn to the brown soft eyes. Even though, the main spotlight was not directed at Ohno. It seemed that the only thing his eyes can lay on is the guy in front of him. He was like the most beautiful thing out of all the people, things in the hall. He saw how Ohno, slowly, stretched his arms and laid out his hand in front of him. The room may be dark but it could not hide the slight blush forming on Ohno’s cheeks as the man uttered the words, “Would you like to dance?”

That’s true Sakurai won’t be forced by anything to stay: not the sumptuous food, not the pleading look of little kids and not even the pushy Matsuoka. But when Ohno invited him in that manner, when he was faced with this kind of Ohno, radiating with nothing but grace, he was enthralled to grab hold of Ohno’s hand.

Everything that happened today was not at all planned. He should have left earlier, finished his pending reports, prepared for his date, met up with Aoi and ended the night in a nice hotel. But, what transcribed was very different. He did not expect to watch a couple of kids dance, to learn the importance of some parts of the camera, to be dragged around by a strong built man named Matsuoka and to be dancing with the most adorable man he met. Anyone close to him would surely say that he would break down due to the continuous spontaneous events. For the first time in his life, he was happy about spontaneity.

 —————

“Sakurai is still here?”, Ohno’s boss asked as he approached Matsuoka who was currently sitting on the side of the hall and resting after all the dancing he did with his daughter.

He pulled out his phone and focused it on Ohno, Sakurai and the triplets who’s still dancing. “I think he’s enjoying himself too much.”, he said as he captured the moment.

Ohno’s boss shrugged his shoulder, “As long as we pleases our client.”, he indifferently said. “If you need me, I’m in my office.” And he patted Matsuoka’s back.

“Alright, boss.” And he waved his hands. He turned towards his daughter who by now was drinking some juice. “Mao, you know Ohchan right?”

The girl nodded.

“Look at this guy. That’s Shochi, remember him. He will also be your future father-in-law.”, he proudly said as he winked at his daughter.

Chapter Text

“After all, soulmates always end up together.” 

Ohno heard his wife read out loud the lines from the book she was reading. Cutting up the apples that he had bought from a store nearby, he asked, “What are you reading?”

“Where Rainbows End”

“Another romance book?”, he said as he brought the plate filled with apples near Satomi and placed it on the over-bed table.

“It has a nice plot, you know.”, Satomi defended her love for romantic novels. She, then, picked up the cut apples that were shaped into bunny. “You’re really good at this.”, she complimented his husband as she held the bunny-shaped apple in front of Ohno.

“That’s just simple.”, Ohno shrugged. Satomi’s already used to that kind of gesture. Ohno does that when he tries to act cool and hiding the fact that he was actually shy.

Ohno sat in the seat near the bed and opened a fishing magazine.

Silence fell upon the husband and wife. Satomi, not knowing what to do, just gazed at his husband’s side profile. She smiled when she saw how he scrunched up his nose and narrowed his eyes over the page of the magazine that seems to show a picture of tuna. She was aware that his husband was trying hard to comprehend the words that was written. She pulled her legs near her chest and laid his head over her knees. Her stare remained on her husband and how she wished that she could do this for eternity.

Satomi, suddenly, spoke, “Hey Satoshi.”, Ohno hummed in response. His attention was still on the fishing magazine he was reading.

“When I’m gone. Find your soulmate…”

Ohno stopped and moved his gaze directly at his partner, “You won’t die and No, I won’t find one because you’re my soulmate.”

“I’m not your soulmate. Soulmates stick with their partners till the end and I’m not…”

“Then, I don’t believe in soulmates”, Ohno declared.

Satomi sighed. Ohno can be stubborn at times and the years that they have been together had helped her in handling this kind of situation. “I’ll put it in the list, okay.”

Ever since Satomi has been diagnosed with cancer, she has been doing a list of what Ohno should do when she dies. She knew that Ohno can get emotional and brood over it for years so she wanted that in the end, Ohno would still be happy even if she’s gone.

His husband arched his brow and answered her with an annoyed tone, “Stop with the list! I told you, you will survive the surgery.”

—————

Unfortunately, Ohno’s wife did not survive and it happened right exactly on Ohno’s birthday. Ever since, then, he did not celebrate his birthday on the exact date which is November 26. It has been a long time since he moved on over the passing of his wife but for some reason, whenever his birthdate approaches, his mood just goes downhill.

Same as today, he was not in the mood for any celebration. He received some texts from his coworkers and friends greeting him about his special day but he decided that for now, he won’t reply to any of them. Luckily, today was a weekday and his kids were at school. So, he was all alone.

It was a tradition of his to go to the cemetery. He would sit beside his wife’s grave and gave her an update about him and the kids. But this year, it was slightly different, he did narrate to her what had occurred. He told her about the time Kazu topped his math class or how Jun became a prince, once again, in their school play. He, added, how Masaki showed exceptional talent in baseball. But for some reason, he can’t blatantly say Sakurai’s name in front of Satomi’s grave. Sitting with his legs drawn up, he placed his chin on his knees. He sighed deeply and muttered, “I’m getting weird…”

—————

After his visit in the cemetery, he walked back to the bus station. The clouds above him slowly darken and he can hear thunderclaps from the distance. It was always like this, every year on his birthday, rain would come all day, non-stop. He breathe deeply and opened the black umbrella that he’s carrying, anticipating the down pour that would occur later.

Fortunately, the rain started pouring when he had already arrived at the station. He sat on one of the benches and waited for the bus to come. Weekdays as always are a busy day. The amount of people strolling around the streets were high in volume, especially during lunch break, around noon time. He caught sight of people desperately running towards the small shed of the bus station looking all drenched up due to the rain.

He heard the bus honking indicating that it has arrived. He tried to stand up but his feet remained frozen on the ground. Looks like, he’s not in the mood to go home yet. He just stared at those riding up the bus. Steadily, it was filled up and the vehicle finally departed leaving Ohno behind. Another bus came and another. He stayed on his position for like an hour with his eyes all closed. He just let time pass through. He listened to the pattering of rain drops; as well as, the conversations of the office ladies beside him. They’re definitely gossiping about this particular coworker of theirs.

Suddenly, someone patted him on the shoulder. He slowly opened his eyes and in front of him was Sakurai smiling at him. “Ohno?”

“Ah…”, he faintly said as his eyes tried to adjust to the bleary sight. “Sakurai?”

Sakurai laughed lightly. “Hi”

“Hi”, Ohno greeted him back

Sakurai was all suited up and holding a vividly red-colored umbrella.

“I came by the company and met up with your boss. He said you took a leave.”

Ohno just nodded. He was not in the mood to get into long conversations and thankfully, Sakurai has caught on with what he was feeling as he did not proceed with the talk further. The guy just stood beside him in silence waiting for the next bus to come.

After roughly 15 minutes, the bus has, once again, arrived. Sakurai bid Ohno goodbye, turned his back and went off on his way.

Ohno did say to himself, earlier, that he doesn’t want to talk to anyone. However, Sakurai’s sudden presence proved to have more impact on him. He was filled with mixed emotions when he saw Sakurai’s back slowly distancing away from him. In fact, maybe, he doesn’t want the man to leave. He hung his head low and decided not to call out to the guy.

He heard the bus departing and chuckled over his cowardice. For sure, the guy’s busy. Why would he held him up just to accompany a sad guy like him.

All of a sudden, he noticed a pair of foot right in front of him. Immediately, he glanced up and saw Sakurai standing before him. He blinked a couple of times and rubbed his eyes trying to see if the man in front of him was just a fragment of his imagination— But, he wasn’t.

“Wait here”, Sakurai instructed him. He opened his umbrella and ran off to some establishment near the bus station.

Ohno’s eyes remained wide open as he stared at the retreating back of Sakurai. He was confused on why Sakurai have stayed. Did he, unintentionally, blurt out loud what he had in his mind?

Deep in thought, he noticed Sakurai, finally, appearing in the streets and walking towards him holding two coffees and a convenience store plastic bag. He sat beside Ohno and rummaged through the thing he was holding earlier. He pulled out a slice of cake and handed it over with a beaming smile. “Happy Birthday!”

With a puzzled expression, he grabbed the cake and said, “Thank you…” He looked at Sakurai, still with eyes full of confusion, and asked, “How did you know?”

“Your friend told me earlier”

Sakurai took another slice of cake from the plastic bag and placed it on his lap. Ohno was hoping that that’s the only thing Matsuoka told to Sakurai.

Returning his attention on the cake, he took a bite from it and frankly, the taste was just as normal as it can get. Nothing special on the flavor. It’s as what you expect from a convenience store bought cake. But, despite the bland taste, he enjoyed every bite and every second eating it. Ohno pondered whether it’s due to the weather or maybe the company he got…

Still curious, Ohno questioned him, “Don’t you have something to do today?”

Sakurai paused and thought for a moment. A smile formed on his mouth and stared at Ohno directly, “It’s not important… anymore.”

“Anymore?”

Sakurai stretched his arms out of frustration and uttered loudly, “If I have known earlier, I would have bought a cake in the bakery near my apartment. They taste even better than this.”

Ohno chuckled. He wondered why the guy is so obsessed in impressing him on his birthday. They’re not exactly classified as friends to begin with.

“It’s okay… This is delicious.”, he assured Sho as he smiled and hold the cake higher directing it over the man’s field of sight.

Sakurai, seemingly not satisfied by what Ohno had said, sighed. He placed the cake he was eating on a vacant space beside him and turned his body towards Ohno. The sudden movement caused Ohno to gaze back at Sakurai.

“To make up for the bland cake, I’ll sing to you a birthday song.”

“Wai— like— right here, right now?”, Ohno frantically said as his eyes shifted from left to right. People are passing by and Sakurai singing loudly may attract the attention of many.

Sakurai nodded.

“I think you shou—“

The guy started singing. “Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you…”

This caused onlookers to look at them curiously. Sakurai continued singing despite the attention they’re getting. Embarrassed by everything, Ohno covered his face with his hands. He can feel the heat rushing through his face and his ears flaring up. Some passerby do greeted him and he thanked them in return.

“There…”, Sakurai happily said feeling accomplished with what he had done.

Ohno lifted the hands that covered his face and peeked over it. He saw Sakurai beaming from ear to ear and eyes twinkling as if he has done something good. This drew laughter from Ohno almost forgetting that he was all shy earlier.

Amused over what happened, he chirpily said, “You really sang!”

“My style is more of inviting you in a high class restaurant with a wide view of the whole city.”, Sakurai bragged

Ohno chuckled. He took a bite once again from his supposed birthday cake and looked around his surrounding. He did not expect that he would be eating a cake in the middle of the day, outside, in a small area and a bus station, per say. It did not occur to him that today someone would sing to him a birthday song, that today strangers would greet him and that today he would be celebrating his birthday with the most handsome man that he had known. Ohno could not believe how his mood has suddenly changed. To think, he was all gloomy this morning.

He smiled at Sakurai, the kind of smile that he usually gives to something or someone he adores, and softly said, “No.. This is more than enough.”

Sakurai blushed over the expression Ohno gave him. It was different as what he had always seen, the way Ohno’s eyes crinkled and how his dimples almost showed up. Joy seem to spread on the man’s face. It gave him warmth and at the same time, butterflies in his stomach. He averted his gaze, trying to hide his embarrassment, and sipped on his hot coffee.

Through the minutes that passed by, no conversation occurred between the two people. They were silently observing the people walking and passing by ; the people riding and getting off the bus. The rain continuously poured as they slowly finished each of their slices of cake.

Out of nowhere, Sakurai asked Ohno a question, “What sweets do you like?”

Ohno was taken aback by the sudden question. He laughed lightly over the conversation starter Sakurai presented but he did answer properly, “I guess… Cheesecake.”

“Okay!” Sakurai loudly said causing Ohno to jerked out from his stand still and focus his attention to him. He, then, glanced at Ohno and declared, “On your next birthday, I’ll give you cheesecake.”

“You’re planning on giving me something next year?”, Ohno was dumbfounded on what Sakurai has proclaimed to him.

“Yeah, what about it?”

Ohno was quite hesitant.

Will he even be meeting Sakurai next year? Will the guy even remember the petty promise he did back in a small bus station? The guy might be so busy, might be caught up with other things that he would let the things he said today be locked up in a small portion of his memory.

Despite the doubts, Ohno wanted to believe.

The rain that has been pouring heavily finally stopped. Streaks of sun light, slowly, peeked out and the streets that has been covered by dark clouds, steadily, lit up. The light that shone was beautiful and gave him a sudden pure joy.

His lips curved into a small smile and said with eagerness, “Okay, I’m expecting it.”

Satomi… Would you forgive me if I start being excited over my birthday?

“Hey…”, Ohno called out to Sakurai without looking at him

“Hmm…”

“Are you busy?”

“Not anymore…”

Ohno paused for a second before, once again, asking the man beside him. “Do you want to come with me and pick up the kids from school?”

When he said that, he, finally, looked at Sakurai and stared at him expectantly.

Sakurai’s eyes widened in surprise. He was questioning to himself whether he heard Ohno right. He did not expect the question to come from the man’s lips. He hold his gaze on Ohno trying to read the guy but Ohno remained still and unyielding. He took his time in answering, wanting to form his words right. In the end, he replied with one word that sums up what he has been feeling recently.

“Okay…”

Satomi… when I visit you next time, I’ll tell you about this person called Sakurai Sho.

Chapter Text

Sho was two steps away from the bus stop when he glimpsed upon a guy, hunched over with his eyes all closed. He narrowed his eyes trying to discern who the familiar figure was. Coming closer, he noticed that it was Ohno.

Matsuoka informed him earlier that today was Ohno’s birthday. He wondered why Ohno is all by himself, looking all sad and lonely.

Sho had the urge to greet him but there were second thoughts. He did not know if it was the right thing to disturb Ohno. As Sho pondered on, he drew attention from the office ladies who were gossiping earlier. They started giving him strange looks. It’s a weird image, indeed, as Sakurai pretty much looks like a freak that was ready to pounce on a defenseless guy.

Scratching his head, he, finally, decided to pick up the courage to approach Ohno.

“Ohno?”, he said softly

With the way Ohno responded, it showed that he is not interested in long conversations. Even though Sho was curious, it was not in his business to pry on what Ohno has done or what will do later on. In the first place, where does Ohno lie in the spectra of his relation? Friends? Acquaintance? Coworkers? He has already seen every nook and corner of Ohno’s home. He’s close with Ohno’s kids and has learned some of their favorite foods particularly Kazu’s which is hamburger.

So… friends? But, he knows too little about the man, himself. He doesn’t even know his favorite food, favorite band, favorite color. The amount of information that he can list regarding Ohno were few. He was undecided on the nature of their relationship.

When the bus arrived, he was aware that he needed to go. He was scheduled to meet Aoi’s parents and tour them around the area. He knew the consequences once he decided not to step inside that bus. Aoi would surely make a fit and it would instantly be over for them. So why? Why did he turn around and went back to Ohno?

When Ohno’s face lightened up, Sho realized that he made the right choice. He was glad that he decided to stay. Eating cake, drinking coffee, singing loudly, waiting silently for the rain to pass, seeing a satisfied Ohno, everything was just perfect. He was convinced that any events brought about by his earlier action would not be of importance anymore.

“It’s not important… anymore.”, He told Ohno clearly

What he did not expect was Ohno inviting him to pick up his triplets from school. Everything was vague to Sho. He, himself, did not even understand why he agreed to it.

They walked close, side by side, with shoulders gradually bumping and hands slowly brushing attempting to touch but not quite. Both were silent but their minds were screaming loudly, in confusion and panic. Each happened to be aware that there was something, some kind of attraction but they were distracted by questions, several questions that in actuality does not need any answers.

Their hands continued this series of light touches until Ohno’s pinky finger remained still. He steadied it right at Sho’s index. Sho bit his lip. He was fighting the urge to totally grab the hand. It’s not helping that the pinky finger is slowly trailing up and down, teasing him, expecting what he will do next. He can feel his cheeks getting red and ears flaring up. He was curious. Does Ohno feel the same way that he’s feeling right now?

However, he was afraid. Scared that he will be seen. That his feelings would be exposed to the man. He remained unmoved, with his index just warming up to the pinky finger that was idly touching him. They carry-on with that kind of interaction until they arrived at their destination.

It was so natural how their fingers parted and their expressions returned to normal.

It was an understatement to say that there were some responses. It was literally the news of the day. Sho was aware that it may elicit some comments but he did not expect to be this big. The way the mothers stared at him with an accompanying glare plus the gossiping, here and there.

He held tight on his suitcase, and whispered, “Were they always like this?”

Ohno turned and grinned, “Nope, just for today.”

They could not escape the stares even when they went inside the building. There was that knowing look given by a particular kindergarten teacher who was standing right outside the classroom.

Ohno called out to him, “Toma!”

That guy was the homeroom teacher of the triplets.

He greeted Ohno like a close friend, “Oh-chan!”

As they went closer, Sho was introduced. The way Toma pried into the nature of their relationship made things more awkward between the two of them.

“Finally! I met Shochi! I thought they’re just making stuff up.”, he happily told the both of them. “You know, Ohno, here doesn’t really make many friends. When Masaki started talking about this Shochi, it’s really hard to believe.”

He, then, continued, “So, are you guys—

Luckily before they were pressed further, the kids came rushing out and included in the swarm of kids were Ohno’s triplets. They jumped up by the sight of their father. “Papa!”, they said in unison as they rushed to cling to their father’s legs.

“You know, I made mu—“, Masaki started to narrate his day when he noticed a familiar figure towering over him. Upon recognition, he cheerfully yelled out, “Shochi!” The other two raised their heads and finally, saw Sho. The youngest, Jun, approached Sho immediately and smiled at him. The man, in return, ruffled his hair. Kazu, meanwhile, remained by his father side and stared at Sho indifferently and asked, “Why is he here?”

For some reason, Kazu started giving him cold looks. He did not know when or why it started but every time he talk to the triplets, it was Kazu who’s the most silent. Every time he goes on-screen, the child was just staring at him, looking all annoyed and irritated.

Ohno patted Kazu’s head, “Look it’s Shochi, Aren’t you happy seeing him?”

Kazu shrugged his shoulder. “Whatever…”

Just like what Sho always do, he did not pay attention to Kazu’s reaction.

Ohno, too. It was typical of Kazu to be like that and so, he just assumed that the kid was being his bratty self again. Though, he did scold him, a little, for saying things like that to Sho.

All of a sudden, Masaki’s stomach grumbled. He pulled his father’s pants lightly and requested that they should eat something along the way. Ohno agreed and turned to Sho to invite him, “We’ll be eating at the nearby ramen place, want to join?”

Sakurai checked his phone and saw the amount of missed calls he had already received from Aoi. He sighed and finally accepted his fate. He stared directly at Ohno and gave him an apologetic look.

“I need to go… Maybe next time.”

A flash of disappointment came across Ohno’s face. Sho wanted to tell him that if he had a choice he would join them, for sure. That instead of going back to Aoi, he would totally go for that fatty, oily, cheap ramen with a gyoza side dish. But, obligations… It’s always about obligation.

——————

“So, how’s the project going?”

Sho was in the pantry sipping his coffee and fiddling with his phone. Turning to his side, he saw Okada reaching out for a mug and getting coffee from the coffee maker.

“Construction’s on-going. I’m now talking to this friend of mine, who’s a chef, about the development of menu.”

“I see…”, he replied as he leaned at the counter side by side with Sho.

Okada peeked at what Sho was looking intently on his phone. He saw unfamiliar faces together with Sho. With a creased brow, he questioned the man beside him, “Who?”

“Them?”, he positioned his screen within sight of Okada, “It’s the architect and his kids.”

“And… why are you in there?”

“I was invited to join their Halloween party and I happened to be in the picture, as well.”, Sakurai replied.

When Sho went back to the architectural company, he, once again, saw Matsuoka and was forced to give out his number with a promise that he will only give him interesting and wholesome content. This is the very reason that he got this picture of him, Ohno and his kids dancing together.

Okada caught that faint, sweet smile that adorned Sho’s face as Sho continued to narrate the story behind the photo. He assumed that Sakurai was there not simply because he was invited but he wanted to. He chuckled and sipped, once again, from his coffee.

Without looking, he asked Sho, “By the way, how are you and Aoi?”

Silence was the only reply he got. When he turned to Sho, he could clearly see how Sho tensed up.

“We’re doing fine… I guess…”

He sighed, clearly aware that Sho and Aoi were not fine. “She kept on complaining about those excuses you made. She’s thinking that you’re lying.”

Sho, immediately, shifted his head towards Okada. “I’m not! I always happened to be busy.”

“Busy with them?”, Okada replied and pointed to the photo.

Sho made a big gulp. He cannot deny the fact that one of the reason or maybe the sole reason why he can’t meet up with Aoi is because of Ohno.

Okada patted him on the shoulders and whispered, “Get your act straight.”

Sho remained still with his face clearly showing a worried expression. Okada laughed a little over how shook up the guy was. He stretched his arms and said, “Before that, want to eat dinner together? It’s been a long time since we hang out.”

“Ah…”, Sho did not answer immediately.

“I have a dinner with my father, tonight.”

Okada raised his eyebrow, “Really? Your father? That does not happen often.”

——————

“Have you heard from your brother?”

Surprisingly, his father invited him for dinner. It was a rare occurrence for Sho. He grew up in a household where his father prioritizes his work more than his family and a mother that just forgave his father for upholding that kind of principle. For little Sho, it would be a miracle if his father attended the athletic meet, school festivals and plays. The only thing that his father probably attended was his graduation day. The day in which he was awarded with many honors and praises and graduated at the top of the class. It was still etched in his memory how he hated the hypocritical smile his father gave. As if, he was the one who made a lot of effort for Sho to reach where he was standing.

Sho was sure that this wasn’t a simple family bonding or a possible reconnection he was hoping for. His father has a reason and when his father stated “brother” out from his mouth, Sho immediately knew what they would be talking about.

“I heard nothing from Shu”, Sho replied despite the fact that he was aware of the problem faced by his little brother.

“He’s always hanging out with this group of —— rascals and I don’t even know where he met them. He rejected the offer to go to a university abroad just because he wants to focus on his career as a musician.”, his father continuously complained. “Can you believe it?! Musician?! That’s not a steady job.”

Sho continued to eat the steak in his platter as his father continued to chatter about his little brother. All the words that was coming out of his father’s mouth just went in and out of his ears. Oh, how he wished he just chose to eat with Okada tonight.

“…Can you talk to Shu and tell him to stop the foolishness he’s doing.”

Sho placed down the utensils he was using and looked at his father’s face directly. “Just let him be… If that’s what he wants then he should do it. Don’t pressure him anymore.”

His father’s face fell flat. He probably did not expect that Sho would disagree with him. His eldest son; the one who has a tendency to be like him when it comes to work just completely sided with his rebellious second son.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing that from you.”, his father said with disappointment. He picked up the glass of wine and sipped from it as his head shook in disagreement.

Sho sighed. “Has it ever crossed your mind that I became like this maybe… because of you?”

His father chuckled. “You’re too old now to start being a rebel, Sho.”

“Is that also one of the reasons why you’re not meeting up with Aoi anymore?”

Sho went wide-eyed. “What are you talking about?”

“Aoi is a perfect girl for you, smart and pretty. A perfect match. Your mother even told me that you two are happily in love. But, why did I hear that you ditched the meeting with her parents?”

Sho can’t believe what he was hearing from his father. He clenched his fist trying to prevent the release of his frustration. “I’m sure you like her just because her parents are one of your ‘VIP’ clients.”

“That is why you need to treat them with respect. They would be your future-in-laws, as well…”, his father did not even disagree to the accusations given by Sho.

Sho knew he can’t reason out with his father. He went to this dinner hoping to get some quality time, eat some delicious food and go home with a new knowledge about his father. For the most part, he did expect some nonsense talk but today, he cannot stomach the things his father was pointing out.

Sho stood up and exclaimed, “I can’t do this! I’m going home!”

“Running away from me”, his father said as he ignored Sho and continued to slice the meat in his plate. He was not bothered at all by the fact that his son was truly angry at him.

Sho sighed in exasperation as he picked up his suitcase. “Be happy. I’m still doing that restaurant of yours”, he sarcastically said and left. As he was walking away, he could clearly hear his father say, “Oh.. you better be.”

—————

He was in front of the restaurant when he felt a vibration in his pants pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw the caller ID, “Aoi”. He, frustratingly, pressed the green button and with anger spoke, “You ratted me out to my father, really. Is Okada not enough?”

“I called to check up on you but I did not expect that I would be scolded for something that I believed was right.”, Aoi spoke from the other line. “Do you know how I embarrassed I was? I even lied about you getting an emergency meeting or something. You did not tell me the reason why you can’t come. You just gave me a simple text. How can I not tell your father about it?!”

“Tsk”, Sho, immediately, ended the call. He was not in the mood to create another fight; what happened in the restaurant was already enough.

He went down the road and waited for a taxi. He was now desperate to go home and drink out his stress away.

When he caught sight of the transport vehicle, he gestured for it to stop. Trying to open the taxi door, another person, suddenly, grabbed hold of it and stepped inside the vehicle.

“What?!”, Sho shouted clearly surprised over what happened.

He tapped the window of the passenger seat. “This taxi’s mine!”

The person who stole the taxi from him was seemingly drunk and just simply smiled at him. Sho continued to yell and scream at him from outside. Unfortunately, the taxi driver was indifferent about what happened. As long as a passenger was there, money would definitely come in. The taxi drove off leaving an infuriated Sho behind.

He rubbed his face out of frustration and kicked the garbage can beside him lightly. He was now completely tired and the need to go home came rushing in. All he wanted was just to lie down on his bed. With no other choice, he, once again, waited for another taxi to come his way.

The universe might have not sided with him today. The weather suddenly turned awful and rain started pouring down. Then, a loud thunder followed.

He searched in his bag for an umbrella; unfortunately, there was none. Not knowing what to do, he just stood there and let the rain cover him. Letting all the miseries that he experienced be washed away.

Raindrops, continuously, fell on his face and for sure, his suit was now completely soaked. He finally accepted that tonight, he was chosen as the unlucky person.

As he mused over the series of unfortunate events that happened to him, a tap was felt on his shoulder. The built up frustration and anger caused him to unintentionally lash out. Quickly turning around, he swatted the hands that was tapping him and angrily shouted, “What?! Can’t you see I—

He paused.

In front of him stood Ohno, looking at him with a mixture of surprise, fear and confusion. Then and there, Sho realized what he just did.

“Ah— I’m so so—-rry”, Sho stammered

He regretted his action. After all, he released all his frustration on an innocent and pure-looking man. He stepped back, afraid of Ohno’s response.

Instead of being furious, Ohno looked at him softly, stepped closer and tipped the umbrella he was carrying right above Sho’s head. “It’s cold, right?”

Not expecting that kind of response, Sho, finally, gave in, “I’m just— not having a good day…”

Ohno laughed lightly. “I would totally do the same.”

Looking around, Ohno asked Sho, “So… where you heading?”

It’s a good thing that Ohno did not ask anything and Sho appreciated it, truly.

“Home”, he replied

Sho caught sight of the convenience store plastic bag that Ohno was holding. Ohno took notice of the change of gaze and told him, “Kazu requested for snacks so here I am buying him some.”

Sho chuckled. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers and shook his head, “You’re spoiling them too much.”

“You think so?”

Looking amused, “They’re lucky to have you...”

Ohno blushed, he’s not good with accepting compliments.

In the midst of their conversation, a honking of a vehicle was heard. They turned and saw a taxi coming by. Sho smiled at Ohno and bid him goodbye.

Before he could fully stretch his arms upward to gesture the taxi to stop, Ohno grabbed hold of it tightly and pulled him lightly away from the road. Confused, he looked at him with questioning eyes.

Trying to form his words properly, Ohno started to speak, “Someone close to me, once, told me that when you’re feeling extra sad, a good company is a best solution.”  

“What are you saying?”

Ohno shifted his eyes away from Sho’s stare. “It means… do you want to… come home with me and maybe drink some beer?”

Sho stared at him without blinking, “Eh?!”

“But if you’re not up for it, It’s okay…”, Ohno quickly retracted what he said. He was aware that he’s not a good conversationalist, not at all great with giving advice and possibly would not do any good to lift up Sho’s mood. He, sadly, freed Sho’s hand from his grasp.

“No!”, Sho, suddenly, shouted and took a hold of Ohno’s hand, again. “I’ll go!”

A smile cannot escape from being formed on Ohno’s mouth as he heard Sho’s reply. He nodded with a blush peeking out from his cheeks. “Let’s go”, he enthusiastically said.

—————

“I’m home!”, Ohno said in a loud voice as he pulled his shoes out of his feet and placed it properly on the rack. He gestured for Sho to come inside.

Of course, Sho was not a stranger to Ohno’s home being able to stay here overnight after taking care of Ohno, the last time. But for some reason, today, he was kind of nervous just by stepping in through the front door.

As he was taking out his shoes, he can hear footsteps rushing to the door. He turned around and saw Ohno’s triplets welcoming their father home. He smiled upon the image depicted to him.

“Look who I’m with.”, Ohno excitedly said as he moved out from his position in order for the kids to see Sho.

“Oh! Shochi!”, Masaki shouted with delight. “Did you come here to play?”, he, immediately, asked.

“Ah… about that….”, Sho was about to disagree but he realized that maybe the kids could be a good distraction. “Maybe…”, he vaguely replied.

“Or he could do my homework, again.”, Jun happily said.

“What?! We did that together earlier.”, Ohno contested.

“He’s talking about math homework, Papa.”, Kazu pointed out.

“I could also teach you that.”

”Should I say it again, Papa. M-A-T-H homework.”

Sho drew laughter from the scene he has just witnessed. Baffled by the sudden outburst, Ohno and his kids turned to Sho.

“Does Shochi lost his mind?”, Kazu intentionally said out loud to which Sho responded with a raised brow.

Hearing Sho laughed with all his might, Ohno felt relieved and knew that he made the right choice of bringing him home. Ohno smiled softly and told his kids, “Before he play with you guys, Shochi still needs to dry up.”

True enough, Sho’s hair was drenched up and his suit was completely wet, making it very uncomfortable.

“You should take a bath as well. The bathroom’s that way.”, Ohno said as he pointed to the direction of the bathroom. Sho nodded.

“Later, let’s play!”, Sho assured the kids. Masaki and Jun gleed in delight.

“I’ll let you borrow some clothes of mine. I hope it fits you.”, Ohno said as he accompanied Sho along. Once they arrived, he turned the faucet on and allowed the water to fill up the bathtub. Ohno checked around. Confirming that every thing was in place, he nodded. “Then… I’ll just clean up the mess the kids made.”

“Ah… yeah…”, Sho could not hide his nervousness from his response.

—————

Ohno was picking up the stuffed giraffe that Kazu left behind when he realized that he moved the dry towels back to his cabinet and probably, there were none left in the bathroom.

He, immediately, went to his room and picked up the towels that was neatly stacked inside. Bringing with him the dry towels, He proceeded towards the bathroom. Ohno opened the door without any hint of hesitation.

“Sakurai, the towe—“

He sucked in a sharp breath as a completely naked Sho was exposed to him. It was perfection. All he could see was the toned upper muscle, chiseled chest and abdominal muscle with his six packs almost peeking out from it. Ohno, just, stood there, completely mesmerized by the sight in front of him. Sho, on the other hand, was frozen and surprised.

Both of them were in stand still for a minute when Ohno shook his head. In a soft voice, Ohno continued what he was about to say, “towel… I forgot”

“Oh!”, Sho realized. “Right…”

“I’ll just leave it here.”, Ohno hurriedly said as he placed the towels on top of a surface near the door. He turned around and closed the door, immediately.

As he stood by the door, he cannot help but to utter, “Wow…”

“Wow What?”

Ohno jumped out of surprise. “Kazu!”, he called out. “Wha— What are you doing here?”

“I left my ball inside.”, Kazu said as he tried to push his father’s legs with his tiny hands. Trying to prevent the little kid from entering further, he picked up Kazu and said, “No no no… Shochi’s there. Wait for a bit, okay?”

Kazu just pouted and rolled his eyes. “Fine…”

Sho, who by now was dipped fully in the bathtub, was so embarrassed about what happened earlier. He brushed back his bangs and splashed his face with water. He allowed himself to relax and give in to the warmth of the water. He sighed and muttered to himself, “I should have locked the door…”

—————

Meanwhile, Ohno and his kids were sitting at the center table of the living room, playing cards, when he remembered a message he received from his mother. She told him, earlier, that she would call tonight. She would like to check whether the kids have received their sweaters knitted by her. Ohno’s mom have loved the triplets so much and has always gifted them with numerous objects from mugs, notebooks, gloves and the recently delivered knitted sweaters.

“Let’s do another round”, Masaki insisted after losing and getting the Joker again from Ohno’s hand.

“No can do, Masaki.”, he said ruffling Masaki’s hair who by now was frowning after receiving a teasing comment from Kazu. “Maybe… we can do another round after the call from your grandma.”

Masaki perked up after hearing the word grandma. He was fond of his grandma, mostly because they were always being showered with presents every month.

“Oh man… Do we need to wear that sweater she gave us?”, Kazu annoyingly asked. Kazu totally hated it. He’s having a hard time dealing with the wool that makes his skin itch.

“You need to. It’s just for awhile and you can take it off right after the call. She needs to know if you look good in it.”, Ohno insisted.

“I like it, Papa. The sweater!”, Jun beamed.

“Really?”, Ohno’s mouth curved up after finally hearing a good thing about the sweater of his mom.

“It has a snowman, snowflake and Santa! All things I like.”

Ohno immediately hugged his youngest child. “You’re a gift, truly.”

Kazu made a gagging face over the explicit show of love of his father. His father saw it and scolded him, “Kazu, you’ll wear the sweater whether you like it or not.”

Kazu shrugged his shoulder. After all, what can he really do about it.

———————

After getting the sweater from his cabinet, he handed it over to his children. He helped them put on the sweaters and by now, they all look comfy and warm.

“See, Kazu. You look great on them.”, Ohno praised his son

Kazu stared at his father with annoyance. “It’s starting to get itchy.”, he, continuously, complained while scratching his neck.

Ohno ignored Kazu complaints and proceeded in getting his laptop. Masaki jumped over Ohno’s lap and smiled at him, “Can we call grandma, now?”

Ohno nodded and dialed his mother through Skype. The kids squished in in the small space, trying to get themselves shown in the screen. Ohno’s face was now partly seen in the monitor. “Give me some space!”, he tried to tell them off but his words had no effect as his triplets were now excited to even mind their father’s scoldings.

The call was picked up and Ohno’s mother came on screen. “Hell— Oh! You look so cute!”

“Grandma!”, the kids all shouted.

“The sweaters all look great on you.”

Ohno tried to squeeze in between his kids. “They all fit, mom.”

“Good!”, she happily exclaimed. “Wait a minute Satoshi, why do you look thinner compared before?”

“Work’s just catching up, as usual…”

“You sure?”

“I’m fi— Ohno was interrupted when he heard his name being called from a distance.

Right, Sho was still in his house and was taking a bath. He heard footsteps and suddenly, a figure peeked out from the divider. It was Sho with a bath towel covering only the lower portion of his body. Sho was surprised to see the whole family all bundled up and wearing a matching knitted sweaters.

“About the clothes…”, he shyly said

“Right!” Ohno completely forgot that he had to give the clothes that he had prepared earlier. He was about to give it back then, but decided not to because he was still embarrassed over what happened between them.

Ohno, not even giving a second glance to his mother, stood up. The kids, who were sitting by his legs, finally, realized that Sho was there. It was Masaki who happily pointed to him, “Shochi!”

He continued, “Grandma! You should see Shochi!”

Before Ohno could stop Masaki, the screen was turned around allowing Sho to be caught on screen. To his surprise, Sho, immediately hid behind the divider.

“Masaki!”, Ohno shouted.

Masaki was dumbstruck. “I just want to show Shochi to grandma.”

“And, who is this Shochi?”, his mom started talking.

Without turning around the laptop, Ohno explained, “He’s some sort of a friend of mine and the kids love playing with him.”

“You have a friend?”, his mother teasingly said with a chuckle.

Ohno rolled his eyes. “Yes, mom. And I need to get him some clothes before he gets cold.” and he left in haste to get the clothes that was on top of his bed.

Sho, who was now hiding behind the divider, gradually peek out and saw that the laptop is still focused to him. Suddenly, Ohno’s mom greeted him, “Shochi?”

“Ah… yes.” Sho replied warily. “I’m sorry… I’ll greet you properly after I— you know”

Sho could hear Ohno’s mom laugh. “I can tell you’re a gentleman. Unlike, my son...”

“Mom, I can hear you.”, Ohno appeared back and handed the clothes to Sho. “Don’t mind her.”

“What?! It’s true! I still remember that you did not even share a single slice of that cheesecake I sent to you to Satomi. Poor girl the only excuse she received was because ‘It’s delicious!’”

Ohno pouted. He cannot reprimand his mother cause what she said was true. “It’s really delicious and you should have bought two!”

Sho was amused seeing the bickering between mother and son; a thing that’s very rare in his family. He tapped Ohno and gestured that he would go back to the bathroom to change his clothes.

——————

Ohno and his kids were still doing the Skype video call when Sho showed up wearing the clothes that Ohno handed over to him earlier.

Ohno examined Sho from top to bottom and commented, “Just like I thought, my clothes are small for you.”

“Well… it’s either this or nothing at all”, Sho jokingly said.

Ohno chuckled in reply. Though, Ohno wouldn’t miss out on the idea of a naked Sho after witnessing what the man was hiding beneath that suit of him. He can even make do with a shirtless one if the one he provided is making Sho uncomfortable.

“My son is totally picturing you with “nothing at all”, Ohno’s mom suddenly interrupted.

Sho blushed.

“Mom!”, Ohno shouted to his mom. He, then, looked at Sho and shook his head. “Definitely not thinking that.”

“Eh?! But, it’s your I—

“Sit here.”, Ohno intentionally broke off the sentence of his mom before she could even say dumb things about him. “My mom insists in knowing you.”

Sho nodded and sat awkwardly beside Ohno. Noticing that Sho was not seen on-screen, Ohno wrapped his arms on Sho’s shoulder and pulled him close. “She won’t be able to see you.”, he said in almost a whisper. He felt Ohno’s breath on his ears and his heart almost skipped a beat.

“Grandma! Shochi’s good in math! He helps me with my homework.”, Jun praised Sho. Meanwhile, Kazu told the opposite, “But, his bad at drawing. If only you could see how he ruined Totoro…”

The triplets continued to share their stories about Shochi. They did not even let Sho speak directly to Ohno’s mom.

Hearing all those stories and seeing directly how happy the kids are and in particular Ohno, she was assured that everything’s fine.

Ohno, noticing the sudden silence of his mom, looked at her in confusion. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing…”, Ohno’s mom said as her expression softened. “I’ll take a screenshot.”

“Right now?”

Ohno’s mom nodded. The kids immediately squeezed in and posed by Ohno’s lap. Awkwardly, Ohno shifted his gaze to Sho and said in a low voice, “Sorry... she can be spontaneous sometimes.”

”She’s fun, actually.”, Sho replied and leaned closer to Ohno while gesturing a peace sign in his hands.

Ohno softly smiled to Sho and imitated Sho’s pose. Ohno’s mom can clearly see how the grip of his son’s hands tightened on Sho’s shoulder. Chuckling, she pressed the button at the lower part to capture the moment.

“Done!”, she exclaimed.

As they were done taking screenshots of each other, Kazu stood up from his position and proclaimed, “Papa, can I?” He tugged the sweater hoping his father would know that he wanted the thing out of him, right now. He can no longer stand the itchiness he’s feeling.

Ohno understood and told his mom that he would be back in a second. The two other kids, curious on what Kazu would do, departed off together with their Dad. Leaving Sho all alone, he looked at Ohno’s mom with an awkward smile forming on his mouth.

“Umm… Hello?”

Ohno’s mom laughed.

Knowing that he’s line of work involves marketing and establishing connection, Sho was very comfortable in making conversations with strangers. For the first time in his life, he cannot think of ways on what to communicate with Ohno’s mom. His brain was digging up topics that could enthuse her but he’s afraid that the things he would come up would be a private matter.

“Thank you for taking care of my son.”, she suddenly started speaking.

“Ah… No!”, Sho shook his head. “It’s more like your son is taking care of me more. I was down earlier and he… invited me here.”

She smiled. “He might look like someone who loves being alone but in reality, he gets lonely so easily. It might be too much to ask, can you accompany him during those times?”

Sho contemplated. But before he could answer, Ohno came in and started talking along the way, “So, what did my mom told you?”

He blinked not knowing what to answer. Ohno tilted his head puzzled over Sho’s silence.

“She just told me that you’re… a good person.”, and Sho did a forced smile.

Ohno raised his eyebrow. “That’s totally not what she told you…” and he sighed. He turned to his mother and ask her, “Don’t disturb, Sakurai too much.”

“I’m not!”, his mother defended.

“Hey Satoshi…”

Ohno hummed in reply.

“Nothing… I need to go now.”

Ohno creased his brow wondering the situation between his mom and Sho. In his mind, they must have talked about something embarrassing that he did way back in high school. He was a rebellious kid back then, with his long hair, baggy pants and silver dangling necklaces that he used to wear. Sho, with his overthinking mind, might still be shocked over what his mother has said.

After saying goodbye to his mom, He ended the call and brought down the screen of his laptop. Even though Sho did not ask, Ohno explained the whereabouts of his kids, “Masaki found something interesting and they started playing pirates there.”

He positioned his laptop properly on the table. “So… should I get the cold beer, as promised?”

Finally, they have the quiet night all for themselves. Ohno did not stop Sho in going home earlier just for him to play with his kids or talk to his mom. He wanted him to have a peaceful night after a seemingly bad circumstance that Ohno, though curious, would not ask about it and wait for the person, himself, to open up to him.

Unfortunately, time wasn’t their friend. When Sho checked his watch, it was already late. If he stayed too long, he would not be able to catch the last trip of the train and furthermore, he would be imposing to much on Ohno’s family. It’s already enough that he took a bath there. It would be a step up if he stayed overnight in Ohno’s apartment.

“I think I should go…”

Ohno was surprised. “Why?”

“It’s late and… I don’t want to disturb you, anymore”

“It’s okay... really!”

Sho knew that Ohno would not let him go no matter what he says. In the end, he made up a lie, “There’s a report due tomorrow. I just need to polish it up.”

Aware that he would not be able to let Sho stay for a longer time, Ohno dejectedly nodded. “What about your suit? It’s not dry yet?”

“You can give it back to me. I’ll visit your office within this week.”, Sho replied. He, then, gazed down on what he was wearing, “Can I borrow your clothes, for now?”

“It’s either that or you go out naked.”, Ohno returned Sho’s earlier question and laughed right after.

”I surely don’t want to step out in this cold night naked.”, Sho sarcastically replied with a laugh.

For a moment, both looked at each other and smiled. Then, Sho picked up his suitcase and proceeded to the entrance. When he turned around to check on Ohno, he could see him frowning.

“What’s wrong?”

Ohno looked at him. “I’m sorry… I did not do what I promised you. My mom took a lot of our time and it just ruined what we have planned.”

Sho stepped closer to him. “I’m all right now and besides, your mother is funny and easy to talk to. It lightened up my mood, greatly.”

Despite what Sho said, Ohno was still in his gloomy state. His mother was, right, this guy gets sad so easily. He sighed and tried to think of ways to cheer up Ohno.

“What about… a hug?” and Sho smiled.

“Eh?!”, Ohno’s eyes blinked fast. “A hug?”

“Yes! A hug!”, Sho said as he stretched his arms.

Ohno was hesitant and remained unmoved in his position.

“What are you waiting for? That would totally compensate for the ruined promise.”, Sho insisted with his arms still all stretched out.

There was a blush forming on Ohno’s cheeks as he gradually moved closer. He wrapped his arms around and Sho, in return, hold him close. His chest pounded hard as his body was pressed against Sho. At first, he was all tensed up, but slowly, he relaxed and gave in to the gentle embrace. He sank his face on Sho’s chest, gently rubbing his hands on Sho’s back. Snuggling in, he said in a soft voice, “Is this good enough?”

The feel of Ohno’s body close to him soothed him more than what was expected. He could smell the lavender from Ohno’s hair, probably from the shampoo he uses. It brought him giddy feelings knowing that, maybe, they smelled the same. Inwardly, he thanked the universe for giving him the worst dinner paving his way to meet Ohno and do this kind of thing with him.

Sho squeezed his arms tighter. He smiled and bringing his lips close to Ohno’s ears, he whispered, “Yes, this is more than enough.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Morning jogs were not really a thing in Ohno’s family. That’s because two members of the family were not a morning person: the father and the youngest, Jun. Unfortunately for them, Toma gave his class an assignment to capture and describe the sights that they always see in their nearby park. The assignment was easy to accomplish but the time to accompany his kids was the main problem. He could not do it during noontime because of his work. Evening was never his option. It’s dangerous and harder to keep an eye on three kids; not to mention, he’s all by himself. Weekend would be good because they could come by at noon; however, it’s already due this week and needs to be done immediately. And thus, they decided to take the shots at dawn.

Easy to say but hard to do. Ohno alarmed his phone at 5 am to have an early preparation before waking up the kids. Who would have thought that he needed all his strength just to push himself out of his bed? Same goes with Jun. The kid almost bit him when he shook him awake. Lucky for him, Jun’s determination to get high grades pushed the child to finally wake up. Masaki, on the other hand, was easy. He, immediately, sprung up and proceeded in getting his clothes. Kazu is fairly quite easy; though he protested for another 5 minutes extension of his sleep. True to his words, Kazu woke up after the set time.

Once done, they all walked towards the park that was quite close to their apartment. On the way, Ohno was mumbling beneath his breath, “Toma would pay for this.”

The sun has already risen when they arrived. People were everywhere. There are those who jog, who bike or just strolling around feeling the fresh morning air. It’s quite a sight. Ohno imagined that it would be empty with a few people here and there. He did not expect that it would be this lively.

The tension in the park influenced the mood of the four. Jun was already requesting that his father took a shot near the bench in order to capture the park plus the lake that was connected to it. Seeing how good the spot Jun chose, he, immediately, did as suggested.

From here on, the kids were dragging him around. Kazu has the tendency to focus on people and so he asked Ohno to take a picture of a group of friends and families that were just hanging out in the park. Masaki, meanwhile, loves animals and would love that the pictures he submits be filled with the cute furry creatures prancing around.

He has loved the energy of his eldest child but what he did not is his spontaneity. Just like now, Masaki was now in front of him holding what seems to be a puppy.

“Ahh…”, he narrowed his eyes. “Who’s puppy is that?”

“I don’t know.”, Masaki clearly said.

Ohno almost dropped his camera. “Where— Where did you get the puppy?”

Masaki pointed to a mahogany tree that was near the place they’re standing. “I saw him all alone there and it looks like it’s about to cry so I picked it up.”

“Masaki…”, he softly said his child’s name. “You should not touch stray animals, easily. What if it has rabies and bites you.”

Masaki apologized quietly and handed the puppy to Ohno. He did scold his child about stray animals but the one his child picked up is no stray and looks like a well-taken care dog. The fur is clean and even has ribbon on its neck. “Where is your owner?”, he muttered to the puppy.

His two other kids, who were just playing with the coy in the nearby lake, came back and was delighted to see the puppy that Ohno’s holding. Kazu hastily approached it and ruffled its fur. Upon knowing the circumstance, Kazu quickly suggested, “Can we take this one home?”

“No!”, Ohno was so done with Kazu’s antics. His gaze fell on Jun who was just standing and looking inches apart from them. “You can stay by my side, if you’re frightened”, he assured his youngest.

Unfortunately, Jun was too afraid and would not move from where he stood. “It might bite me.”, he said and remained in his position with his hands clasped tightly on his shirt.

Ohno cannot understand why animals seemingly hate Jun. Chibi, the dog of Haruka, would always bark at him whenever they meet up with her. Only Jun.

He, then, let his youngest be and continued to appease the very enthusiastic puppy. His two kids, having the same energy as the little puppy, happily patted its soft fur. The puppy would give out cute barks every now and then.

Not wanting to be left out, Jun slowly approach them and positioned himself behind his father’s back. He tried to peek to get a closer look. Indeed, the puppy was cute. Noticing that his youngest wanted to join in the fun, Ohno moved the puppy close to his chest. Jun stretched out his little arms and touched the head of the puppy. To their surprise, the puppy did not even flinch or even bark. It just let the kid pat him thoroughly. Jun turned towards his father and Ohno saw the sparkle in his eyes.

“Papa!”, Jun gleed. Having more confidence, Jun approached the puppy much closer and joined his brothers in playing with it.

“It likes you!”, Kazu was happy over Jun’s little achievement.

The puppy that Masaki has brought might be troublesome; at first, but Ohno, seeing his son, in that state of happiness might rethink the first impression that he made.

Sadly, it’s still a fact that the puppy wasn’t theirs. “It’s not ours so we need to find his owner.”, he apologetically said to his kids. He’s directly pointing it out to Jun who seems to have grown fond of the little dog. The kid’s unhappy expression clearly showed on his face. Jun wasn’t that enthusiastic about what Ohno said.

All of a sudden, not far from where they’re situated, they heard someone shouting, “Haru!”

The puppy that was on Ohno’s arms suddenly wiggled its body as if responding to the call.

“Haru!”, someone called out again.

The four of them looked at each other, all realizing the same thing. “It could be the owner.”, he told his triplets. The three nodded and they decided to go to the possible owner of the puppy.

From the distance, Ohno could clearly recognize the person shouting the puppy’s name. He stopped from his tracks and voiced out, “Sa—Sakurai?”

Sho turned around and his big brown eyes widened in surprise, “Eh?! Ohno?” His sight shifted to the puppy that Ohno was holding and immediately run closer to it. “Haru!”

Ohno put down the puppy and it run towards its owner. “Who would have thought that that one is yours.”, and smiled upon the coincidence.

Before Sho could reply, Masaki gleefully said, “Cool! Shochi has a dog.”

Ohno laughed lightly. “Masaki’s excited when it comes to animals and also Kazu.”, he turned to Kazu, who by now was preventing himself to project his excitement. “And, that puppy is the only one who allowed Jun to pet it.”

Sho was not quite sure about the meaning behind Ohno’s last statement but from the context, he did get that maybe Jun’s not good with dogs.

Happy over his recent achievement, Jun went close to Sho and asked him, “Can we visit him next time?”

Noticing that Sho has barely spoken throughout the interaction, Ohno pulled his son away from Sho and told him, “Sorry… they’re pushing you again.”

Sho shook his head. “Looks like this one is happy as well after meeting you guys. Actually it’s a she not a he.”

“Sure! You can come by this weekend, if you want.”, he continued.

“Really?!”

Sho nodded enthusiastically while laughing over Ohno’s reaction.

Glad over the response, he went eye level to his kids and raised up his hands in a high-five manner. “Yay!”, his kids followed suit.

If only Sho had his phone camera standby, he would totally take a picture of that scene and make it his wallpaper. He gushed over the excitement shown by Ohno and his triplets.

“Haru will be waiting!”, Sho said as he raised Haru’s paw and waved it. Ohno decided to forgive Toma, for now, cause if not for him he would not be able to meet Sho.

—————

Ohno found out that Sho has a morning routine jog and it was only at that time that he brought his puppy along. They both agreed that they would meet this weekend in Sho’s apartment. Sho gave him the address and advised him to call him if they’re near.

He was aware that Sho’s a rich person but he did not expect him to be that wealthy. His apartment building could not even compare to Sho’s; it’s so elegant and big. His kids were intimated, as well, by what they saw and Ohno can feel a strong clinging of little hands on his legs.

“It’s huge!”, Masaki said in awe.

He already contacted Sho and they’re just waiting for him to come down to the lobby and pick them up. While waiting, Ohno examined the people who were entering and exiting and all of them have this air of elite around them. It’s still a surprise for him that he became friends with Sho.

As he scan the area, he noticed Sho coming out from the elevator. He waved his hand as Sho went near to them.

“Let’s go!”, Sho enthusiastically said.

The lobby was magnificent but the inside of the room was even better. It’s spacious and ornate. The furnishing must have came from those branded stores that Ohno would not even think of buying in.

Curious, he asked, “Do you live here alone?”

“Yes”, Sho replied. Ohno wondered how much was Sho’s salary, for him to handle this large apartment all by himself. His kids, too, were stunned. After all, they’re accustomed to playing in their cramped room. Even Ohno needed to do adjustments on the cabinets in order to fit three children in one room. In here, the kids can just roam and run around in the living room. A perfect place for their favorite hide and seek. Though, Ohno would not advice it. He does not want to deal with possible broken furnitures caused by his hyperactive children.

Sho was about to invite them in when the kids spotted the little dog playing a ball in the corner of the room. Delighted by what they saw, the nervousness left their body and ran towards it, leaving Sho and Ohno by the entrance.

“Hey!!”, Ohno called out. Those kids would, surely, have an earful when they get to go home, later.

Sho was amused over what happened. “Looks like Haru is more loved than me.” and he gestured Ohno to come inside.

Ohno placed the cap he’s wearing at the rack nearby. Once inside, he decided to leave his kids alone and looked around the place. What he noticed was this cabinet filled with snowglobes. He turned to Sho and asked, “You collect this stuff?”

“Traveling is my hobby and whenever I go out of the country, I always buy this as a souvenir.”, Sho happily narrated. He picked up one snowglobe and turned the knob at the bottom. It started to play a Christmas song.

“Look, this one has a unique feature. I bought it last month when I went to Finland.”, he said as he showed it with pride.

Fascinated by what he saw, Ohno’s tension rose up, “Cool!”

“I even designed my own.”, and he pointed at the snowglobe at the far left. Ohno narrowed his eyes and moved closer in order to examine it properly. It is indeed a snow globe but the design— how would he put it— very Sho-like. He laughed lightly and muttered, “Don’t show that to Kazu, he’ll probably tease you for that.”

“What?! I think it’s good! If you have seen the previous versions, you’ll think that that’s the best one.”, Sho uttered.

Ohno chuckled over how Sho desperately tried to defend himself. His eyes went on to the table near the cabinet and saw pictures of Sho with his family. He asked, “Where do they live?”

Realizing that Ohno has started questioning about his family, he felt a tight knot in his stomach. For some reason, he did not want to involve Ohno in anything that has to do with his family. “They’re just around the area. I just want to be independent so I decided to rent this room.”, he vaguely replied.

Ohno hummed in reply, unaware about what Sho felt towards his family, specifically his father. While looking, he noticed a picture of Sho together with a pretty young lady. His eyes focused on it. He was about to ask him who the girl was but he prevented himself from doing so. Fear of knowing the identity of the girl overwhelmed him.

Sho noticed that Ohno, suddenly, became quiet. He moved his sight towards where Ohno was looking at. Ohno was staring at that picture of him and Aoi, right after their first date. He pondered whether to say something about it or to reveal that Aoi was his girlfriend.

Cautiously, he opened his mouth, “She’s my—

Before he could finish his sentence, they both heard shouting, “Papa!”

Both stared at each other, first, before they proceeded to where the triplets were. When they arrived they saw vomit around the carpet floor with the kids on the side, slightly trembling.

“Papa! Haru’s sick!”, Masaki pointed out.

Ohno quickly went near the dog. “What happened?”

“She just started vomiting”, Kazu explained.

The puppy looked weak in Ohno’s eyes. Exhausted and maybe dehydrated due to the vomiting it did. He turned to Sho, who by now was just staring at Haru, unmoved.

“Sakurai??”

There was no response.

Confused over the lack of response, he repeated, “Sakurai?”

Finally out of his daze, Sho spoke, “I’m sorry…”, still feeling out of it, he continued, “I don’t know what to do. I need to call someone.”

“Eh?! Wai—“ Before Ohno could stop him, Sho hastily went to another room. He sighed. He’s not familiar with dogs and has no idea on what was best to do in this situation. It’s not helping that his triplets were panicking. “Let’s ask Aunt Haruka, okay… Don’t worry, Haru would be all right”, he assured them.

He dialed Haruka and luckily, she’s available. Ohno told her about what happened to Haru and it looks like it’s a common problem whenever a dog has eaten something with high sugar content. But, she advised that it must be brought to a vet, just to make sure.

Glad that it’s not that serious, he smiled at his kids and told them that Haru would be fine. The three kids jumped in joy and relief.

Realizing that Sho was taking a long time for his supposed emergency call, Ohno decided to check up on him. He, slowly, opened the door and peeked. Sho was standing by the window, all nervous, and panickly muttering, “Okada! Pick up!”

Not wanting to prolong the agony, Ohno knock at the door. Sho jumped in surprise and quickly hid his phone. “Ohno?!”

He stepped inside and went close to Sho. “I asked a friend of mine and she said that it might be that Haru has eaten something with high sugar content.”

Sho paused and tried to remember what kind of food he gave the puppy this morning. He shouted upon realizing that the cookie, that was given to him by his business partner, was included in Haru’s meal.

“I might have given her something that isn’t good for her…”, he embarrassingly replied.

Ohno smiled at him assuringly. “At least, we now know what’s the problem. But, she said it’s good to bring her to a vet, just to be sure”

Sho sighed over his stupid mistake. “I’ll surely tell O—“, he paused and looked at Ohno with wariness. “I mean, I’ll do that within this week.”

Ohno just assumed that the guy was all stressed out after what happened that’s why he’s all over the place.

“You’re a first time pet owner?”

Sho nodded. He hung his head low and from Ohno’s perspective, he could see that Sho felt guilty for doing that to a poor, innocent little dog.

Suddenly, Sho felt a touch on his head. Ohno’s hand was on his hair and he’s ruffling it. “What are you doing?”, he questioned him.

“You’re down so I’m doing this.”, and Ohno further ruffled his hair intensely. Sho can hear him laughing as if he’s enjoying what he’s doing.

The truth is, it soothed him in many ways and enjoyed the warmth of Ohno’s hand. He stayed still and let Ohno do what he’s currently doing. Though, he’s pride was still in-tact and lowly muttering, “Remember, I’m not your child.”

Ohno chuckled, “I know!”

———————

When it was time to leave, the kids all pleaded if they could visit Haru again. Sho gladly agreed with a promise that no vomiting incident would happen again. He accompanied them by the entrance of the apartment building and saw them off.

On the way back, Ohno and his kids stopped over by Haruka’s café since it’s quite close. Once Ohno opened the door, the kids rushed in and happily greeted the owner, “Haruka!!”

“Hello!”, she greeted back.

Masaki started to narrate his day, “You know, we went to Shochi’s place and it’s so big! And, Haru’s cute! She should play with Chibi, someday.”

After hearing where the family went, she looked at Ohno knowingly and uttered, “Oh… Shochi’s place…”

Quite annoyed by the message Haruka was implying, he said, “Stop looking at me like that.”

She chuckled. With the way Ohno reacts, she can’t help but tease him more and more. “So… the sick dog is Sakurai’s?”

“Ye—“, Ohno was about to place his cap on the table when he noticed that he wasn’t even wearing one. He realized that he had left it at Sho’s place. Knowing that it’s in a walking distance, he decided to go back and get it. It’s his favorite, after all.

“I need to go back. I think I left my cap there. Can you take care of them, for awhile?”

Haru smiled even more. “Sure do!” and she whispered close to Ohno, “And… take your time.”

“Shut up!”, he shouted.

——————

Sho was standing outside of his apartment building, holding Haru in his arms. Finally, the person he’s been waiting for has arrived.

“What’s up with the many calls?”, Okada asked

Still wondering if he’ll tell the truth or not, he replied, “Nothing… But you should let the vet see your dog.”

“Really now?! Are you trying to kill my dog!”

“Of course not!”

Sho passed the dog over to its true owner, Okada. As Okada pat Haru’s white fur, he began to question, “I still wanted to know why you borrowed her. I mean, last time, I did all I could, even offering a free dinner, just for you to take care of her while I’m away. And now?”

Not in a million years would Sho tell him the real reason. How he’s a coward or more likely, an idiot for not knowing how to invite Ohno properly to his place, how he needed a dog just to start a conversation with the guy.

In the process, he researched the proper way of caring for a puppy and bought the necessary items and tools for that. It was a failure on his part for not studying enough about the diet.

To cover up his intentions, he just responded, “I just want to know what it feels like to be a pet owner.”

Okada was skeptical. He knows that his friend will not do something like that. “Oh… really?” to which Sho nodded eagerly.

Aware that he wouldn’t get an answer from Sho, he decided to let it be. “Fine! But next time, you’ll pay me whenever you borrow her. I don’t want my dog dying on me.”

Feeling defeated over Okada’s response, Sho could only accept Okada’s demands. There’s a big possibility that he will borrow Haru again and he’ll need to think of ways in order for Okada to let him do that.

As Sho bid farewell and went inside his apartment complex, Okada cooed over the little dog, “What did he do to you?”

From the corner of his eyes, he noticed a silhouette hiding behind the bushes. Due to all the sneaking that he did on Sho’s photo gallery, he could easily recognize the duck butt hair that was slightly peaking out. Okada smiled, finally realizing Sho’s intention, he whispered to his dog, “They’re both idiots…”

 

 

Chapter Text

Kazu grew up not knowing his mother. He only saw her from the photo albums and pictures that his father often showed. All he knew was his mother’s name and face. He’s also quite aware that his father’s stories have hints of lie in them. Would you believe that his sexy and pretty mom would be chasing after his sleepy-looking father instead of vice-versa? Kazu knew that it was a blatant lie and he just chose to ride along in his father’s tales. What he truly believes in was that his father truly, completely love her and up until now, he still holds on to that truth.

But recently, he has qualms. When his father returned back to Haruka’s store, he was empty-handed. He did tell them, earlier, that he would be retrieving his cap back. It confused Kazu, but what he was more concerned about was his father’s face, blushing and red all over. Haruka asked what’s wrong and the only reply they got was, “Sakurai wasn’t there”

Again, another lie.

After his father met this “Sakurai”, Kazu saw the change in his father. He was smiling more and more and he was radiating.

At one point, when he was doing his homework, he was, suddenly, interrupted by a loud laugh coming from his father. Maybe, embarrassed, by his sudden outburst, his father stopped and shyly showed him the picture of Sho dressed in a reindeer outfit. At that moment, Kazu realized that the both of them have been chatting with each other, A LOT. He did not know when it started, but every time his father heard a vibration or notification coming from his phone, he would, immediately, look at it and smile. That smile that his father made was not the one he usually shows to Matsu-nii, Toma or Haruka; it was something even deeper. Kazu compared it to the one he makes whenever he receives money or gifts or maybe even beyond that. He stopped finding description and decided that whatever adjectives he gave, it will not give justice to it.

Kazu was wary. Deep inside him, he wasn’t happy about the change. It’s like his father was slowly distancing himself from what was the original status of their family.

His uneasiness heightened when the lunch box that Ohno packed was wrong. The three of them ended up having only rice with no protein or vegetable, just rice. Kazu knew what truly happened. That morning, Ohno received a call from Sho and based on what he heard, that guy invited his father to a dinner. He witnessed in his own eyes how his father eagerly agreed to it and right after that call, merrily went back in preparing the triplet’s lunch. Due to the excitement, his father might have lose focus and packed the wrong things.

Toma saw the lunch boxes of the three kids and commented, “That’s a first.” and laughed right after.

His father had never made that mistake, before. This was the first time. His father was distracted, again. The reason — that “Sakurai” guy.

On the same day, his homeroom teacher noticed a spark of anger in Kazu’s eyes. Concerned, he questioned him.

Romantic affection, a foreign word for a kindergarten kid. What they only knew was: they like this and so they’ll get it. The complexity behind the word “love” was something that Kazu can’t comprehend. So without knowing those things, he told Toma the recent antics of his father.

It was a big surprise that instead of siding with him, Toma asked that Kazu forgave his father. His teacher did not explain further and just told him that what’s important was that his father was happy. Kazu doesn’t see that.

Later that evening, after they were picked up by their father from the kindergarten, they were dropped off in Haruka’s place.

“Aunt Haruka would be taking care of you. Don’t exhaust her.”, his father told them clearly.

Kazu noticed that Masaki was biting his lips, maybe trying to prevent himself from speaking about something.  Curious, he, suddenly, blurted out, “Papa, Masa wants to say something?”

His father turned to his eldest brother, waiting for the little kid to say something.

Masaki nervously looked to his right and left before speaking, “It’s just… Papa, you promised yesterday that we would be eating yakiniku today…”

Ohno facepalmed himself. He realized that indeed, he said to Masaki that they would check out that newly built yakiniku place near them. “I forgot! Next time, let’s eat there, okay.”

His father never forgets his promise. Today was the only day he did not fulfill what he said to his sons. The father who always dotes his son, who always spoils them, would never forget the promise he made. Kazu was annoyed by it.

Masaki, dejectedly, agreed and said goodbye to his father.

As their father left, Kazu decided that he hated Shochi.

——————

It was during the time that Sho and Ohno went for dinner that they both decided to take the kids to an amusement park. Of course, his oblivious brothers were excited but not him. He could not stand walking beside nor talking to Sho. Furthermore, he hated how his father was all distracted whenever Sho’s involved. The sparkle in his father’s eyes, the smile accompanied by a hint of blush in his cheeks, Kazu hated how he would witness all of that.

Unbeknownst to what Kazu was feeling, the family, together with Sho, proceeded with the plan. They were picked up by Sho in his car and drove off to their destination. Inside, there it was, the interaction he did not want to see the most. His father was taken by Sho, once again. Both found out their shared love of 90’s american songs and musical soundtrack. Along the way, he could hear them singing and laughing loudly. He turned to his brothers, who by now was joining in the fun.

At the amusement park, they were “forced” (in Kazu’s perspective) by Sho to wear hats and costumed headbands. He was given dog ears, Jun was a witch hat and Masaki was bear ears. The two adults took time to decide on what they should wear. He saw how Sho picked up a mouse ear headband and placed it on to his father’s head.

He can do that by himself, he thought

Sho took a picture of Ohno and showed it to him, right after. They laughed, amused by Ohno’s pose and cuteness. The both of them were in their own bubble of happiness, not noticing the people around them.

Kazu was fighting the urge to cut in between when he noticed that Jun was touching his stomach.

Concerned, he asked, “J, what’s wrong?”

Surprised that someone has seen what he was doing, Jun, quickly, hid his hands and told Kazu, “Nothing… I’m just hungry...”

Reluctant to believe in Jun’s response, he stepped close and peered at him, “Really?”

Kazu knew that Jun has the tendency to hide things especially when it affects other people. He was afraid that his brother might be sick and just pushing himself.

Sensing that things might not be good for his brother, he shifted his gaze to the two adults. It is not a surprise for him to see them, still in their own world, talking and laughing while fiddling on their phones. Kazu, very well-aware the need to consult to his father about Jun’s situation, approached Ohno. He tapped him by his legs to get his attention and softly called out, “Papa…”  

Ohno gazed down and asked his child, “Kazu?”

“About Jun—“ “There’s the carousel ride! Want to go there first?”, Sho interrupted, greatly unaware that Kazu was talking to his father.

Thinking that it wasn’t that serious, Ohno simply asked Kazu to tell him later.

Never in Kazu’s years of existence had his father ignored him. This was the first and the reason— yes— Shochi. Any second from now he might shout to that guy and tell him to leave them alone, for good.

—————

They went to almost all the rides with the roller coaster being the next one. It was his father who pointed out that Sho’s face became pale upon the mention of roller coaster. They found out later that he’s not good with heights. Finding a weak point, his father dragged a “not so enthusiastic” Sho to ride the roller coaster.

Poor guy, after the ride has finished, Sho was in a complete blank state. Amused over Sho’s reaction, Ohno laughed with all his might. This was the first time he saw the stoic, all-responsible Sho, be utterly helpless. Ohno was sure to capture these rare images of Sho.

As this was all happening, Kazu noticed, again, that Jun held on tightly to his stomach. But this time, he saw Jun’s face distort due to pain. Kazu decided that he cannot overlook it. This time he will tell his father.

Finally, with Sho gone and his father all alone, he went close to him, “Papa”

“What is it?”

“J, seems to be si—

Suddenly, Sho and Masaki called out to his father. Not letting him finish his sentence, his father told him, “Look, Sakurai and Masa found a cotton candy stand. Jun loves that.”

Before he could stop him, his father departed off. He was left there standing alone. Turning to Jun, he said, “J?”

Jun forced a smile. “I heard cotton candy from Papa. Let’s follow him.”

Still concerned about his little brother, he, simply, held out his hand and they walked, hand-in-hand, towards their father. They were halfway near when Jun’s grip on Nino’s hand loosened and his hands went to his stomach and held on to it tightly.  

“Jun!”, Kazu shouted.

The loud shout Nino made caused his father to turn around. Frightened on what he saw, he dropped the cotton candy he was holding and ran towards his kids. He held Jun in his arms, “What’s wrong Jun?!”

“Stomach… hurt…”, that was the only words that Jun can utter.

Sho and Masaki followed and saw how Jun’s trying endure the pain in his stomach.

Still in panic, Ohno asked Kazu, “What happened?”

Kazu’s frustrations has finally exceeded his limit. He pushed his father, strong enough that Ohno lose balance and fell off to the ground.

Ohno was confused. “Kazu?”

“It’s because you did not look and listen to us! All you did was Shochi this, Shochi that!”, he raised his voice as he talked to his father. “Jun was sick! If it was the old you, he would notice that easily!”

He threw away the dog earband to the ground. “Who cares about this! I hate this!” and he looked directly at his father’s eyes. “I hate you Papa!”

Upon hearing those words, Ohno’s heart almost shattered. He could take any criticism or slander from other people but it would ruin him if he heard it from his kids. He was stunned and frozen to the ground.

Seeing the flash of hurt in his father’s eyes, Kazu knew that he made an absolute mistake. It should be directed to Sho but due to all the events that had occurred, he too, was distracted.

He saw Masaki coming closer. When his brother was near, Masaki’s arms stretched out and he was slapped real hard on his cheeks. Tears started falling down, due to both the pain and the guilt.

Masaki said in a loud voice, “Take that back!”

That’s the first time that he saw he’s happy go-lucky brother be very serious. He was afraid of this Masaki, in front of him.

However, Kazu, despite of all that, retained his pride. He clenched his fist and shouted, “I hate you all!” and ran off, away from them.

Ohno seeing that his son went off to somewhere distant, stood up and called out to him, “Kazu!”

Before he could follow him, Sho touched his shoulder and said in a low voice, “I’ll follow him. You, take care of Jun.” and he departed off in the same direction as Kazu.

—————

After all the commotion that happened, Ohno accompanied his two remaining kids to a nearby bench. He instructed Masaki to care for Jun while he was off buying medicine to ease his child’s pain. When he came back, Jun was feeling much better compared before. Not wanting to be complacent, he, still, gave the medicine to Jun.

“I’m sorry… Jun… It’s because I’m not paying attention”, Ohno muttered in a low voice.

Jun shook his head and clasped his father’s hands. “It’s not Papa’s fault. I should have said I’m sick. I’m just afraid that we’ll go home early if I said it.”

It should been him who’s consoling his sons; not the other way around. He looked down on the ground and with his gaze down, he said, “But… still…”

Ohno admitted that he lost his focus. He’s already in his late 30’s but he still acted like a teenager. It was his first time since his wife’s death that someone showed a possible interest in him. He didn’t handle it well and it greatly affected his kids.

Seeing that his father was still affected, Masaki went close and said, “Kazu doesn’t mean it. I know him. Kazu likes you a lot, Papa! He would always brag to our classmates how you’re like superman.”

“And how your pancakes taste and look great!”, Jun, suddenly, added.

“And, with Shochi around, you become ten times more handsome! I love how Shochi makes you smile and laugh!”, Masaki continued.

If there came a time when Ohno would be able to choose who would his kids be, he’ll definitely choose his current triplets. He was contented knowing that his kids have been looking at him and supporting him.

By now, Ohno’s eyes were red all over and a tear was impending to fall down. Both kids saw that and teased their father, “Ah! Papa’s crying!”

Trying to hide it, Ohno wiped his reddening eyes and said, “No, I’m not!”

—————

Kazu was fast and Sho lost him, along the way. Currently, he was standing in the middle of the crowd, looking left and right, hoping that he could catch a glance of a little kid in a white Gundam shirt. Fortunately, his vision was at perfect 20/20 and was able to caught sight of Kazu, sitting alone on a small rock beside the cannon of the water rapid ride.

He, steadily, approached him, afraid that if he’s seen, the kid would run away. Quite near, Kazu suddenly glanced at him and he stopped, abruptly. To his surprise, Kazu remained unmoved in his position.

With confidence, he went near him and asked, “Can I sit beside you?”

Kazu just looked at him with empty eyes.

Aware that the kid would not give him response, he decided to sit on the ground next to Kazu. He drew his legs close to his chest and instead of initiating conversation, he remained silent and let the kid get used to his presence.

Kazu would glance to Sho, once in a while, maybe wondering why he hasn’t spoken yet. Annoyed, Kazu irritatingly asked, “What do you want?”

Sho smiled after knowing that he finally got Kazu’s attention. He looked at him with soft expression and started to narrate what happened when he invited Ohno to dinner, “…He could not stop looking at his phone. I needed to force him to not check up on you every minute and just loosen up for the night. Did he do what I asked of him? As expected, not. If you ask your Aunt Haruka, surely, she’ll say that she was too tired of your father’s endless text messages.”

Kazu shifted his eyes away from Sho’s stare. He contemplated for awhile before speaking once again, “I did not mean it…”

“What?”

“That I hate Papa”

“Of course, you don’t hate your Papa. He’s the best dad that I know!”

Kazu nodded. “He sings me lullaby whenever I go to sleep…”

“And?”

“He cooks me my favorite hamburger…”

Sho hummed in reply.

“He does not scold me when I play video games, all night long.”

“Well… that’s something that he should…”

Kazu continued, “He does not hate me when I tease him.” Then, Kazu stared straight at Sho’s eyes. “You wouldn’t understand that. You’re not part of our family.”

Sho, finally, realized the reason for the indifferent stares and nasty remarks given to him by the little kid. On why Kazu has grown resentment at him. Mouthing his words properly, he asked, “Do you hate me?”

Kazu sighed and finally, admitted the truth, “You’re taking Papa, away…”

“No…”, he replied. “He’s your father why would I take him away from you. I would never separate you from your father…”

He paused and looked straight at Kazu. “I promise I won’t take your father but…

…Can I have Satoshi?”

Despite him being a little kid, Kazu understood what Sho meant. It might be hard, but, he’ll learn to accept it eventually. After all, Shochi’s presence made a huge impact, positive impact to his father.

And in reply, Kazu said, “...Okay”

Sho chuckled. “Don’t tell him. It’s our little secret.”

—————

When they went back, Kazu, immediately, ran to his father and hugged him. Ohno was surprised and confused by the blatant show of affection of his middle child. He wrapped his arms around Kazu as a sign of apology and acceptance. No words were needed. Both of them understood what they did wrong.

Ohno gazed up and saw Sho standing beside them, smiling softly. He mouthed the words “Thank you”

If it wasn’t for Sho, he wouldn’t know what to do. This man has been a blessing to him ever since he met him.

Masaki apologized as well to Kazu. Guilty about what he did to his brother’s cheeks, he offered to give off his playtime and do Kazu’s homework, instead. After hearing that, Kazu laughed very loudly. That’s not a good bargain, knowing that Masaki’s usual grade in their homework is below average.

Jun, seeing that everything’s already been resolved, hugged his brothers tightly.

The two adults, who by now were staring at the triplets, can’t help but to grin from ear to ear. It was Sho, who, first, got his phone out and captured the moment.

Satisfied by what he got, he returned back his phone to his pants pocket. Then, he noticed that Ohno was silently staring at him. Tilting his head, he asked, “What’s up?”

“Nothing…” and Ohno moved his sight away with a faint blush covering his cheeks.

—————

Sho dropped them off at their apartment and before they parted, they made another plans to go out. This time, it was Ohno who suggested the place. He enthusiastically said, “Let’s go fishing!”

Surprisingly, Ohno was fond of fishing and already has license to drive a boat. It excites Sho knowing that he’d be able to see Ohno in action. He did not gave a definite date but it was promise that they would surely fulfill.

Once the family has arrived inside, Masaki and Jun ran to their rooms in a hurry because of the cartoon show they want to catch up. Kazu, remained and only stared at his father. Noticing that Kazu wanted to say something, he looked at him with questioning eyes.

“Papa, it’s okay if you stick with Shochi. Just like what Toma-sensei said, it’s important that you’re happy.”

“Eh… Toma?!”

Kazu nodded. “Yup, Toma-sensei!” and he went off to his room to join his brothers.

Maybe it’s pure coincidence or the universe was playing with him but once Kazu left, his phone rang. He saw Toma calling. Picking it up, Toma, suddenly, said, “Hey! Let’s go out! I’m sure you have something to tell me!”

 

 

Chapter Text

“I like you”

“I like you”

“I like you”

Three times. Ohno told that phrase to Satomi three times. Contrary to what he told his kids, it was him who chased after their mother. The very first time he confessed, little Satomi thought it’s a prank and decided to ignore it. For Ohno, it wasn’t.

Second time: he had a bad timing. Satomi’s already dating this popular senior. She only considered Ohno as her childhood friend and nothing more. It’s not helping that he was one of those silent kids and unlike, Mr. Popular, he was part of an unknown tiny club that focused on arts and manga.

Third time’s a charm. College. They went to the same university and by chance, attended the same class, Classical Art. Because of their familiarity with each other, they decided to sit side-by-side. Unlike the other subjects he attended, Ohno never got bored in that class. Lucky for him, Classical Art was scheduled right before lunch time and so, he got the excuse to invite her to eat with him.

By the last day of the semester, they were sitting beside each other, as usual, and the teacher was explaining the last requirements for the course. Ohno, in his true fashion, whispered those three words, “I like you”, out of nowhere. To his surprise, Satomi, finally, accepted. Needless to say, when Ohno heard that, he stood up and shouted with all his might, not considering that he was still in class. He was successful in getting his long-time crush; but at the same time, he got an earful from his professor.

A fond memory that Ohno has treasured all his life, that feeling of anticipation and the excitement over the very simplest interactions. When his wife left him, he has never experienced that kind of things again.

Until, recently…

“Oh-chan!”, Toma exclaimed after noticing Ohno’s arrival. When he called last night, Ohno was already exhausted. So instead, he rescheduled it the next day. And there they are, hanging out on a Sunday night in one of their favorite places.

Ohno sat across Toma and ordered his usual. He was not yet in the mood to question his friend on why he was forced out of his house; when he should be lying down on his couch and checking some fishing videos on the internet.

Without prompting any conversation, he started to dig in on the side dishes in front of him.

All of a sudden, Toma asked, “Where were you yesterday?”

Ohno pondered, wondering whether to answer it truthfully. He was aware about how Toma perceived his relationship with Sho and stating the fact could ignite it further. So, vaguely he replied, “Somewhere… with the kids.”

Toma raised a brow, quite sure that his friend was not telling the whole story. He had seen the man react excitedly whenever he talk about his kids; stories about how they went fishing, as a family, but ended up coming back early due to Kazu’s sea sickness. By now, he should see the guy’s eyes glimmer and his mouth in a toothed grin. But, it wasn’t. And he has a clue, why.

Instead of digging deeper into it, he planned to dance around the topic. In that way, he would elicit a favorable response from the uncooperative Ohno.

“Don’t forget that you owe me one for buying food for your kids. What are you thinking?! Packing only rice in their bento?”

It prompted Ohno to remember the mistake he made. He was too enthusiastic over Sho’s invitation that his mind was clouded with thoughts on what he should wear during their ‘dinner date’. Fashion was not his forte and he did not want to embarrass himself in front of Sho. This led to a series of events that he’s not quite proud of.

Trying to hide the truth, he gave another unclear response, “I’m just busy... with work.”

For the most part, Toma knew that it was not due to work. Kazu already gave him the details last time and it’s fun to hear, personally, Ohno’s weak attempt to cover up the fact about his date night with Sho.

He smiled knowingly. There was still something up on his sleeves. As a kindergarten teacher, he was aware that kids spout nonsense every now and then but behind those nonsense is the truth. Masaki was a nice kid but he can be too talkative, sometimes.

“By the way, Masaki started talking about this dog named Haru. Did you adopt one, recently?”

Maybe Ohno should start reminding his triplets not to talk too much about their life inside the classroom. Toma can be a gossiper and Ohno is the type of person who does not want people to intrude in his private life — Well, a certain person is an exception.

“My friend has one and we visited it last time.”, Ohno responded, still being secretive.

Toma’s hunch was right. Ohno would surely not name this friend of his; lucky for him, Masaki already did.

Before Toma could ask another curious thought of his, the waiter cut him short, telling them that their meal was now ready to be served. With the scrumptious food in front of him, he decided to leave the questioning at the later part of the night.

In the midst of their dinner, Ohno’s mind remained on Toma’s last statement. Truly, it was a surprise to him. When he went back to retrieve his hat, he saw Sho holding Haru while talking to some guy. As he took another step, he unintentionally heard what they were talking about. By reflex, he hid. That clearly explains Sho’s reaction over Haru’s vomiting. But, for what reason did he lie to them? If he’s just practicing how to be a dog owner, he should have told him.

This reminds him of the time when he blurted out to Satomi that he owned a cat after hearing and seeing for himself how Satomi adored those feline creatures. He borrowed one from the lovely old couple next door and when Satomi visited him, they played together with the cat. And, every time Satomi comes over, the cat would always be there to greet her. She found out later on; but, that’s when they were adults and already dating. For what reason did he lie in the first place? Ohno knew and it was due to love.

Was Sho similar? Ohno turned red upon that thought. Of course not, he repeatedly told himself. Why would Sho do those things to an extent just for a simple widower? Why would Sho try to associate himself with him when he has the option to date any successful and beautiful girl out there? He tried many times to convince himself that; but his mind kept on telling him to settle on the first reason he thought of. It was nice, sweet and somehow, made him happy. He was aware of his growing interest towards him and he wants to hold on to that possible mutual attraction, even just a little.

He wanted confirmation but he was afraid to hear it from the person himself. So, who can he turn to?

Ohno has an inkling on what Toma’s objective was. For sure, his kids have already said half of it but the guy still wants to hear it from him. He has no intention of giving more information; but for some reason, maybe Toma could give a good advice to him.

Before taking a spoonful of rice, he sighed and stared at the person across him. Noticing it, Toma tilted his head with a questioning look.

“Have you…”, Ohno formed his words carefully, quite embarrassed on what he would say next, “Have you ever lied about having a dog just to invite someone over, like a date thing?”

Toma blinked fast not expecting that kind of question.

“Who does that?! That’s like a tenth grader move.”

Ohno made a small smile. “You’re right…”

“Unless…” Toma continued. “I’m very shy to come up to this girl that I like so much directly. Then, I would definitely do that.”

Ohno hummed in reply with a faint blush forming on his cheeks. Yes, that, indeed, was the natural way of perceiving it.

Meanwhile, Toma almost let go of that piece of information Ohno has given him when he paused and connected it to all the things Masaki said. He bit his lips trying to prevent himself from reacting in joy. Finally, Ohno has opened up to him. It’s a delicate situation and if he said a wrong thing, Ohno might remain quiet all through the night and he might lose this one and only chance.

“You see…”, he started talking once again. “If I knew that someone did that to me, I would be very happy.”

Ohno looked at him, curious.

“I would not deny myself with that simple pleasure and just embrace the fact that someone made an effort. It would be a waste to overthink why that person did that. If you keep on questioning things, you’re gonna miss out on something great.”

Looking back, he felt extra special after knowing that Sho pretended to own a dog for his sake — if that was the true reason.

He was used to pursue the one he loves that’s why he was fine without having someone to show affection for him. If ever someone did it, he starts to question things and overthink it. In work, in his life choices, he has the tendency to go with the flow. So, maybe... he could let it happen and await for beautiful things to come his way.

“You’re right!”, unlike his responses earlier, this one was with determination and eagerness. Toma smiled knowing that he did a right thing for his friend.

Toma took another bite from his food before blurting out, “So… this guy that lied about the dog… It’s Shochi, right?”

Ohno almost spat out his drink. He braced himself for a very very long night full of prying and snooping around from his friend.

——————

They, finally, parted ways after that long conversation he had with his friend. Ohno had a hard time leaving because Toma kept on insisting for him to tell more. He only gave bits of information, still hiding the fact that he already saw Sho in his casual wear and not in casual wear, literally.

On his way back, he decided to stop by at the convenience store to buy something for his kids. After purchasing some chocolates and candy bars, he stepped outside of the main door.

He was about to turn to his left and go on his way when he noticed a back figure, standing not far from him, that looks familiar. Narrowing his eyes, he recognized that it was Sho.

He blushed, still fresh from his memory the things he and Toma had talked about earlier. It did excite him that he got to see Sho tonight. Quite funny because it was just yesterday that he and Sho had a long day together and to think, it was not enough. As the cold night breeze swept through him, he tightened his jacket and happily went close to Sho.

When he was almost near, he stopped for a moment. A tall, long haired, pretty girl came into sight. He watched as the girl suddenly held Sho’s hands and tiptoed to whisper something. His merry feelings went into a drain as she kissed Sho on his cheek. The built-up confidence from earlier faltered when Sho gave her a soft look, in return. It took all his willpower not to drop the plastic bag he’s carrying. Quickly, he turned around and went off on his way.

Ohno made a melancholic laugh.

Was that the “something great” Toma was saying earlier?

For him, it wasn’t.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Can I have Satoshi?”

That’s what Sho told Kazu.

When did he form that conclusion? He himself doesn’t know. One day, he just woke up and it hit him that indeed, he’s in love. It’s a mixture of disbelief and excitement. To think that he has a girlfriend and not to mention, the other party’s a guy. Sho was aware that he’s not attracted based on gender but rather through personality. However, in Ohno’s case, he was very different from the persons he have dated before. He’s reserved, spontaneous, and peculiar. A man of curiosities. Nevertheless, the things he doesn’t understand made him fond of Ohno more.

With that in mind, he worked up his courage to invite Ohno to another dinner date. It was a cowardly move of him, last time, when he borrowed Okada’s dog and for his pride’s— actually money’s sake— he decided to finally make a sincere action.

“Are you free tomorrow night? Let’s go eat at this Italian restaurant.”, he typed on his phone.

Waiting for Ohno’s reply, he lie down on his sofa trying to imagine scenarios on how he would confess. Aoi was his first girlfriend and it was very natural how they got together. They’re reviewing for their finals when he suggested, out of nowhere, if she wanted to have a relationship with him. Turns out, Aoi, too, was considering that. There’s no drama or whatsoever. Sho guessed that they went into relationship smoothly due to their long term association with each other.

But, what about for Ohno? A dinner cruise? A firework show? He’s already an adult capable of doing such things and he felt like Ohno deserved that kind of public display of affection.

Pondering on such things, the doorbell of his apartment buzzed. Looking at the time, it was already quite late. He wondered who would visit him at nine in the evening. Raising up from the sofa, he went and checked the door monitor. To his surprise, it was his brother, Shu.

“Hey!”, his little brother exclaimed while waving his hands.

As he let his brother in, he quickly asked him the reason on his sudden visit. Shu ignored Sho’s questions and quickly jumped into the sofa and snuggled through the bulk of soft cushions.

Sho shook his head in annoyance. His brother was always like that. Whenever trouble ensued inside their main house, Shu would no doubt take shelter into his apartment. Every single time, he reminded him not to run from his problems and to face it properly.

Since Shu took up a lot of space in his coach, he had no choice but to sit on a small spot, just by the edge of the sofa. Calmly, he asked his brother once again, “What are you doing here? Did something happen again?”

Shu chuckled and then, sat up. He smiled knowingly to his brother, “I heard something… it seems my older brother is being rebellious.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t pretend you don’t know. Dad was furious.”

“Dad??

Oh…”, Sho finally understood what Shu was trying to tell him. It was last week, Sunday night, when he met up with Aoi.

When Aoi arrived, she had a melancholic expression. She was greatly aware why Sho called her. It was no surprise that they would end up like that after all the series of failed meet-ups, angry phonecalls, and boring videochats.

“I was being unfair to you…”, Sho mustered his courage to blame himself for this apparent broken relationship.

Aoi made a sad laugh. “We’re both at fault here. I’m keeping you tied, after all.” She was aware that what kept them from breaking up entirely was the friendship between her parents and Sho’s. She had seen the change in how they interacted with each other. The excitement that they had when they were young seemed to have burned out; the vigor to explore was quite strong during the beginning, considering that they were both firsts of each other, but weakened as they got older.

She looked straight at Sho and asked, “Hey… have you ever felt something for me?”

Sho bit his lips and averted his eyes away from Aoi’s gaze. He cannot answer that, for he himself doesn’t know; but surely, at some point in their relationship, he might had felt something special for his girlfriend.

It’s saddening to see Sho’s troubled expression but what hurts more was to finally admit that they’re together mostly because of obligation, business and long-term knowledge of each other. They would be better off as friends rather than as lovers. She forced herself to smile and told him, “I understand…”

Aoi, then, recalled the times when Sho received sudden text messages and he would smile as if he had been given something precious.

“You found someone, right?”

Surprise by the sudden question, Sho coughed lightly accompanied by a slight hint of blush forming on his cheeks. She chuckled how easy to read, Sho was. Aoi stretched her arms out and uttered loudly, “Ahh… I would like to meet that person.”

Sho almost laughed how lightly Aoi is taking it in. His eyes softened and he offered a slight smile. “He’s a nice person…”

“He?”, she almost blurted out. She wanted to know more; however, witnessing Sho’s softened expression, she decided that it would be better to learn about this “he” next time.

It was now getting late and the time to say goodbye to each other was drawing near. They were together for long years and it just ended abruptly. At least, they’re in good terms with each other. She tiptoed and whispered, “I’ll miss you.”, and kissed Sho on his cheeks as a way of saying that this will be the last time.

Sho held her hands tightly and replied, “Me too…”

—————

It seems the break up reached his father’s ears and was now angry over his decision. But, what was his father’s say about his life? He’s now a self-sustaining adult and has power over his choices.

Answering Shu’s question about his rebellious deed, he corrected Shu, “It’s not being rebellious. It’s choosing what is important to you.”

Shu felt defeated by Sho’s answer. He, too, wanted to be as fierce as his brother, as tough as his brother. “I wish I could be like that, as well.”, his little brother muttered in a low voice.

“The way you joined a band is a big step. You’ll be big, someday. I know that.”, Sho proudly.

Right after that, Sho and Shu had a long talk. By the end of the night, he almost forgot that he had sent an invitation to Ohno. He hurriedly stood up and checked his phone for reply. To his surprise, there was none.

“Weird… He must be busy…”

—————

Weird, indeed. When he woke up, he checked his phone, again, and saw no reply from the man in question. He sent another text with a similar message, “Good morning! Are you free tonight?”

An hour has passed and still no response. This was unusual. He feared that something must have happened. He thought of the worst: Accident? Fever? Of course not. If so, Matsuoka would have already told him.

Yes, Matsuoka!

He quickly messaged this good friend of Ohno’s, hoping to get information. Fortunately, Matsuoka replied fast with an accompanying picture of Ohno working on his desk, “He’s fine. Why?”

He typed, “Is his phone not working or he changed his number?”

“No. Still the same. I hope he stops sending me fishing videos every morning.”

Sho paused. Was he being singled out? Was he being avoided?

“No… of course not.”, he pushed that thoughts away.

As days passed, his doubts grew. Sho continued to message Ohno but still, he won’t respond.

There was only one way to confirm and that was to visit him in his office. Fortunately, Sho needs to submit an important document to the head of the architectural company. He could use this opportunity to make a detour and check up on Ohno.

The problem, however, was that when he was near Ohno’s office, a guy with a small stature prevented him from entering. He looked over his ID and written was ‘Chinen’. Sho have gone multiple times in the company and it was his first time that he had seen Chinen.

He examined around inspecting whether he can walk in on Ohno’s office without going through this somewhat secretary of his. Unfortunately, there was none. With no other choice, he opted to ask, “Can’t I talk to Ohno?”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Umm… None.”

“He clearly said to me, only those with appointment can enter his office.”, the guy said with condescending tone.

Quite irritated by the way Chinen replied, he almost lashed out to the little guy. He breathe deeply, calming himself down, before proceeding for his second attempt, “I’m sure if you told him who I am then he’ll let me in.”

It was clear on Chinen’s face that he was annoyed over Sho’s demands. Despite that, he followed what he said and entered inside Ohno’s room to ask permission from his boss. Sho waited outside hoping for a good response but to his surprise, he was still not allowed to go inside.

Now, he knows that he’s clearly being avoided. It’s not helping that this intern is giving him a triumphant smile over his failed attempt to talk to Ohno. He rolled his eyes promising to get back to Chinen in due time.

Dejected over the rejection he received, he decided to just go back to his own office. But before he could walk off the building, he spotted Matsuoka standing by the elevator. For the first time ever, he thanked the heavens that he knew this guy. Hurriedly, he approached Matsuoka and pulled him before he stepped inside the elevator.

Matsuoka’s eyes shone in delight after noticing Sho, “Shochi! Why’re you here? Visiting Ohno?”

One thing’s for sure. Matsuoka was unaware that he’s being avoided. With that in mind, he planned out to make use of his association with Matsuoka to get close to Ohno.

Sho told him about the recent events that have occurred and Matsuoka, in reply said, “You surely have done something bad to him.” And he laughed out loud.

Sho can’t recall anything. The last time they met was during the amusement park; but, he knows that he had already cleared up the situation. Was Ohno still mad about how he almost broke up his family? Aren’t they all good about it?

Matsuoka continued, “Ohno’s nice but if you angered him, he’ll be cold to you and would not talk to you for days or even year, depends on what you have done.”

Year?! Sho would not survive a year of not meeting or talking to Ohno.

Deep in thought, Sho was startled by the sudden arms around his shoulder. Matsuoka went close and whispered, “I can help you. Do you want?”

If Sho let this opportunity pass then surely their would be no other time for him to get Ohno’s attention. It’s better to resolve this issue as early as now.

With a low voice as if they’re scheming something bad, he replied, “How? There’s that intern guarding him.”

“Chinen? He’s easy. Don’t worry I’ll take care of him. Once his gone, you can enter Ohno’s office.”

Matsuoka removed his arms around Sho and stood up. He, then, pointed at Sho, “Don’t tell him I’m on this. I’m still getting my Mao to marry Jun. If he knows I’m involved then the possibility of that happening would go down.”

Sho rolled his eyes. He has no choice but to get Matsuoka’s cooperation; even though, the intention of the other guy was not sincere at all. Sighing in exasperation, he agreed to his condition.

“Fine… Just do a signal if it’s okay to enter Ohno’s office.”

Matsuoka made an okay sign as he muttered under his breath, “I’m glad I have a rare picture collection of Ohno.”

—————

Before proceeding with their plan, they peered over Ohno’s office to check whether Chinen was present. As expected, Chinen was there acting as both a secretary and intern. All Matsuoka needed to do was to lure Chinen out and Sho’s safe to go in.

“You sure you don’t have any work to do?”, Sho, suddenly, doubted Matsuoka’s large free time.

Matsuoka sighed. “Do you want me to help you or not?”

“Fine… just go!”

Matsuoka was the first to move. As he went out of their hiding, he turned around and said, “Watch and learn, Sakurai Sho.”

At this point, Sho’s too tired to go along with Matsuoka’s antics. He’ll just let the man be since he’s the only one who could help him right now.

He watched as Matsuoka approached Chinen and told him something that cause the intern to perk up in excitement. He saw how Chinen nodded eagerly and followed him out. On the way, Matsuoka shifted his eyes to Sho telling him that he’s now free to go inside and talk to Ohno.

Trudging along the corridors of the office hallway, his thoughts were a total blur and he was terribly nervous. By the time he reached Ohno’s office door, he slowly turned the knob. In that small room, he saw Ohno at the far corner typing on his laptop. He was so focused on his work that he did not notice that someone entered his room. Sho quietly approached him.

Ohno, mistaking the new presence in the room to be the intern, stretched out his hands containing an envelope and said, “Chinen, can you hand over this document to Tac—“ and when he turned around that was when he realized that the one who grabbed the document was not Chinen, but rather, Sakurai Sho.

“Hi…”, Sho greeted with a wary smile.

Ohno stared at him wide-eyed before questioning him, “Who let you in?” He tried to pull back the documents but Sho’s grip on the envelope tightened.

“No one and I wanted to know why you’re avoiding me.”, Sho, immediately, went straight to the point.

Ohno glanced over the two way mirror and saw that Chinen was no longer there. His eyes went back to Sho and replied, “I’m not avoiding you.”, accompanied by another pull to get back his documents.

Sho fought back and his grip remained on it. “You’re lying. You’re clearly avoiding me.”

“Are you not listening to me? I’m not avoiding you!”, Ohno almost shouted, clearly irritated by Sho’s insistence. He gave another hard pull on the envelope.

“Then, why won’t you answer my messages or phone calls?”

Ohno was about to burst out in anger when the door of his room opened and a voice was heard, “Ohn— Sakurai, What are you doing here?”

It was Tackey and he was there to get the documents, personally. Sho was surprised by Tackey’s entrance that his hold on the envelope loosened allowing for Ohno to get it back.

Witnessing that something was off, Tackey, then, suggested, “You must be discussing something. Should I go back?”

“No, we’re done!”, Ohno quickly said and he looked at Sho as if he’s saying that he should go now.

Sho stepped back and realized that this was far deeper than he thought. He bid his goodbyes to the both of them; but before he fully stepped outside, he glanced back and looked directly at Ohno, “I’ll be back.”

Outside, he saw Matsuoka looking over at him from a distance. He shook his head implying that it was a failed attempt. Matsuoka shrugged his shoulders. That’s the best the they could do for now. At least, he already laid the groundwork and found out that he’s being avoided. To think, Ohno’s quite angry than he had previously thought.

——————

He said he’ll not give up but he hasn’t thought of an appropriate plan since that banter that happened between him and Ohno. A week has passed and any attempt to communicate with Ohno has failed. By now, Sho has lost his eagerness. Instead of working, Sho was just lazing around the park and sipping a juice box that seemed to have lost its flavor.

He was trying to recall what he did wrong but his mind can’t come up with anything. It was frustrating that when he finally decided to seriously pursue Ohno, this occurred. Maybe, he’s just hated as a whole. With his tired mind, he’s now thinking of ways to change himself, the face, lips, eyes or nose?

Not far from him, he heard children laughing. One was singing loudly and for some reason, the voice was familiar. “Sounds like Masaki…”, he whispered to himself.

The singing got louder as those children got nearer. He, then, heard something, “Masaki! You sang the wrong lyrics!”

Masaki?

“We should have waited for Papa.”

No doubt. That voice was clearly Jun’s. He looked around trying to find the kids and spotted them walking down by the distance. The sun was still high up and based on Sho’s watch, it’s clearly noon time. The triplets were in their school uniform and by the looks of it, the kindergarten seemed to have an early out. He noticed that the three were all alone with no adults accompanying them.

Curious on what the three’s up to, Sho went close but not that near for the kids to notice. He hid behind a lamppost and tried to eavesdrop in their conversation.

“We’ll surprise him that we’re now big and can go home alone.”, Kazu beamed.

Sho was clearly worried about the safety of the triplets. He was glad that he found them and decided to watch them from afar as to ensure that they got home safely.

“If you’re scared, then, you should just sing with me.”, Masaki gladly said.

Masaki’s simplemindedness caused Sho to chuckle out loud. He hurriedly covered his mouth, afraid that he will be heard. Too late, though, as Kazu glanced over his back to find out the source of the sound.

“Did you hear that?”, Kazu asked.

Lucky for Sho, it was Masaki who saved him.

“I didn’t hear anything.”, Masaki replied.

Kazu maintained his gaze for a minute before turning around and proceeding back on their way home.

Sho sighed in relief, good thing Masaki was there.

As he went along with them, it amused him how their conversations went from mudballs, animals and to the girls of their class.

“Mao’s pretty.”, Jun admitted.

Hearing that, Sho smiled, knowing that Matsuoka would have a chance in his daughter’s dream wedding.

—————

Finally, after long minutes of trying to seal his presence, he caught sight of Ohno’s apartment. If only he could tell this moment proudly to Ohno, without any avoidance or look of irritation from the guy.

They were near when the kids, suddenly, stopped, looked at each other and turned right instead of walking straight. Sho panicked seeing that the kids have gone off away from the proper direction. He went out of his hiding and quickly ran towards the pavement. But, what he did not expect was a barrage of schoolbags being thrown at him. A book that fell out during the process hit his head causing him to fall down to the ground. In the midst of all that, he heard them shouting, “Go away, stalker!”

Thankfully, it stopped when the kids have noticed who they’re attacking with their rulers, pencils and bags. “Wait! Stop! Isn’t that Shochi!”, Sho could barely register who’s the one who halted the commotion.

“Why’s Shochi there?”, another one asked.

Could be due to fatigue of overthinking, heat, plus the things the kids have thrown to him that Sho ultimately succumbed to his exhaustion and closed his eyes. It was faint but he could tell that the triplets were panicking and shouting his name. If only he could muster up his energy to tell them that he just needs rest. But, he was too tired already and once his eyes have fully closed, he drifted off.

——————

“Let’s put this one here.”

“No! I think it’s better here.”

“Masaki! It does not look good in the forehead.”

There were noises around as Sho’s senses were coming back. The first thing that crossed his mind was he was following the triplets, knocked out by their attacks and fainted into the streets. It took him a moment to realize that he was lying down on a soft surface instead of the hard ground. Someone must have carried him inside a room, somewhere, unless the trio have superhuman strength.

Then, another voice was heard.

“What did you do to him?”

“We made him prettier.”

He heard the familiar voice sigh and telling off the children to go back to their rooms.

The room fell into silence. Sho hasn’t fully recovered yet from his exhaustion and is pleased to remain lying in his position for a bit longer. As moments passed by, a humming came. The gentle tone soothed his ears. He thought that all along he was alone. It surprised him that there was someone beside him, accompanying him while he was recovering. His eyes remained closed savouring each note, hoping that he would not disturb his companion.

Sho slowly opened his eyes, blinking as he focused on the figure beside him. Everything was hazy, then, the light from the window illuminated the owner of that beautiful voice.

“Angel…”, he spoke out of nowhere.

Behold, the man that he has been thinking about for several weeks was sitting on the table looking at him. Ohno stopped humming when he took notice of Sho’s awakened state.

“Hi…”, Sho said, still not getting up from his position.

Ohno furrowed his eyebrows and raised a hand up to Sho’s forehead, trying to feel Sho’s temperature. But he pulled back, immediately, after realizing that he was being too close.

Sho wanted to reach out and touch Ohno’s hands. It has been weeks since he had last saw him and that meeting was not so good. Who would have thought that he would miss him so much? But, he was afraid that he would be rejected and so, he just smiled at him.

Ohno’s gaze shifted away as he tried to explain what has transcribed during the time Sho was unconscious. “Why are you outside when you’re not feeling well?”, he asked worriedly.

“I was thinking about certain things… and I thought doing it outside would be best.”

He returned his stare back at Sho and questioned him, “And, you followed my kids?”

“I thought it’s weird that they’re all alone. I’m worried they might be picked up by some strangers out there then I heard Kazu saying that he wants to prove themselves so I just watched them from afar.”

Ohno hummed in reply, he must have already heard that proving part from them. For sure, the three of them were scolded greatly by their father, after all, the kids made that decision on their won.

Sho, then, further asked, “Who carried me here? You?”

Ohno shook his head. “No, It’s Haruka. She might look like that but she’s really strong. Lucky for you, she was passing by and saw the kids panicking.”

“Ah… I see… I should thank her later, huh?”

The conversation between the two of them flowed naturally that Sho almost forgot what troubled him the past few days. He hoped that it would always like this but he was afraid that once he left the apartment, he would never be able to talk to Ohno, again.

Mustering up his courage, once again, Sho approached the topic that was the least likeable for the both of them, “May I know why you’re avoiding me recently?”

Ohno made a troubled expression before responding, “I’m not avoiding you.”

Unlike Ohno’s response before, it was calmer and there was no hint of irritation or anger. The pent up emotion that Ohno had showed back in the office had probably died down. Still, Sho would push through, wanting to know if he’s truly in the wrong and what should be changed.

“How would you explain you not responding to my messages, not talking to me, the way you behaved back in the office and right now, you’re clearly avoiding my gaze.”

Despite his outburst, Ohno remain tight-lipped. Sho was aware of Ohno’s personality and probably, he wouldn’t get the exact answer that he wanted at this moment.

Instead of letting it be, he decided to continue this one-sided conversation with Ohno, “I was born in a family that decides everything based on logic and outcome. Feelings were never used as a reason for our choices. That has been my motto since I was a kid and have carried it as I grew older…”

It seems that he has caught Ohno’s attention as he was now staring at him with a brooding expression.

He, then, continued, “Who would have thought that by this age my mindset would change? Would you believe me that I did so many dumb things just to get your attention? I learned how to cook, which is not successful. I borrowed a dog just to invite you to my house. I rode the roller coaster just to sit beside you. I broke up with my long time girlfriend in order to finally be serious in pursuing you.”

He rose up from his position and sat on the sofa. Staring at Ohno directly, he said, “Ohno— No… Satoshi, is it okay for me to fall in love with you?”

Funny how when he decided to confess to Ohno he had all fancy things planned out. He should be taking him out in a 5-star restaurant and out of nowhere, a fireworks would be displayed bearing his name. He would be giving him a dozen of roses and there, he would confess his feelings for him. However, it was just mere fantasies. To think, that he would be confessing on a very normal setting and right after, he fainted. What a lame confession.

It was like fuel adding to the fire when Ohno, instead of answering properly, laughed loudly. He laughed with all his might as if Sho just told the funniest joke. Annoyed by the insensitive response of Ohno, he scolded him, “Hey! I poured my heart into that confession.”

Ohno was trying to suppress his laughter and tried to talk in between his laugh, “I can’t look at you seriously with all the stickers on your face.”

“Sticker?”

Sho immediately pulled out his phone and using the front camera, double-checked what Ohno told him. And, he was right. His face was tattered with different colored stickers. It was naïve of him not to notice the foreign feel on his face.

“Seriously… they hit me several times and now, they put stickers all over me. Your kids are really... Ah! I don’t know”, he complained while taking out the stickers placed over his face.

Ohno was still giggling when he closed his gap between him and Sho. He sat beside him and offered assistance, “I’ll help you.” and he reached out and removed the stickers on Sho’s forehead.

Ohno’s triplets did not show any mercy on Sho. Not only his face but also his neck was filled with stickers. Sho continued to grumble his complaints as he tried to remove the unwanted things that were stuck unwillingly on his face. Half-way done in removing the mess, when Ohno, stopped and suddenly muttered, “Me too…”

Sho stopped for a brief moment and looked at Ohno in the eye, blinking. He pulled up short at Ohno’s expression; it was flushed, soft and vulnerable. “What did you say?”, he said in a soft whisper

Ohno almost stuttered, “M—Me too…”

Sho shuffled a little closer with their breath almost felt by the other. “What do you mean?”

He knew what he meant but he wanted to hear it directly from Ohno.

Hyperaware of the space between them, Ohno made a shaky inhale before he continued what he ought to say, “Me too… I like you…”

Sho can’t help but to smile. He placed his head over Ohno’s shoulder and laughed lightly. “You sure? You’re not pitying me.”

Ohno was stunned by Sho’s sudden gesture; but in the end, he wrapped his arms around him and hugged him back. Chuckling, he said, “Yes and I’m not pitying you.”

Nuzzling his hair on Ohno’s neck, Sho muttered lowly, “Ah… I want to kiss you, right now.”

Sho, then, raised his head up and looked suggestively at Ohno, “May I?”

Ohno did not expect that Sho would ask. He felt at ease and gave a breathless nod. Sho brushed his fingers on Ohno’s cheeks and slowly leaned in. Ohno was about to do the same when his gaze went over Sho’s shoulder and saw his kids peering out of the divider. Shocked, he pushed Sho away causing the guy to fall back. Sho, confused over Ohno’s reaction, turned around and noticed the triplets.

Kazu stood there as he witnessed Sho hurriedly furthering his distance from his father and when he peeked over, he saw how his father was all red and teary-eyed. A wrinkle appeared in between Kazu’s eyebrows and crossing his arms over his chest, he began accusing Sho, “Shochi! Are you bullying Papa?”

“What?!”, Sho blurted out clearly dumbfounded over such allegations.

Masaki and Jun also saw the situation and agreed to Kazu’s accusations. They ran towards them and hit Sho on his lower leg.

“Wait! Stop!”, instead of pain, he felt tickled by the little hands bumping over his legs.

Ohno was dazed out over what happened earlier that he was late in reacting over the actions of his kids. He quickly stopped them and clearly told them, “He’s not bullying me.”

Due to the request of their father, they stopped and instead gave Sho wary looks. They felt that there was something that happened between their father and Sho.

Ohno, meanwhile, advised them to help him get the stickers out of Sho’s face since they’re the ones responsible for that. His kids reluctantly followed. Jun and Masaki went up over the sofa and started to remove the stickers they have placed.

They were almost done when suddenly, Masaki suggested something, “Shochi might look prettier if he have clips on his hair.”

Kazu mischievously looked at Sho and back at Masaki. He nodded eagerly. It was Jun who picked up the basket of clips from the table and placed it near them.

Sho turned to Ohno asking for help; however, Ohno’s already picking up some red colored clips out of the basket. He warily asked, “What are you doing?”

Ohno just smiled and proceeded in tying up the clip over his hair. He noticed the triplets doing the same thing. He heard Masaki laughing and the other two joining him. Glancing back at Ohno, he saw how he’s clearly enjoying his time in messing up his hair.

This was all new to Sho. He never had an experience like this in his entire life. Was he annoyed? Irritated? No, he too was enjoying it. He closed his eyes and smiled as he let them do what they want.

 

Chapter Text

While waiting for a reply for his recently sent email, Okada heard a giggling on his right side. The source of that ‘annoying sound’ (as he often calls it) was his best friend and colleague Sakurai Sho. It was last week when he heard from Aoi that Sho and her had already separated ways. Okada had already thought of the perfect reason for the break up. His hunch was proven right when Sho reiterated to him the confession he did for the architect and that his feelings was reciprocated. It was no surprise to Okada that Sho would take action sooner or later. Even before the break up, he have seen the man glow whenever he received messages from Ohno. Furthermore, Sho had always kept this photo of Ohno sleeping and would sometimes glance over it whenever he’s bored.

And thus, Sho’s been in cloud nine, recently. He’s happy for his friend but when it gets this excessive, just like today, he’ll always be ready to reprimand him.

“And, what are you smiling about?”, he opened the Pandora box.

Yes, Sho admitted to himself that he has been overly elated with the development of his relationship with Ohno. It was exciting because it’s new and they have tons of things to find out about each other. What makes Ohno special was how he can’t predict what he would send to him. Just now, he did not expect a selfie of Ohno with an inverted sunglasses. This random and weird pictures of him were one of the reasons of Sho’s daily happiness. He would reply each and every time, “Go back to work!”

Unfortunately, the lovey-dovey moments he have been hoping for was harder to achieve than he had initially thought. Sho has been frequenting Ohno’s apartment. He imagined that they would have a cuddle session while watching a movie of their choice. The presence of Ohno’s kids prove to be a huge disadvantage. For instance, while the two of them were sitting on the sofa, Nino would squeeze himself right in between. And when they’re comfortable with what’s on the television, Aiba would come in and change the channel to his favorite hero show. Jun was not even an exception. That kid would disturb Sho and Ohno’s private time by asking or ordering his father very random stuff. Ohno was not helping at all and would just let his kids be. Sho wishes for just an extra little time, just for the two of them.

Going back to the present, Sho looked at Okada and seeing his curious eyes, he answered, “Nothing…” with a mischievous smile painted on his face.

Just a little more and Okada would probably order Sho to go away. Nevertheless, he’s a good friend and he knows not to spoil Sho’s fun. He simply replied, “Next time, I want to meet this Ohno.”

Sho had only shown pictures of Ohno and in the near future, he’s planning on letting the two meet. But before that, he would make sure to seal Okada’s lips regarding his rebellious teenage years and dozen bar hopping he did when he was in college.

Whilst they’re talking, an IP message suddenly appeared on his laptop. When Sho checked, it was from his father telling him to meet him ASAP.

He was still not on good terms with his dad. Every time he comes home, there would be a total silence between them. His mother would try to initiate conversation but both guys would speak a few words and went on in their own silent fight. It was surprising that up until now he hasn’t been fired from his work.

Okada noticed the deep sigh followed by a long pause from Sho. For sure, it had something to do with his father.

Sho unwillingly stood up and bid a short goodbye to his friend, “Someone needs me.”

Okada laughed lightly over how Sho referred to his father as ‘Someone’. Before Sho left, he made a joke pointing out that he should clean out his desk starting today. In all seriousness, it was a surprise to Okada, as well, that Sho’s father hasn’t done anything yet. Okada was worried that it might be just a calm before the storm.

Sho proceeded to the next floor where his father’s office was situated in. As he opened the door, he was greeted by his dad’s secretary. Sho was told to wait for a moment as his father was currently meeting up with someone.

“What’s up with the ASAP”, Sho complained under his breath. He decided to idly sat on the sofa while waiting for his dad to finish his earlier appointment.

It was minutes after, when he noticed a strange man leaving the room. That man was clothed in a very informal fashion with a bucket hat and glasses on his face. What was more striking was the bag that might particularly hold a professional camera. He became familiar with that because Ohno often uses that. It’s the first time he had seen that guy. That’s rare considering that his father is wary of people he doesn’t know.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw his dad’s secretary gesturing him to come inside. He took another second to look back at the suspicious person before entering inside the main office. As he went near his father, he asked him, “Who was that man just now?”

Without looking back at his son’s eyes, his father replied with indifference, “None of your concern.” Sho, then, noticed his father tucking in some suspiciously-looking papers inside one of the drawers of his desk.

He eyed his father, skeptical over what he might be doing. If he considered the earlier man that went in here before him and the apparent hiding of documents by his father, Sho has every right to be worried that his father was planning something. He hoped that it would not involve him, Ohno and his kids.

Sho’s father was not affected at all by Sho’s accusation and went on with the business talk. He started off by asking the status of the restaurant, “I would like to confirm some details regarding the restaurant’s opening.”

Even though he was greatly doubting the actions of his father, he still sat down and did his responsibility on reporting all updates to his boss. They went through each of the planned event to make sure the opening of the restaurant would be successful. Amidst their discussion, his father suddenly asked, “Are you inviting someone to this one?”

Sho was taken aback by the sudden question. But, he composed himself and returned back his father’s previous answer, “None of your concern.” and scribbled something on his notepad. He had always wanted to invite Ohno on this one; but with what’s happening between him and his father, he need to reevaluate his plan.

He glanced up and saw his father smirk. Sho was afraid that he might be setting up an unfortunate war and if he did so, he hoped to win it.

——————

It took them an excruciating long three hours to finish up the updates and concerns regarding the new establishment of their company. Sho was exhausted when he went out of his father’s office. He wished to skip out, go home and drink some cold beers. It would be good to have Ohno to join him, as well. This time just the two of them, alone. No kids, No pesky little brats, No noise.

As he return back to his own office space, his phone suddenly begun ringing. He stopped walking, took his phone out and saw the caller ID: Ohno.

He picked up the call, “Yes?”

“Are you busy right now?”, the voice was clearly worried.

Sho furrowed his brow quite afraid that Ohno was panicking. “I’m done for today. I think? What’s up?”

“There’s this new client and he has many demands. I might work overtime. Could you do me a favor and pick up the kids? I called Haruka and she said she’s busy with her restaurant so…”

Sho chuckled how for a second he thought that something bad had happened to Ohno. “Just that? Sure!”

“Really?!”, Sho could hear Ohno saying a soft yes through the phone.

He remembered Ohno saying how he get worried over simple things and here they are right now, with Ohno doing the same thing. Sho can’t blame him; he had always known Ohno to be that overprotective with his kids. He just wished that he relied on him more. “Hey Satoshi…”

Ohno hummed in response.

“During these kind of emergencies, it should be me you should call first.”

There was long pause before Ohno answered, “You’re right…”

The long silence made Sho realize that it might look like he was scolding Ohno and by now, the man might be blaming himself for a very petty reason. “Ah… No I mean… I also want to help. I’m your boyfriend, remember. Satoshi…”

He, then, heard light laugh. Confused, Sho asked, “What’s funny?”

“Nothing… I just realized something…”, he paused. “…that I like it.”

“What is it?”

“You claiming to be my boyfriend and saying my name.”

Sho made a small sudden noise out of surprise. Those who were passing down the hallway looked at him, suspiciously. He bowed down as an apology and turned around to hide his blush. Flirting through calls — they should do that often. He would surely add it to his daily source of happiness; though, there’s a big possibility that he might not entirely hide his reaction.

He flirted back not wanting to be left out, “You better be because you would hear it every single day.” If you were to ask Sho, he wished for this conversation to go endlessly. From the other side, Matsuoka was clearly telling Ohno to stop flirting and go back to his job. The laughter-filled goodbye completely erased the stress he was feeling earlier.

He quickly went off to his space and started cleaning up his things. This was the first time in years since Sho decided to leave early. Okada noticed it and commented, “The workaholic Sho in a hurry to leave at exactly four in the afternoon, on time?!”

Sho just smiled as he placed his laptop inside his bag. Okada, once again, teased him, “You’ve changed, huh?”

Instead of responding to all the teasings made by his friend, Sho just waved his hand and departed off. It’s his first time to do this errand of picking up Ohno’s kids and he does not want to be late for this one. Partly due to the fact that his trying to prevent having any complaining kids like Kazu and repeatedly telling him off why he was late in picking them up.

Fortunately, he brought his car to work. This would make his trip to the kindergarten much faster. By the time he got there, parents were starting to arrive and some of the kids were now meeting up with their respective parents. He parked his car by the playground and stepped out of the vehicle. Suddenly, a nervous feeling came upon him. He did not know any teachers, nor mothers. The last time he went, he was with Ohno. Would the kindergarten teachers even allow him in the first place to get Ohno’s triplets? The only assuring thing here was the presence of Toma who probably knows him and his relationship with Ohno.

A group of mothers conversing by the side stared at him as he walked past them. Ohno should have briefed him whether to go inside or stay outside. He doesn’t even know if parents were allowed inside, in the first place. Observing his surroundings, most parents were waiting outside. He checked the other classrooms and it looked like some were still in the middle of their class.

He was standing in the middle of nowhere when he was approached suddenly by a mother.

“Are you waiting, as well?”, a woman of around 50’s clothed in beige dress asked him. Sho remembered seeing her together with those group of mothers by the bench near the playground. He peeked towards the said bench and all of them were staring at him. They were shooting daggers at him making Sho afraid. He, simply, nodded in reply.

The woman grinned from ear to ear and said, “You can stay there, with us.” and pointed right at the bench that Sho kept on looking at. But, before he could even speak, he was dragged along and by now, he was sitting together with four mothers. They were gazing at him like it was the first time they saw a young man.

“He’s so handsome. I wished my husband is like this.”, one commented. Sho just smiled in response. He was overwhelmed by what’s happening. He wondered whether Ohno experiences this every time he picked up his kids.

“He’s just like Ohno, right.”, another one stated. “Young fathers are common nowadays.”

It made Sho think if he could also be classified as a father to Ohno’s triplets. He’s still not part of their family, technically, so he cannot proudly proclaim to others his status with Ohno’s kids. And, marriage, marriage is far off the future.

The woman who invited him, earlier, saw Sho’s troubled look and said, “I’m sorry. We just kept talking” and she laughed. “We’re just excited to see a new face.”

Sho shook his head and assured her that he was alright with the attention he was given to. It was his first time to be surrounded like this and so, he just needed time to adjust.

They continued to ask him with questions like, “Where’s your wife?”, and “What section are your kids in?” Sho could not answer both questions: first, he doesn’t have a wife and he’s wary of their reaction if he told them about his relationship with Ohno. Second, it’s embarrassing but he doesn’t even know what section Ohno’s triplets were.

Lucky for him, the kids were starting to go out of the kindergarten. The eyes that were focused on Sho were diverted to the students who were running outside of the school main door. He saw a kid in a blue shirt with a crayon Shin-chan print coming to them and immediately, hugging one of the mother he was with. Slowly, other kids were approaching their respective mothers.

What he did not account; however, was that the triplets would do the same. Even from the distance, Sho could see the hyperenergetic Masaki running and waving his hands towards him, “Shochi!”. Masaki might have sucked up all of the energy of his brothers because the other two were just nonchalantly walking towards him.

Masaki was near when he jumped and let himself be caught into Sho’s arms. “Woah, there!”, Sho said as he tried to maintain his balance.

“Teacher told me that instead of Papa, you would be the one to come.”, Masaki said chirpily. Sho looked over the entrance of the kindergarten and saw Toma waving at him. Ohno must have texted him prior

The mothers, who were with Sho, were now looking at them in both confusion and wonder. Someone from them finally spoke up, “You’re waiting for Ohno’s kids?”

Sho had an initial plan on hiding it. But, with the current situation, there was no use on lying to those mothers. The last thing that he wanted to do was to cause any commotion.

“Ah… yes”, by the time he said that, Kazu and Jun have finally arrived. The kids of the other mothers must have been classmates of the three since they were all excited in seeing each other, once again. Sho could hear Masaki saying that he would watch the new episode of Kaibutsu-kun later to this other kid that was named Ryo.

While those boys were chatting, the mothers questioned Sho. It seemed that he triggered a switch in their gossip trait. One asked, “Are you Ohno’s friend?”, another followed, “What’s your relationship with him?”

“I—“, he was now in a similar situation as earlier. He gazed down on the kids, who by now have stopped talking and waiting for them to stop their chitchat. Glancing up, he saw the mothers staring at him expectantly. He, then, remembered the phone call earlier, how Ohno loved him for saying the boyfriend stuff. Laughing lightly over how he pathetically overthink things, he replied to them with a confident smile, “I’m Ohno’s partner.”

There was a one to two seconds of silence before the four mothers got excited. One even hit Sho in the arms making him yelp slightly. He could hear them talking, “Finally… I thought he’s gonna be alone forever.”

Surprisingly, they were accepting of things. Then, they started reiterating to him stuff that Ohno did, “He was always picking them up morning and afternoon. I heard he wakes up early in the morning just to prepare their lunch…” and so on. Sho was bombarded with compliments on how Ohno was a good dad to his three kids. And yes, Sho was already aware of that and he’s proud of it.

The woman who was nice to him earlier finally ended the chitchat, “I’m glad Ohno finally found someone he can rely on.” and this made Sho smile.

Since it’s getting late and he could hear Masaki complaining that he might miss the Kaibutsu-kun episode, he said his goodbyes to the mothers whom he had already became friends with. They hoped to see Sho again and this time they would want to hear more of Sho and Ohno’s relationship and how they got together. Sho laughed and promised to do so.

————

He guided the kids to the playground where he parked his car. The three of them were stunned upon seeing Sho’s shiny black car (as Masaki described). Sho noticed Jun’s eyes sparkling as he examined the car. It was not the triplet’s first time to see a car but it was their first time that they saw a very expensive and luxurious car.

Sho, then, asked, “Who wants to sit in the front seat?” and he raised his hands trying to tell them that whoever raised their hands first would be the one who gets to sit next to him.

Masaki and Jun both raised their hands excitedly; meanwhile, Kazu snorted and commented how it was dangerous to sit in front. Well, Sho was not expecting at all to have Kazu join him and so, he moved his attention to the two of them.

“You can do janken, to see who gets to sit there.” and full of energy, the two kids played janken with Masaki winning. He shouted a very loud “Yay!” and run towards the car door.

Sho hurriedly followed and open up the door. He, then, opened the door of the back seat to let the other two kids in. He checked, first, whether the three of them have secured their seatbelts before proceeding back to the wheels.

He glanced at Masaki on his side and at the back, then, said, “Let’s go home”

——————

Jun was the one who suggested the music that they would be playing inside the car. Luckily, the internet connection was good since Jun kept on requesting cartoon and anime songs that he had no files of and at the same time, he doesn’t even know a thing about it. This was the first time that he drove off with very noisy companions. Masaki was singing loudly so is Jun. Surprisingly, Kazu was joining them, as well.

“Shochi…”, Masaki called out to him right after the song from Chibi Maruko-chan (as Jun mentioned) had ended. He hummed while looking straight at the road just to acknowledge Masaki. “What is partner?”, Masaki, suddenly, asked.

Sho tensed up and looked at Masaki in panic for a slight second before returning his sight back to the road. “Pa—partner?”, he stuttered.

“You said to Ryo’s mom that you’re Papa’s partner. What’s a partner?”, Masaki once again asked him.

Jun stopped singing and seemed to be waiting, as well, for Sho’s answer. Sho peeked through the rearview mirror and saw Kazu smirking as if judging him on how he will answer Masaki’s question.

“Partner… ah…”, Sho could not blurt out the true nature of it in front of innocent kids. He hasn’t thought of a proper way to describe it. “Ah…”, he continuously said in desperation while trying to think of sentences, adjectives, noun that may explain it in a good way.

But, then, Kazu filled in Masaki’s curiosity, “It means Shochi wants to hug and kiss Papa, all day long.”

Fortunately, the traffic light went red and Sho stopped the car. He swiftly turned to his back and said in a loud voice, “Kazu!”

Kazu giggled. “We might have another brother, Masa…”, he teased his brother. Jun, right now, was staring at him suspiciously with his mouth slightly opened. When he returned his gaze to Masaki, he had the same facial expression as Jun’s. Sho did a facepalm and mentally reprimanded Ohno for having such a mischievous and naughty kid. For sure, he inherited it from someone and for now, he’s blaming it to the father.

Sho did his best to remedy the situation, “Kids, don’t listen to your brother.”, he now started to explain things. “Let’s just say I love being with your Papa and also I like it when I take care of you guys.” He wished that would clear things up.

The lights turned green and he started to drive, once again. With his eyes straight on the road and a new song from a certain anime show came up, he blushed. It was late of him to realize what Kazu’s last remark truly meant. He, then, said in almost a whisper, “Men can’t get pregnant…” and he would drill that into these kids minds.

—————

Kids were easy to distract. The scandalous situation brought about by Kazu’s comments have almost disappeared thanks to the Kaibutsu-kun playlist that was suggested by Masaki. As Sho passed by the shopping district, he thought of taking out some foods for their dinner. Ohno might take awhile and he don’t want another failed cooking incident to occur. This could also be a good opportunity for Sho to buy Ohno some desserts that he likes.

“What flavor of cake does your Papa like?”, he said as glanced into the rearview mirror trying to get at least, a sensible answer from them.

The three of them looked at each other and they pouted at the same time with their eyes looking upwards, thinking very hard. They were troubled over a very simple question. “What’s wrong?”, Sho asked.

“Papa eats anything from chocolate cake, pudding, strawberry shortcake…”, Kazu replied. “One time, when we went out for lunch, he ate all three of that.”

Sho blinked fast in surprise. “That’s impossible…” Another thing that he needed to get worried about Ohno was his health. The amount of sweets he intakes should be reduced.

“Papa likes sweets.”, Jun added. “and he loves making them as well.”

Sho saw a parking spot and he made his way towards it. Once he had parked his car properly, he told the triplets, “Okay, we’ll buy a chocolate cake and a strawberry shortcake. Then, after that, our dinner.” Sho decided to get two, just in case Ohno prefer the other one. But, he promised to check Ohno’s intake for tonight.

Masaki, then, insisted, “McDonald’s dinner! I want the hamburger pillow!” Sho disagreed immediately and said with force, “No Fast Food” and as expected, there were tons of complaints.

—————

They arrived at Ohno’s apartment, just in time, for the Kaibutsu-kun to start. Masaki ran towards the living room, followed by Kazu and Jun, leaving Sho behind to fix all their mess. He muttered under his breath sarcastically, “This comes with being Ohno’s partner.” and placed the shoes of the three kids properly into the rack.

He laid down the roast chicken that they bought atop the dining table and the cakes were placed inside the refrigerator. Then, he glanced at the three kids who by now were focused on the television. Noticing that Masaki was right near the screen, he said to him, “Masaki, move back. It’s not good for your eyes.”

His scoldings fell into deaf ears as Masaki continued to watch near it. Sho sighed in exasperation. He realized how kids, especially at the triplets’ age, could be tiring to take care of. With nothing to do, he joined the three in watching their favorite show.

Surprisingly, he enjoyed it. The show depicted a spoiled monster that seemed to be a prince of a monster kingdom (as he interpreted from the episode) and how this monster learned gradually the different good human traits. He was astonished by how excited the kids were, with them joining the main character as he shouted, “Saikou!” He laughed right after seeing that.

Masaki, who noticed that Sho was enjoying the show, invited him to join them in dancing to the theme song. Of course, Sho rejected the idea. He doesn’t know how to dance and he don’t even know the steps.

Jun stepped up proudly and told Sho that he would teach him. Sho kept on shaking his head to the point that the two kids literally dragged him out of the coach. And, as the theme song started, Jun and Masaki danced along to the beat. They sang as well to the tune, “Ka—i! Kai Kai! Ka—i! Kai Kai!”

Sho just stood there not knowing what to do. He checked back on Kazu who was sitting idly at the coach and the kid was swaying slightly and singing softly. There was excitement in Kazu’s eyes but he does not show it physically, unlike his two other brothers. Masaki tapped Sho to get his attention. His hands were formed into a claw. Jun, who saw that, said, “Follow Masa!” and he mimicked his brother.

Unwillingly, Sho did the same. He tried to imitate the dance movements of the two kids in front of him. At some point in time, he thought of going back to the sofa and just let them be; after all, their focus had already went back to the screen. However, he did not. By the end of the song, all three of them were raising their hands up in the air. Both Jun and Masaki turned around and they were both smiling widely.

—————

Ohno doesn’t like doing overtime just because it’s over the time. It was wrong of him to use his kids as a reason to not extend his work schedule. Ever since he started working or even when he was studying, he preferred to finish it as early as possible. However, with clients like the one he had earlier, he can’t help but feel frustrated for the additional amount of work that he needed to finish.

It was a sigh of relief when he finally reached the door of his apartment. It’s already nine in the evening more than the time of arrival he texted Sho. He entered inside and said in a low voice, “I’m home”, just in case his kids were already sleeping and he did not want to wake them up. He was thankful that Sho was there or else those kids would be staying in Toma’s house.

There was no response. He wondered where Sho was or what he was doing. There was complete silence as he continuously stepped inside and reached the living room. What he found there was something that he did not expect. He quietly pulled out his phone from his bag and switched it to camera mode. Never in his life would he lose the chance of capturing this image of Sho sleeping soundly with his kids. Masaki was clinging on Sho’s left arm while Jun was lying down comfortably on Sho’s right side. Kazu, meanwhile, laid his head over Jun. They were all bundled up in a cute manner.

He could not help but to chuckle after he got a good picture of the scene. The noise made by Ohno caused Sho to stir awake. Ohno saw how Sho gradually opened his eyes and for sure, he seemed blurry in Sho’s eyes. Sho could barely make a sound, “Yo—You’re home…”

Ohno laughed lightly. “Yes, I’m home…”, he said in a whisper trying not to wake his kids up.

Sho was in an unfortunate position. He could not get up without awakening the three kids. Ohno giggled over Sho’s failed attempt to move. “What did you do? All of you looked tired?”, he asked.

“I don’t know how you kept up with their energy. They asked me to dance with them all afternoon.”, Sho complained while maintaining the low volume of his voice.

“Definitely that Kaibutsu-kun song…”, Ohno immediately knew and he also suffered from it. What’s different was his body has already adjusted to the active state of his kids.

While they were talking, Kazu moved his body in order to adjust his sleeping position. He opened his eyes slightly and have a glimpse on the figure that Sho was talking to. Rubbing his eyes, he finally recognized that person. His eyes widened and by now, he was fully awake. Without minding his other brothers, who were sleeping soundly, he jumped to his father while shouting, “Papa!”

Ohno caught Kazu while trying to silence him. But, it was too late. Jun and Masaki opened their eyes with a visible hint of irritation in their faces. Both of them finally saw who caused all the noise and they too did the same as Kazu. They went fast towards their Papa and hugged him. Ohno ruffled each of his kids hair and excitedly said, “I’m home”

Sho, who was finally free to move, stretched out his hands while saying to all of them, “Let’s eat. I’m starving”

—————

Sho advised the triplets to wash their hands while Ohno was busy setting up the table. Ohno went to the refrigerator to get some water and noticed two boxes of cake inside. He blurted out, “Eh?”, wondering why there’s sudden increase in dessert inside his fridge.

Seeing Ohno’s reaction, Sho laughed and he explained that he bought it as a way of showing thanks for Ohno for working hard today. Ohno smiled and said, “If you do that every time, I will be tempted to extend my work schedule.” To which, Sho replied, “No! Only this time!”

Ohno pulled out both cakes from the fridge and placed it atop of the table. Sho saw all that and asked him, “You’re gonna eat the both of them?” Ohno nodded immediately.

“Don’t!”, he scolded him, “Choose only one!” And in response, Ohno pouted. He gave Sho a reasoning that he bought two so he needed to taste the both of them, at the same time. Sho remained true to his words and stored the chocolate cake inside.

“Stingy…”, Ohno said with a face full of dismay. After seeing that his kids were done with washing their hands, it was now his turn. In his mind, he was now planning on sneaking out at the middle of the night and eat the other cake.

Unbeknownst to him, his kids were now checking out the strawberry shortcake, pulling out some strawberries and eating them. Sho who observed all that went near to Ohno and gestured him to look at his kids. Ohno turned around and saw how the triplets were now munching on the strawberries.

This is what people should know about Ohno. He likes dessert: from cakes, pastries, ice cream to fruits. The particular fruit that he loves so much is strawberries. He would be willing to give you a slice of his chocolate cake, a bite from his vanilla cupcake and a scoop from his ice cream but eating his strawberries, that’s a big no. Even his kids are not exempted on this.

He hurriedly went to the table and lifted the cake box away from his kids reach. “Stop!”, he ordered them. There were complaints coming from the three of them. They were stubbornly telling their father to give back what they were eating earlier. He placed the cake box at the kitchen counter, picked out one strawberry decorated at the top of the cake and ate it. He childishly told his kids, “Let your father eat first.”

Sho, who witnessed this scene unfold right before his eyes, could not help but to laugh loudly. Everything, from his love of food to his stubbornness, Ohno’s kids were just like him. He told himself that he wouldn’t get tired of seeing this everyday.

—————

Right after they ate dinner, Ohno accompanied his kids to their room to fix up their beds and to get them to sleep. It was hard, at first, because they were full of energy. They have already slept earlier and the presence of Sho, made them want to play more. He promised them that he would extend their play time tomorrow morning.

Sho remained in the kitchen, placing the used dishes into the sink and wiping out the mess and stains that were on the dining table. Ohno expected Sho to be there when he came back after accompanying his kids to sleep, but he wasn’t. The dishes were there arranged properly atop of each other and the table had already been wiped out clean. He walked through the living room and he noticed that the lights were open on a certain room that he does not frequently go to. He stepped towards it and saw Sho sitting and staring at the picture of Satomi.

That room was specifically left vacant to place a memorial altar for his late wife. His wife has always loved the camellia flower and whenever he goes inside of that room, he would place a flower in front of the altar. It was surreal to see Sho inside and praying.

He went inside and sat beside Sho. Sho, in turn, looked at him and smiled. “Your wife is beautiful.”

“I know”, Ohno replied as if he was the one that was complimented.

Sho chuckled on how Ohno was so proud over his late wife’s physical appearance. “She’s not only beautiful, she’s also nice.”, Ohno stated as he stared at his wife’s picture with gentle expression.

Sho would be lying if there wasn’t a hint of jealousy that he felt seeing Ohno praise his wife. Nevertheless, it would be nice to meet her while she was still alive. “Do you miss her?”, he asked.

“Sometimes…”

Ohno does miss her from time to time. Whenever he walked pass the spots where they usually go to for dates, he could not help but to reminisce the old times. Satomi’s presence was still felt by Ohno, from the items around the house to his kids that had eyes just like her. It just healed through time, the pain.

He turned and gazed upon Sho. He was thankful to have met a man that would care enough and love him. A man that have accepted his kids, as well, despite them being so naughty and energetic. He glanced down, breath deeply and smiled. Ohno began to speak, “Do you believe in soulmates?”

Sho perked up due to the sudden irrelevant question. “Maybe… I heard that each one of us have person you’re meant to be. Why?”

“My wife... before she left me asked me to find my soulmate.”, Ohno paused for a moment, then, resumed. “It’s funny because at that time I don’t believe in soulmates. She insisted and I told her that she, then, would be my soulmate...”

Sho looked straight at Ohno contemplating on what he was trying to say.

“… she said soulmates don’t leave their partners behind and she can’t be my soulmate because she will be gone and left me. I objected, of course. The next day… she, indeed, left me behind.”

Ohno bit his lips and right after, stared at Sho directly. “Sho… would you be my soulmate?”

What Sho knew about soulmates was that it was dictated by fate. In a planet that contains almost 8 billion people, there is this idea that one person was meant for you and it’s ones duty to find him or her. But, seeing how things developed between him and Ohno, all the circumstances that have occurred, it defeats the original idea of soulmates. Soulmates do exist but they’re not found, they’re made.

Sho understood the meaning behind Ohno’s question. Ohno’s character was portrayed in the school as a good and responsible dad. In his office, he was known to be excellent at his duties and has a good balance with his life and work. But the truth is, Ohno was a lonely human being and longing for a companion. Sho wondered how long Ohno was shouldering all of his pent up feelings.

He grabbed hold of Ohno’s hands and maintained his eye contact to him. He smiled and said, “I’ll be willing to.” He was telling him that from now on, he should not be shy and continuously rely on him and that Sho’s ready to listen to all of his rantings, complaints and even joys in life.

Ohno was teary-eyed when he heard Sho’s answer. And upon seeing that, Sho almost laughed. In front of him was just a normal emotional human being. He, then, decided to tease him. He went close to Ohno and whispered to his ears, “I can prove it to you, tonight.” causing Ohno to blush. He hit Sho lightly on his arms and told him, “Really… In front of Satomi!”

It was late of Sho to realize, he immediately apologized to Satomi and repeatedly told her not to visit him in his sleep. He added that he did take care of her kids despite all of their teasings and naughtiness. Ohno laughed as he witnessed Sho at the mercy of his late wife. He decided to use this opportunity to give Sho a surprise. He grabbed Sho’s arms, pulled him close and gave him a soft peck on his lips.

Sho froze on the spot not expecting to be given a kiss by Ohno. “Wha—Ah—“, he started to blurt out incoherent words. Ohno mischievously looked at him and said, “That’s my answer…”

Sho sighed in exasperation. What’s the point of apologizing to his late wife when Ohno, himself, would do it right in front of her. Nevertheless, he was happy. He gladly took hold of Ohno’s hands and led him out of the room.

They were caught by surprise when Jun appeared in front of them. Jun was clutching his stuffed bunny all tight and there were tears in his eyes. “Papa…”, he called out. Ohno approached him and patted him on his head. “What happened?”

Jun told them that he had a nightmare and he wanted to sleep with him. Ohno chuckled and hugged Jun, “Papa will sleep with you.”, he said as a way of reassurance. Behind him, he could totally imagine Sho sighing, once again. He asked Jun to wait for him in the bedroom. He turned to Sho and shook his head, “Let’s do it next time, okay.”

————

They did slept together but there was Jun, in between. He curled up right next to his father and Ohno hummed while patting Jun’s back as the kid closed his eyes. Sho was staring at the both of them and his eyes were gradually closing, as well.

Ohno checked Sho, who by now was sleeping soundly. He smiled and whispered, “Good night...” and he too, went to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Sho fluttered his eyes open. In front of him was the face he had always wanted to see every time he wakes up. He observed Ohno’s serene expression, his long eyelashes, his soft chubby cheeks, his mouth that was slightly open. From the way he was breathing, Sho was sure that he wouldn’t be waking up soon. Snuggled deeper into Ohno was little Jun. The way those little hands cling tightly on Ohno’s shirt seemed to tell that he won’t be giving up his father, yet. Sho wanted to capture the moment, if only his phone was within reach. He woke up early with the intention of returning back to his apartment. With the way things are, Sho might stay for a bit longer.

Jun adjusted his position and the tiny movements caused Ohno to stir and make a soft groan. His eyelids twitched and it didn’t take long before he gave in and finally, opened his eyes. Ohno’s vision was quite blurry but he recognized Sho’s silhouette staring at him. Rubbing the remainders of sleep away, he tried to say his name, “Sho…”, sounding husky, he tried to clear his throat. “Sho…”, he called out, once again.

Sho bit his lips, trying his best not to laugh. Ohno was clearly a total mess. “Morning”, he replied back with a smile.

Ohno carefully shifted his position, so as not to wake Jun up. He was aware that his morning look was not the best — his fluffy hair was all over the place, his eyes were probably disoriented and his breath might not be so good to smell. It’s unfair that in front of him was a being, who looked his absolute best even after having a deep sleep. He hoped Sho would still love him even after seeing his current state.

“You’re early…”, he whispered.

Sho admitted that the initial attraction he felt for Ohno was largely influenced by the man’s appearance. But, by now, he doesn’t even care anymore. Ohno could venture on having long hair, buzz cut or even sport a goatee — Sho would still find him adorable and handsome. Even now, Sho was trying to fight his urge to kiss Ohno with that look, if only Ohno’s son wasn’t there, in between the two of them.

Staring amusingly at Ohno, Sho responded, “I need to go to work”

“On a weekend?”

He nodded. With the restaurant’s opening coming up, Sho has tons of things to do. He needed to make sure everything’s in order before the opening date. It’s a big project and it must be done in the most perfect way as possible.

Ohno stretched his arms and lightly touched Sho’s cheeks, fingers slowly tracing, thumb slightly brushing the lips. With half-lidded eyes and a soft smile adorning his face, Ohno said, “Don’t work too hard”

It was this kind of morning that Sho never imagined he would experience. Perfect was the right word. He looked right back into Ohno’s warm, brown eyes and took hold of the hand that was on his cheeks. He kissed the back of it. And, Ohno blushed on that gesture. Sho kissed Ohno’s hands repeatedly, eliciting a response that he liked. He laughed seeing Ohno burying his head on his pillow, probably trying to hide his blush and excitement. He decided that teasing could be done later, at night, if kids won’t barge in every time he did something. Sho loosen his hold on Ohno’s hand.

“I’m gonna go now”

——————

“You don’t have to see me out.”

And as Sho said that, he turned around and saw a barely awake Ohno leaning on the wall for support. Ohno only grumbled in response.

Sho was sure that he would stay the whole day if he’s not stacked with workloads. As a way of saying goodbye, he went near Ohno and ruffled his hair. Ohno leaned in to the touch, closed his eyes and hummed succumbing himself to the pleasure brought by Sho’s hand. Sho’s heart fluttered at the adorable sight. They were much closer than ever, no kids in sight and no Jun in between. “Hmm…”, Ohno continued to enjoy himself.

It should just be a simple gesture of affection but Ohno’s reaction stirred something inside of him. It pushed him to lean forward and kiss Ohno on the lips. It was different from their usual chaste ones — it was demanding and passionate. Ohno barely had the time to react when Sho pressed his tongue to his lips granting more access. Sho’s hand moved across his shoulder, then, down to his lower back. The warmth of Sho’s hand coursed through the soft, thin material of Ohno’s undershirt. Ohno was entirely breathless. The hand that was pressed on Ohno’s curls tightened and pulled him in trying to claim his mouth, intensely. Ohno’s knees gave in and he held on to Sho’s shoulder for support. He moaned in between, “Sho…”

Hearing his name brought Sho back to reality. He pulled away and looked at Ohno in panic. Sho’s face was flushed all over. “I—“, he tried to form his words, “I need to go!” and stumbled his way out of Ohno’s apartment.

Outside, Sho was cursing himself for being too aggressive. Forcefully rubbing his hands onto his face, “and… why did I run away?”, he scolded himself.

Meanwhile, Ohno blinked in confusion over what had occurred. That was a weird way to wake up. He was aware that it’s a common thing to do since they’re already in a relationship. It just caught him off guard. His lips were now plump and sore. And, he liked it. He smiled as he touched his lips, trying to remember the kiss. When was the last time he was kissed like that?

As Ohno went back to his bedroom, he saw Jun sitting on the bed, half-awake looking all grumpy. Maybe surprised that no one’s beside him, Jun’s eyes scanned the room in a slight panic. Upon seeing his father by the door, relief washed over him. He stretched his arms as if inviting his father to come back to the bed. Ohno laughed lightly before joining his son on the bed. He hold him in his arms and lied down over the soft mattress. Ohno’s hands caressed the back of Jun’s hair and whispered, “Let’s go back to sleep”

Jun placed his tiny hands on Ohno’s back and mimicked his father’s action. Ohno chuckled, “What are you doing, Jun?”

His son ignored his question and started asking, “Papa? Where’s Shochi?”

“Hmm… at work”

The little kid made a short pause before saying something unexpected, “Kazu told us that Shochi’s always here because he wants to kiss and hug you.”

Surprised by what Jun said, he glanced down and saw Jun gazing up at him in a pout. He laughed and responded, “Kazu said that?” and Jun nodded.

Ohno should check, sometimes, where Kazu’s getting those ideas and he hoped it’s not coming from his good friend Toma. His second child seems to get nastier as he gets older. Nevertheless, Ohno smiled at that thought; Kazu’s very similar to him when he was still at that age.

While brushing some of the hair in Jun’s forehead, he said, “It’s not only Shochi. I also want to kiss and hug him. I’m just happy to be with him.”

It took minutes before Jun spoke, “I heard that already”

“From Who?”, and, Ohno lifted himself a little higher, laid on his side, arm in a crook and head propped in his hand.

“Shochi… He said that about Papa”

“Really!”, Ohno was elated. “He said that…” and Jun saw the way his father smiled. It was entirely different from his usual ones, it was genuinely sweet and glowing, the way his father’s eyes crinkled with delight, the way his mouth made a full curve. Even though he’s a little kid, Jun knew that that kind of smile that his father made was reserved to only one person. Jun, gradually, closed his eyes and speak no further. One thing’s for sure, he had a nice dream.

——————

“Ha…”, Sho breathed a long sigh while his face was plastered flat on to the surface of the canteen table. Ten minutes have already passed since his scheduled lunch break. His meal had been set aside and his curry was left untouched. It’s rare for a glutton like him to lose appetite. A very same comment given by his dear friend Okada.

Unpacking his prepared bento box, Okada teased Sho, “It’s good to have a girlfriend who prepares you bento” and he took out a piece of meat and ate it in an exaggerated way, biting it loudly so Sho could hear it clearly. Sho, in return, raised a brow at him with an accompanying mumbling, “Satoshi can cook better…”

Okada’s teasing caused him to choke on the meat that he was eating. He grabbed his water and quickly drank it. Coughing, he asked, “So… what’s your problem?”

“Ha…”, Sho sighed once again. He picked up the tissue on his side and played with it anxiously. He tried to explain what happened in a few sentences, “Just me being a hormonal teenager”

Okada did not understand what he meant but it seems Sho can sort it out by himself. Setting Sho’s problems aside, he noticed the amount of people inside their company. It irritated him how it still looked like a normal working day when it’s Saturday. Like a normal overworked employee, he started to complain, “Ah! I want to sleep more!”

That got Sho laughing. He, too, have the same sentiment as his friend, but of course, they can’t do that. He took a bite from his rice and it seemed that he might be able to finish it despite the lack of interest in eating, earlier. “Maybe, later, I’ll check with my dad if there’re parts that needed to be improved.”, he said.

“Your father’s not working today.”, Okada slipped in. “I just checked earlier with his secretary. I, too, have tons of questions, you know.”

Sho was surprised by the sudden disappearance of his father and on a normal work day. He was trying to remember if he forgot some important family gatherings — well, even his father does not go there.

“That’s weird…”, he whispered

——————

Ohno did promise last night a whole morning of playtime and thus today, he was in the mercy of his kids. Playing with them was not just the problem. Deciding what to play was even worse. It’s now a battle between Kazu and Masaki. He suggested earlier to have janken; thus, eliminating Jun in this decision making. Kazu had already won but Masaki insisted that Kazu cheated so he wants a rematch. They already have their 10th rematch and no one has yet to accept defeat. Ohno did prefer that they continuously have their rematch; this would save him time and energy.

On the 12th janken game of his two kids, the doorbell of their apartment buzzed. He looked at the time and wondered who would visit them during noon. The most likely person would be Haruka. And, Ohno would appreciate it if she provided them with their lunch — saves him the energy to cook for four people.

“Let me get that.”, he said as he stood up and left his kids, who by now were completely distracted by their petty rematch. Their intercom was broken and Ohno had no choice but to open up the door slightly to check who was visiting them.

“Oh…”, said the person whom Ohno clearly doesn’t know. In front of him was a man of an older age around 70’s, dressed up in a blue kimono and holding a cane on his right hand. This was the first time he had seen this man. “Umm…”, Ohno replied. “May I help you?”

Ohno caught sight of the man scrutinizing him from bottom to top. He was waiting for the old man to speak, but he didn’t. For one, if this man kept that attitude for long, he would surely slam the door right into his face. Thieves and scammers could be anyone and he would not risk it with this old man, considering that his children were also inside his house.

The old man scoffed, “Really?”

Now suspicious of this old man, Ohno, once again, asked, “Who are you?”

The old man looked at him directly into his eyes and smiled smugly. “I’m Sakurai Sho’s father.”

—————

This was the exact scene Ohno did not expect to happen. Who would have thought that Sho’s father would personally visit him? And, for what purpose? He could not help but get frightened, considering the capability of this particular man to do anything he wants.

The triplets saw the old man dressed in kimono entering the room right behind their father. They stopped their janken rematch and eyed him like a hawk. The old man noticed them and he smiled. Masaki and Jun took a step back. For some reason, they were nervous at the presence of this stranger. Kazu furrowed his brows, quite annoyed by the aura this man was  giving off.

Ohno led Sho’s father to sit in a vacant spot in the sofa. Knowing the financial status of the man he’s talking to, he, first, apologized about the small space of their apartment and the mess inside.

“Ah… those three over there are my kids.”

“Hmm…”, Sho’s father glanced over to the triplet’s side and he received a stick of tongue from the bratty Nino. Ohno, upon seeing that, reprimanded him, immediately, “Kazu!” and apologized once again to Sho’s father, explaining to him that his kid can be naughty, at times.

Sho’s father chuckled and said, “Sho’s like that when he was young…”

Ohno asked his kids to go back to their rooms and play there instead. It’s no surprise that the three of them insisted that they would stay in the living room. Kazu did not move in his position even if his father pleaded to him. This was the moment in which Ohno wished his kids would listen to him, once.

Getting annoyed, he finally put on a serious face, “I said, go to your room”

That was the first time the three kids had seen their father looked that angry. Afraid, they, unconsciously, stood up and went back into their rooms. Masaki, who was the last, took a second to look back and examine their father. He witnessed him sighing in exasperation and coughing lightly. It was a sign that his father was troubled. Deep inside, he felt that the old man was up to something no good.

—————

With the kids gone, Ohno, awkwardly, sat at the far edge of the sofa, a few inches away from Sho’s father. He had already experienced this kind of feeling. This was exactly what he felt when he visited Satomi’s father to ask him permission for her daughter’s hands. And this time, in front of him, Sho’s father had the same expression as Satomi’s father. He did not know why, but for some reason, fathers don’t like him at all.

The atmosphere was so tense that Ohno could barely breath. It’s not helping that Sho’s father was completely silent. He tried cut through the silence, “Do—Do you want something to drink or eat?”

Sho’s father just stared at him with cold eyes. “No need, I’m not gonna stay here long enough.”

Ohno wished that this old man would leave immediately. He’s not a good talker and could barely think of any good topics that could lighten up the mood. He wished Sho was here to act as a buffer.

“You know, I don’t like you at all”, Sho’s father just dropped the bomb out of the blue.

He’s bold, bold enough to say that straight into Ohno’s face. Ohno thought Sho’s father would be kind enough to prance around the topic; he did not expect him to be that straightforward. Now, Ohno knew where Sho got that trait.

Ohno was not surprised at all that Sho’s father hated him. He heard from Sho how he broke up with his long-time girlfriend.  And, it looks like Sho’s father had his bets on her. There’s no way Sho’s father would immediately like him.

He doesn’t know how to respond to the old man’s dislike for him. And so, he just nodded, thinking that was the most appropriate thing to do. What could he do? Show him all his skills? Like that could help at all.

“Sho’s just…”, Sho’s father continued as he scanned the place, “not fit to be here…” He believed that Sho’s great enough explore more and bigger opportunities than to just settle in this small, compact environment.

“I believe Sho hasn’t told you yet…” and Ohno turned his gaze at Sho’s father, interested on what he’s about to say. Seeing the curiosity on Ohno’s eyes, Sho’s father smirked. “He rejected an offer to go to Berlin just days ago.”

Ohno haven’t heard anything regarding that. The problem here was that the both of them rarely talk about work. The times work pop up in their conversation could be counted in his fingers. Probably due to the fact that Ohno has the least interest in Sho’s job. And, yes, that’s the thing that he needed to improve on.

“I heard, the reason was that someone needs him here and so he needed to stay…”, Sho’s father added.

“I wonder who’s that someone” and he gazed at Ohno menacingly.

That was the last thing Ohno wanted for Sho to do for him. His partner would surely get an earful from him when he returns back later in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, Ohno was aware that both he and Sho’s father had no say in Sho’s decision. Ohno needed to convey that thought.

“It’s your son’s choice and not mine. He’s already a grown up so I believe he knows what he’s doing.”

The old man was taken aback, not expecting retaliation from this weak, lazy looking guy. And, that’s something most people had assumed wrongly. Never underestimate this single father. He was utterly amused and hummed in thrill knowing that this won’t be an easy win.

—————

The triplets, who were now in their room, huddled at the center and conversing about their thoughts about the strange old man.

Masaki described him to be a look-alike of the villain from this anime series, he had recently been hooked on. Jun disagreed and said that he has a similar feature as that bad guy in the drama that his father was watching. Kazu summarized all of it by simply saying, “An evil old man!”

“What do we do?”, Jun asked clearly fidgeting in his seat knowing that their father was facing some sort of villain.

“I don’t know…”, Kazu, for the first time, was completely blank.

Masaki was holding some sort of bricks that’s used in making toy houses. He was not in the mood to play. He knew that their father was all alone and needed some “saving”. He pretty much believed that this old man was an enemy that disguised himself as a weak human being (too much anime).

Remembering back, right after they were ordered by their father to go back to their room, he grabbed hold of their father’s phone, out of accident or maybe… out of instinct. He knew that somehow they might need that, one way or another.

Masaki had always been told by their neighbors, teachers and even his father about him being a “Miracle boy” He did not understand what they meant but if it would be useful for this kind of situation, then he would be happy to be the “Miracle boy”

Kazu saw Masaki thinking so hard by himself. It was this rare moments of Masaki, looking seriously, that might help them achieve that “Eureka” moment. Though, he was afraid that if they joined their father in the living room, it might end up escalating things in a very bad way.

Masaki loosened his hold on the bricks and brought out the phone he sneakily took earlier. He showed it to his brothers. Kazu and Jun looked to each other, first, before saying, “Papa’s phone?” and Masaki nodded.

Jun, who was unaware at all, commented sarcastically, “Masaki… do you still want to play?”

“Huh? No— and before he could explain it to Jun, the phone started ringing. Masaki accidentally dropped the phone to the floor, out of surprise. Their faces moved closer to the phone screen and saw Shochi’s name on it.

They gazed at each other, wondering if it’s alright to answer the call. Not waiting for his other brothers to respond, Kazu made the call and he, immediately, swiped the screen.

Sho begun to speak, not waiting for the other side to acknowledge his sudden presence, “Ah! Satoshi! I thought you wouldn’t answer. About what happened this morning, I’m so—“ Luckily, Kazu interrupted him. “Shochi!”

“Eh?? Shochi??”, Sho’s voice was utterly disturbed. “Wait… Kazu?”

“and Masaki”, Masaki joined. “And Jun!”, the youngest brother followed.

Sho was surprised. “Eh— Why?”, he did not expect at all for the kids to answer, “Where’s Satoshi?”

Kazu turned to his brothers and both nodded. “He’s talking to an old man.”

“Old man?”

Masaki started to explain, “A grumpy old man. He just entered our house like some sort of an evil wizard and his eyes looked bad.”

That was the most inaccurate description that Kazu had ever heard. Fortunately, Jun added a reasonable fact about the person they’re describing, “He’s wearing a blue kimono.”

After describing everything that they noticed, they heard some sort of mumbling from the other side. They could barely pick up a single word from all Sho’s muttering. Then, seconds later, Sho, suddenly exclaimed, “Fu— he stopped, realizing that the one he’s talking to were kids.

“I need to go there”, Sho redeemed himself.

Before Sho could press the end call button, Kazu called out to him in a loud voice, “Shochi!” and Sho hummed in response.

“We can do anything, right?”

Sho did not understand what Kazu meant and just simply said yes. He’s now in total panic to even try to find out what the little kids were talking about. He was unaware that that simple “yes” would result to a very unexpected scene, later on.

—————

Sho’s father expected that Ohno would back down, immediately. He was surprised on how tough this man could be. But, he was a man of many capabilities, connections and strategies.

“Your kids are cute”

Ohno gave him a scowl, upon hearing the word “kids” from the old man’s mouth.

“Horikoshi Kindergarten school, section A. They’re seated right at the front, right? During Tuesdays, they play in the field—”

Ohno, not wanting to hear any more of it, snapped and gave Sho’s father a threatening look, “You, had us investigated!” The old man just simply smiled.

That was the last straw. Ohno clenched his fist and latched on, “Old man, if you ever try to do something to my kids. You’re de—“ suddenly, a plastic arrow cut straight into the tense atmosphere and went right on to the forehead of Sho’s father. It did not stick and just fell right into his lap. Both adults were frozen on the spot. Both don’t know how to react over what happened.

Sho’s father slowly picked up the toy that landed on his lap and examined it. “What’s this?”

Ohno swallowed hard. He was aware of that thing; he bought it last year and gifted it as a birthday gift to one of his kids. And that particular kid is — “Ha! I knew it! I’m good at archery!”, Kazu, out of nowhere, shouted proudly.

Turning his head towards the source, he saw Kazu standing, looking tall with his chest all out. From the looks of it, he was quite proud of what he did. “Ka—

Before Ohno could even shout Kazu’s name, his other brothers came to his aide. They appeared right behind Kazu’s back, holding their toy guns painted with their own names. Kazu pointed at Sho’s father and said, “Go!” They went close and started shooting pellets towards Sho’s father.

Ohno wanted to dig his own grave after witnessing that. Clearly, Sho’s father was bothered. The old man covered his eyes and complained behind his kimono sleeves for the kids to stop. Ohno hurriedly stood up and quickly snatched the toy guns away from their hands.

“Haa…”, he breathed, out of exhaustion. “What are you doing?!”, he frustratingly shouted at his kids. He was aware of the energy and spontaneity his kids have, but this— Ohno was too shocked that they could even exceed what they normally do.

He collected each of them right into his arms. The triplets were now annoyed over their father’s reaction. After all, they only did that with the intention of helping their father out. Ohno forced them to go and apologize to Sho’s father, who by now was brushing off the residual pellets on his lap.

Unwillingly, Kazu complied. He was the first one to step up. It was all good as Ohno had initially thought; until, Kazu said, “Old man…”

That just added fuel to the fire. In Ohno’s defense, he said that word “old man”, himself, because he had a legitimate reason to be angry (EXCUSES). Kazu’s a kid so he still had to respect someone who’s elderly.

Calming himself down, he tried to talk to his kid once again, “Kazu… it’s no—“ He was interrupted by a loud laugh coming from non other than Sho’s father. He was astonished. His mouth gaped open as he witnessed Sho’s father laughed with all his might to the point of tears. Is that a good thing, Ohno thought.

Not long after, Ohno heard someone entering his apartment. He tried to peek, trying to see who entered their home. He was surprised by what came into view.

“Sa— Sato— Satoshi!”, Sho almost slipped on his feet as he approached Ohno. Sho was out of breath, caused by him running around the apartment complex.

“I— I came!”, he said while panting

He was about to say another word when he noticed his father laughing. He stopped and made an eye contact at Ohno. They both had quizzical look on their faces.

“Wha— What happened?”, Sho stuttered.

This was the first time Sho had seen his father laughed like that. Not once, when he made a joke. Not once, when he burnt the most simplest meal. Not once when they’re watching a comedy show. If Sho were to record the momentous event in his life, he would surely include this.

Wiping the tears brought by his own laughter, he glanced up and noticed his son, “Oh! Sho, you’re here” he, then stood up and fixed his kimono. He gazed at Ohno and said, “It’s been a while since I had a good laugh. Your kids would go a long way.”

Sho’s father started to walk away, not before, patting his son’s back as a way of acknowledgement. All eyes were on him as he made his steps away from the living room. Ohno stood up, as well, and followed Sho’s father to guide him towards the exit. Sho remained standing at the center of the room, frozen and unaware of what happened. He, then, looked at the triplets and questioned them, “What did you do?”

—————

Ohno showed Sho’s father the way out and he held the door for him as he made a step outside. Sho’s father turned around and looked at him directly, “You’re not bad but I still hate you.” And he went off on his way.

Ohno just stood there in confusion, wondering if he was accepted or not. It would probably take many years before he’ll be considered by Sho’s dad; but for the most part, he doesn’t care if that old man approves him or not. He’ll just carry on with his life, just like what he always do.

Seeing that Sho’s father had already entered the elevator, he proceeded back inside and arrived with his kids telling Sho their “feat”. Masaki was the one who was narrating when he walked inside the living room. “…and we defeated the villain.”, as if they were the heroes of this story.

Kazu was the one who met their dad’s eyes and he instantly tapped his brother in order for him to stop talking. It was then that Masaki noticed his father looking at him in silence and he paused out of fear. The three had already forgotten how angry their father was earlier.

Confused, Sho looked at Ohno and his kids, back and forth. Arriving late really had its disadvantages; all he wanted to know was the whole story. He did notice the tense atmosphere and the stillness and coldness in Ohno’s eyes. If he interpreted it properly, Ohno must be angry at what his kids did.

Trying to save the triplets, Sho jumped in and pleaded, “Don’t be angry. They only did that because they’re worried about you.”

Ohno ignored Sho’s pleading and continued to walk towards his kids. His expression was still. All three were terrified as they saw their father going near. They were aware that they broke their promise to their father to stay inside their room. They have disregarded many rules set by their father and rarely did their father get angry like that. Jun, unconsciously, held on to Masaki’s hand, nervous on what their father would do to them. Kazu hung his head low and clenched on his shirt awaiting a scolding coming from Ohno.

To their surprise, Ohno squatted and reached his hand out to bring his kids closer to him for a hug. He closed his eyes and whispered, “Thanks”

“…and we defeated the villain” They truly are if you think about it. Ohno had no time to even react over how stupid his kids’ actions were. He was frustrated but, if you consider all of it, Sho’s father was right, it was really funny. It’s good to have kids that have guts to fight even the most dangerous old man in the country (quite an exaggeration). Ohno considered himself lucky.

It was that hug that washed their worries and anxiety away. All three of them made a toothed smile and patted Ohno’s back, as a sign of reassurance, a sign that they’re always there for their father. Kazu joked around by saying, “Papa, don’t cry” and his two other brothers laughed at Kazu’s comment.

Sho happily looked at the four of them. This scene proved that this four is a home that he’ll always go back to. Feeling out of place, he joined them by coming close and commenting, “Can I receive a hug, as well?” with Kazu retaliating, “Shochi! You did not do anything!”

—————

After that, Ohno accompanied the triplets back to their room with the thought of continuing what they ought to do this morning. Surprisingly, Jun hopped in quickly to his bed and told him off that he got tired due to what they did earlier. Similar behaviors were made by Kazu and Masaki. Perplexed, Ohno just blamed this sudden, unexpected actions to the effects of them growing up. He shrugged his shoulders as he watched them tucked themselves inside their bed covers.

Seeing for himself that they have settled in, he left them behind their room to sleep. Unbeknownst to him, the three of them stared at each other and smiled mischievously, understanding that they all had the same thing in their minds.

Ohno went back to see Sho sitting on the sofa and fiddling with his phone. He sighed, remembering the things Sho’s father said about Sho rejecting a certain big offer. He pointed at Sho and called out, “You!”

Surprised by the serious tone coming from Ohno, Sho glanced up immediately and looked at him with questioning eyes.

“We need to talk”

Sho made a big gulp while trying to recall if he did something wrong. There were ideas popping up on his mind: one, breaking up due to his father, two, Ohno did not like what he did earlier this morning — all of it were not good at all. Sho maintained his distance as Ohno approached the sofa to sit beside him.

He placed his phone down on the table and waited for Ohno to say something. “I heard something…”, Ohno started talking, “You rejected the offer to go to Berlin.”

“Berlin?”, Sho pushed his mind to remember. He did receive an offer to be a manager in their office in Berlin. Sho peered over Ohno’s face, wondering why he was suddenly interested in it. “I… rejected it because I don’t want to use my father’s connections to get into a higher position. Actually, I’m planning to resign from the company later on and go to a new one.”

Ohno perked up and looked at Sho with a raised eyebrow, “Really?” and Sho nodded.

Ohno’s eyes went straight to the floor and fumbled his fingers. “It’s not because of…”, he stopped, realizing how embarrassing it would be.

Fortunately, Sho’s smart enough to pick up what would Ohno say. He moved closer and peeked just to get a good look at Ohno’s face. He chuckled seeing how flushed it is. Wanting to tease him more, Sho asked him, “Because of?”

Ohno made a quick glance and pouted a bit, quite knowing that his partner was teasing him. He rolled his eyes and moved a little further from Sho, trying to hide his blush. He sighed and covered his face with his hands. With barely audible voice, he responded, “Me…” Sho caught sight of Ohno’s ears reddening and he smiled, satisfied after hearing it.

Sho positioned himself behind Ohno and quickly wrapped his arms around Ohno’s torso. Ohno jumped at the unexpected gesture. Still, he laid the back of his head over Sho’s shoulder comfortably.

“Hey”, Sho said as he tightened his hold on Ohno. And, Ohno simply hummed. “Was it scary? Talking to my father?”

“The truth is… I was shaking all over” and Ohno chuckled. “He even said to me that he didn’t like me, straight to my face”

“He’s an idiot” and Sho snuggled his face on to the crook of Ohno’s neck and pressed his lips on it. Ohno made shuddering breath. He stretched his hands and softly patted Sho’s hair before saying, “The kids…”

“I’m sure they won’t disturb us now…”, Sho said as he continued to pepper Ohno’s face with kisses. Ohno gave in and he twisted in Sho’s arms until he’s facing him. He looked pleased after seeing Sho’s face very close. Surprisingly, no one has interrupted them yet. During this time, he was sure that either Masaki or Kazu would come out and drag him to play with them. But, today it did not happen. Today he got the time to observe the very small details of Sho’s face. He brought his finger up and traced Sho’s face from his eyelids down to his nose bridge and then his plump lips. It’s like he is memorizing every detail.

Sho sneakily grabbed hold of Ohno’s hand and laced their fingers together. He, then, laid a soft kiss on Ohno’s lips. “What are you doing?” and Ohno smiled. Ohno murmured against Sho’s lips, “Why did you runaway earlier?”

An amused smile touches Ohno’s lips again, “I thought you did not like it.” Ohno placed his forehead over Sho’s not breaking eye contact from Sho’s lips and replied, “Don’t apologize for the way you kiss me.”

“Really?”, Sho loosen his hold on Ohno’s hand and brought it onto Ohno’s cheeks slowly caressing it. “Yes”, Ohno confirmed it by placing another soft kiss on Sho’s lips.  

Him and Sho together, at noon, without any traces of disturbances; this brought him a calming feeling. Ohno closed his eyes for a second trying to feel Sho’s hand that was now playing lightly with his hair and the other hand that was placed on his back making him feel safe and warm. Sho’s lips pressed once again on his. It was slow, gentle, soft and careful. Once they parted, Sho made a light laugh. Ohno slightly opened his eyes and he heard Sho saying, “Are you getting sleepy, now?”

Ohno lost the energy to nod and he simply laid his head down onto Sho’s shoulders. He snuggled deeper into him and closed his eyes, once again. For him, this was the safest place on earth.

Sho could only chuckle over the sight of Ohno breathing evenly over his chest. He gently comb the loose strands of Ohno’s hair and whispered, “To think we finally had the time alone and the first thing you’ll do is to sleep.” Sho dropped a soft kiss on the top of Ohno’s head and murmured, “Sleep well.”

Soon after, Sho succumbed to the lazy mood and fell asleep, as well, while holding Ohno safely in his arms.

It was the triplets who found them in that serene state when they finally decided to get out of their rooms. They thought that they have given enough time for the pair. Masaki was the first one to see and he placed his index finger over his lips reminding his other two brothers to keep silent. Kazu peeked and gagged at what he saw. Jun giggled upon seeing the two adults. They looked at each other and smiled mischievously — looks like they’re planning to do something that is not good, once again.

 

 

Chapter Text

“What happened?”, Sho arrived just in time before Ohno managed to unlock the door of his apartment. He was expecting that today would be like any other day — uneventful. What he witnessed, however, was a total disaster. Ohno’s cheeks were completely smeared with dirt. The triplets were even far worse with their hands and feet covered with black stains. Going for a closer inspection, Sho realized that it was mud.

Meanwhile, Ohno was not bothered at all by any kind of filth messily present on one part of his face nor the untidy and unruly state of his kids. More than irritation, it was delight that he felt. He was stumped with work for the past few weeks that he was unable to set aside an hour to play with his kids. With his big project done, he finally had a free day to be with his triplets. In addition, the appearance of Sho today brightened his day off. When he recognized Sho, from afar, approaching them, he could not help but to smile from ear-to-ear.

“We were just playing”, Ohno replied nonchalantly, not minding the judging eyes laid right at him. Clearly, it’s not just a simple game of tag or hide-and-seek.

“With mud?”, Sho gave a sarcastic remark. He’s pretty sure that there’s more to it than what Ohno has stated — considering how chaotic those three are. He was about to question him further when Kazu, suddenly, interrupted their conversation and made a fuss, “Papa! Open the door already!”

The loud squeaky voice caused both of them to flinch. It was no surprise that when Ohno glanced down, Kazu’s face was curled up with irritation. Ohno laughed shortly, amused by the blatant display of impatience from his second son which he probably got from him.  A gentle smile appeared on Ohno’s face, followed by an abrupt apology, “Sorry Kazu…” and He reached out, once again, in his pockets to get the house key.

Kazu merely crossed his arms and pouted. Cheeky brat as he was, he did not forget to give a side-eye to the adult that has just arrived. Sho noticed what Kazu did and instead of retaliating, he just looked the other way around and let it go. He was already used to this kind of treatment from the kid.

On the other hand, the youngest brother, Jun, was pretty nice to him. He was the first one to approach Sho and showed his dirtied hands. His steps were light and nimble that it took Sho time to even notice that the little kid was now beside him. Sho squatted down, eye level to Jun, and ruffled his hair.

He, then, asked, “You enjoyed playing with your Papa?”

Jun nodded with enthusiasm. His excitement from the activity they did earlier was evident in the amount of black stains in his white shirt and dirt on some strands of his curly hair. Masaki, wanting to join in their conversation, stepped closer to them. He was the one who told Sho what had truly happened.

It was supposed to be a leisure walk in the nearby park and part of their schedule was to go to the playground, a few meters away from their apartment. Masaki was too excited that finally their father found the time to accompany them. In the past few days, it has always been their Aunt Haruka. Skipping and making big movements as he narrated to his father what had transcribed in their kindergarten class, he was unable to notice that the ground was slippery. Too caught up with his story, he did not realize that he stepped into a puddle. He slipped and fell, face down, onto the ground. Because of the morning rain shower, the soil was damp. When Masaki rose up from his position, there was mud and dirt on his legs and hands. Dejection should be the first thing he should feel; but, it wasn’t. The texture of the damp soil in his hands was something different — interesting, just like clay. He pranced around and started smearing the dirt, his hands had accumulated, right on his brother’s faces. Both protested, at first, complaining endlessly how their eldest brother dirtied their face. In the end, Jun and Kazu could not resist and the three of them were jumping and goofing around in any puddles they have spotted. On how Ohno became involved in all of this, he, himself, still doesn’t know.

Back to where Ohno was, he had managed to place the keys into the keyhole and opened the door. When he turned around to let Sho and his kids in, he spotted Kazu coming closer to Sho. Ohno, immediately, knew what he was up to. Those hands drawing close and a smirk, gradually, forming in the kid’s mouth — all points out to one thing. He loosened his hold on the door knob and attempted to stop him. Unfortunately, he was already too late. As he heard Sho yelp, it confirmed his suspicion. Kazu just smudged some mud right on Sho’s face.

“Ah! Kaz—“, Sho's scream was quickly interrupted as the other two imitated Kazu’s actions. Poor Sho, he was unable to defend himself. He was at a total mercy of the three kids as they continuously squished his cheeks with their dirty hands. All three were having fun, giggling and chuckling, seeing Sho’s helpless expressions. He, in turn, could only cry for help, “Satoshi!!!”

Ohno had every intention of rescuing him but witnessing Sho in that state was surprisingly enjoyable and fun to watch. He let his sons be while laughing with all his might. This earned him a scolding from Sho. It took hundreds of “Satoshi!” before Ohno started moving. As Ohno wiped the tears that had formed, he pulled his sons away and reminded them, “Okay, stop. Can’t you see Shochi’s about to cry.” The kids hesitantly backed out.

Free from the triplets, Sho glared at Ohno while mumbling, “I’m not crying…” He, then, stood up and brushed off some of the dirt that was stuck on his pants. Even without the aid of a mirror, he was aware that his face was now hideous.

“I need to wash this thing off.” and, Ohno chuckled in response.

Ohno opened the door, once again, and the triplets dashed inside. The father shouted out to his kids not to roam around too much and touch other things unnecessarily, hoping to prevent more dirt from spreading around the house.

With the kids gone from Ohno’s sight, the pair were left alone, standing outside of the apartment. Instead of proceeding inside, Ohno remained still and just gazed at Sho.

Confused, Sho asked with a hint of nervousness. “Wha—What?”

“Morning…”, and Ohno smiled.

Maybe, it was Ohno’s soft and soothing voice or that gentle expression of his that caused Sho’s heart to skip a beat. He was exactly like a young teenager witnessing his crush for the first time. There was a blush creeping up on his face as he slowly opened his mouth and replied back, “Morning…”

Ohno should have stopped there. Really… Ohno should have maintained his angelic image in Sho’s eyes. However, as the common saying goes, like father, like son. It happened all so fast and as Ohno’s hand appeared in Sho’s line of sight, he felt it touching his right cheek. With a strong force, he wiped some of the dirt on his hand right on Sho’s face.

Unpredictable — that was how Sho would describe Ohno. He rolled his eyes in response and mumbled, “Seriously…” 

Ohno giggled, happy that he had tricked Sho, successfully.

Despite what Ohno had done, Sho did not find the urge to get mad at him. It was the laugh that Ohno had made that prompted him to overlook what he had done. There was a smile on Sho’s face as he stared at the image of his now-laughing partner; sooner or later, he eventually joined in and laughed loudly with Ohno. It was a surprise that no one silenced them. 

Sho tried to speak in between the laughter insisting that they should go inside and washed up the mess they created. Agreeing, Ohno pushed the door open; but, before fully coming inside, he turned to Sho, once again, and with grin creeping up his face, he said, “Let’s go take a bath”

Sho stared at Ohno blankly. “Huh?”

“Us” and he pointed at himself and Sho, back and forth. “Let’s take a bath”

Sho’s mouth made a wide open “O” shape and blurted in a loud voice, “Eh???!!!”

This time around they were silenced by Haruka.

 

————————

 

Sho should have known. He really should have known — not to trust Ohno’s words. “So… this is what you meant about taking a bath together.”, he murmured in a sad tone.

He would be lying if he said that it did not excite him when Ohno made the first move. Sho, even, checked if he was wearing a good undies, underneath. Either he blames himself for thinking of dirty things or he blames Ohno for saying misleading words. Apparently, the “taking a bath together” could also be translated as “they bath the kids, together.”

The triplets were now out of their clothes and have positioned themselves inside the bath tub. They looked cramped but the three did not mind, at all. They were too busy teasing each other to be concerned over the small space they have.

Prior to this, both Ohno and Sho had a hard time getting the kids ready as they kept on running away from them. It took longer than expected; nevertheless, they’re just glad that they have secured the three before they even got the mess from the outside onto the clean spaces of the house.

“What did you say?”, Ohno asked as he formed a big foam on Masaki’s hair. In return, Masaki blew suds right in front of his father’s face. Ohno giggled as bubbles sticked to his nose. Kazu and Jun, on the other hand, were busy splashing water to each other. Some water were spilling onto the floor and Sho’s shirt was now partially wet due to the chaos done by those two.

“Nothing…”, Sho mumbled, greatly discouraged by the recent turn of events. He, then, faced the two naughty children in front of him and reprimanded them, “Stop! I still need to wash your hair.”

Kazu rolled his eyes and allowed Sho to put some shampoo onto his hair. He started scrubbing, removing the excess dirt present in Kazu’s hair. Sho glimpsed over to Ohno’s side and saw Jun’s hair covered with foam that has a noticeable shape of bunny ears.

“Wow!”, Sho made a remark. “How did you do that?”

Ohno smiled over Sho’s comment. He was even more pleased with what he had done. After finishing the foam art he made on Jun’s hair, he scooted close to Kazu’s side.

“Easy”, he said. And, he scrubbed his hands over to Kazu’s hair quickly. Gradually, suds accumulate and a big froth of bubbles started to form. Trying to think of a good shape to make, he asked his son, “Kazu, what do you want?”

“Hmmm…”, Kazu thought for a moment. “A boat!”

Ohno laughed. Even though, he’s skilled at this, a boat is simply impossible with the amount of suds formed. Thus, he decided to make a similar pattern as that of Jun and Masaki’s.

Sho wanted to join in and so, he volunteered to do Kazu’s. Kazu grumbled as Sho and Ohno made the switch. The little kid was suspicious of Sho’s capability in crafts and arts, knowing full well about what he did to the poor “Totoro”. Ohno guided him and in the end, Sho managed to do it, somehow.

Ohno leaned back a little to check what they had done and was happy with what he saw. It’s like three little rabbits swimming inside a big tub. Sho, at the same time, viewed a similar image and unconsciously blurted out, “Cute…”

Unfortunately, the adorable triplets did not last long. Once suds started to get into their eyes, they, hastily, submerged themselves into the water. And, the beautiful art that Ohno and Sho did was no longer there, disappeared and swept away by the water.

“Ah…”, Sho’s disappointment echoed through the walls of the bathroom. Ohno chuckled and he offered that he would do the same for him, as well. He teased Sho by bringing his hands, filled with bubbles, right above his hair. And, in response, Sho held Ohno’s arms tightly, preventing him from getting close. “Satoshi! Stop!”, he desperately called out.

Ohno continued to tease Sho. “Come on!” and Sho reacted accordingly, “Sato—No!!” while trying to stop Ohno’s attempts in reaching a part of his hair.

They were too busy with their own banter that they forgot that the kids were there and watching them. With lack of supervision, the naughtiest one of them all thought of something mischievous. Kazu drew an appropriate amount of water into his palm and splashed it onto the two adults.

Now wet all over, Ohno and Sho stopped their foolishness and turned their attention towards the triplets. The shower head, with the water still running, was picked up by Masaki and its nozzle was pointed right at them. Water came spouting out. It all happened in an instant that they barely escaped the effect of Masaki’s action. The pair, quickly, moved away from where they were positioned originally, shouting and scolding the kids to stop.

“You’ll get the water everywhere!”, Ohno yelled.

Ohno stood up with his shirt feeling heavy. Drops of water were dripping from his shirt. He approached Masaki in a very fast manner and snatched the shower head away from his grasp. And with a tired sigh, placed it back in its proper position. He reminded his kids not to do it again.

Sho, meanwhile, was frowning at the sight of his now, wet shirt. Not to mention, the feeling of his clothes sticking up to his skin. By reflex, he took off his shirt and laid it down on the floor. He thought of borrowing some clothes from Ohno and since he’ll be staying in Ohno’s apartment for almost a full day, there would be enough time to dry off his shirt.

Ohno was too caught up calming his triplets down that when he looked back at Sho, he was surprised by the appearance of him, naked at the top. He gulped, unconsciously. His eyes remained on Sho (body, to be exact) for a minute until they made an eye contact and he quickly, averted his gaze.

Sho did not miss the blush on Ohno’s ears. A passing thought came upon him. He smiled mischievously knowing that he would be able to get revenge from the teasing he received earlier. Sho made his way close to Ohno and whispered, “Want to take a bath together later.” causing Ohno to blush even more.

Well aware that his kids were near and might possibly heard that, he, instantly, hit Sho’s side with his elbow and scowled at him. Feeling dismayed by Ohno’s response, Sho returned back to what he had been doing earlier.

While removing the suds out of Kazu’s hair, he, all of a sudden, heard a faint reply coming from Ohno, “Yes... maybe...”

And this time, it was Sho’s turn to blush. One thing’s for sure, both of them were distracted all throughout the bathing session of the triplets.

 

—————————

 

In the end, their plan to “take a bath together” did not happen. Ohno became too busy drying up his kids and clothing them that he let Sho take the shower first. Sho sadly agreed and quickly washed himself up. In almost a blink of an eye, he was already done; surprising Ohno well enough.

Sho made himself comfortable on the sofa with the kids seated right in front of him on the floor, waiting ardently for their favorite cartoon show to be aired. He, then, noticed Ohno coming closer with his bath towel hanging right over his shoulders. Same as him, Ohno had just took a quick shower.

He had been visiting Ohno’s apartment regularly. It has been a common occurrence already that the kids were no longer questioning why he was there. Today, though, he had another agenda. As Ohno sat beside him, Sho turned his attention towards his bag and rummaged through the tons of things inside, looking for something. He handed a piece of paper over to Ohno. It was an invitation to the opening of Sho’s restaurant.

It was a given that Ohno would be invited. After all, he was the one who designed the place. However, this invitation was not for architect Ohno, it was for Ohno Satoshi, his partner. Sho had the intention of introducing Ohno to some of his friends, in particular, Okada, his brother and mother.

Ohno was hesitant. He scanned through the invitation and took his time before giving his response. He had already met Sho’s father and based on the events last time, he’s still hated by the old man. The tension may have eased up between the two (thanks to his kids) but the fact that he’s not accepted still remains.

Sho was nervous. Ohno haven’t spoken yet, his eyes still on the invitation that he had given. Several minutes passed and there was no response. Only the cheers of the triplets and the opening song of the TV show were the noises Sho could hear.

Then to Sho’s delight, Ohno finally opened his mouth. However, the words he spoke brought Sho back down to his misery.

“I… don’t know…”, Ohno said. “I’m not… good with crowds”

He was aware that it’s clearly an excuse not to see his family, especially his father. Even though Ohno had given his answer, Sho did not back down. He wanted to bring Ohno there and he’ll make that happen.

“Don’t worry! I’ll be with you the whole time and you can leave once you meet my mom, brother and Okada”, those words; however, were not convincing enough. And so, Sho moved closer, staring intently right into Ohno’s eyes. He knew Ohno well and those eyes of Sho — that was Ohno’s weakness. Those big brown eyes pleading. Those eyes trying to say “Please”. How could Ohno not resist that?!

Sighing, Ohno finally accepted his defeat. “Fine… But, I’ll be quick”

Sho pumped a cheerful fist in the air as he exclaimed, “Yes”

The loud noise he made attracted the attention of the three kids below them. Masaki peeked over and saw the paper his father was holding. He climbed up the sofa to get a better view of it and he read the word, “invitation” — indicating a party of some sort.

He snatched it away from his father’s grasp and showed it, face front, to Sho, “Shochi! Can we go, as well?”

Kids, of course, are not invited. Most especially, Ohno’s kids who have a tendency to wreck havoc in anything they set foot into. He grabbed the paper from Masaki’s hands and replied, “No… you’re too young for this.”

It earned him a big, “Eh?!” from the three kids

 

——————

 

“Call me when something happens, okay, anything”, Ohno continuously reminded Masaki as he try to get the tie of his suit in place. “Why can’t I get this thing right?!”, he continued to fumble his hands around, forming a questionable knot, in the end. He checked what he did over his dresser mirror and something seemed terribly off.

Truly, everything seemed off for him. He was too anxious and nervous, both on leaving his kids alone for the night and meeting up once again with Sho’s father. He’s now regretting saying yes to Sho’s offer. He should have used his kids as an excuse but… Sho would most likely tell him that Haruka could easily take care of them.

The bell of the apartment suddenly rang. Ohno looked at the time and realized that it’s the scheduled hour of Sho’s arrival. Earlier, they have decided that they would go to the party together. When he agreed during that time, he wasn’t mindful yet of the repercussions of that decision, however tonight, it’s different. He’s already imagining the look of Sho’s family and friends when they arrive at the same time. His nervousness doubled.

He called upon Kazu to open the door in his stead. Fortunately, his bratty son was being cooperative today, lessening his burden for the night. Ohno was too focused in repeating his tie that he did not realize that Sho was already standing right at the door of his bedroom.

“You look awful”, that was what Sho, first, commented. Ohno frowned. He was not expecting that statement from Sho. Nevertheless, he knew that Sho was correct. His anxiousness was highlighted well on his face. Sho drew close and offered to help him with his tie. Ohno sighed in exasperation and raised his head slightly to allow Sho to redo his tie.

After finishing, Sho chuckled. He smoothened Ohno’s suit and assured him, “No need to get nervous. I know you can charm them out.”

Ohno frowned even more. “Remember it’s the restaurant’s opening, not ‘meet my parent’s night.’ I’ll just say hello and be off.” He, then, grabbed hold of his phone and placed it in his pockets. “Besides the kids might feel lonely if I stayed there past midnight.”

Coming out of his room, he was surprised to see Haruka already inside and chatting enthusiastically with his triplets. Haruka, noticing that Ohno’s already done, greeted him first, “Have fun, tonight!”

He ignored her and proceeded over to Masaki, who was busy stacking some cards on the table, and he began spouting random reminders continuously, “Don’t forget to call me... Finish your dinner… Haruka’s there if you don’t know something… Don’t play too much… Sleep early…” The triplets just nodded mindlessly in every word that was spoken.

Ohno was unstoppable; only with Sho’s interruption that they were able to put him into a halt. “Okay, that’s it. We’re gonna be late.” And, he dragged Ohno away from his kids.

 

——————

 

It’s really no surprise that upon their arrival, several people were staring at them filled with curiosity. Lucky for Ohno, most of them only knew him as the architect. The ones who were aware of his true relationship with Sho were Sho’s father and maybe… his mom and brother (if he told them about him). Upon stepping foot inside, he did not miss the glare being given to him by Sho’s father. He even thought of glaring back. Good thing, he prevented himself from doing that. Not today. He doesn’t want any confrontation tonight.

They slipped off through the crowds and Ohno noticed a young boy that looks a lot like Sho from a distance. Sho stopped in his tracks and focused his gaze at the boy. There was a smile peeking out on Sho’s face. The boy, all of a sudden, did some hand movements with him pointing his thumb to the right and raising his brow. Sho, meanwhile, responded with a nod and a thumbs up. Whatever kind of communication that was — that telepathic conversation surely was all about Ohno. And as they continued with their walk, Sho murmured by his side, “That’s my brother...”

The restaurant was really packed, as expected. But the crowd was something Ohno have never seen before. As they passed by several groups that were socializing, he could identify in those groups some notable personalities, famous politicians and celebrities. He did expect something like this, knowing that Sakurai Sho came from a distinguished background. But, to witness it in person still awes him. What’s even amazing was Sho, himself. Being his eloquent self and greeting each person that they encountered, thanking them for coming to the opening night.

They eventually settled in a small vacant table in the far corner of the restaurant. Sho told Ohno that he had reserved that seat, earlier. It was a perfect location for someone like Ohno who’s not fond of mingling with a great number of people. As they were about to begin a small talk amongst themselves, they, suddenly, heard someone calling Sho’s name. Ohno turned to the source of that voice and saw a familiar face.

“Sho—“ And, his eyes darted to the person beside Sho, “Oh! The architect!”

Okada — that’s the name Ohno remembered. Sho’s so-called bestfriend and one of the many faces that he had seen in Sho’s phone gallery. He heard stories about him and how he loved to tease Sho from time-to-time. It’s his first time seeing this Okada guy, in person. He’s more energetic than what he had imagined.

Okada positioned himself closer to Ohno, examining Ohno as if he was being subjected to a test study. Suddenly, he beamed. There was excitement in his voice as he continued the conversation, “I heard many things about you from Sho. He talks nonstop! Satoshi this… Satoshi that... You know, he told me last week tha—“ Sho hushed him, covering his mouth with his hands. He desperately prevented Okada from spilling unnecessary words.

That small panic that Sho had shown prompted Okada to tease the poor guy even more. He tried to speak several times but he was continuously interrupted, skillfully, by his friend. He, then, decided that there’s another time to lay out Sho’s dirt in the open and he’ll surely do that sometime soon. He could invite Ohno, just the two of them.

“I’m glad to finally meet you”, he gushed while touching Ohno’s shoulders. That action alone made Ohno feel uncomfortable. “I want to talk more with you but…someone just arrived” and he glanced at the entrance of the restaurant.

Sho was confused over what Okada meant, “Eh?! Who??”

“Ken!”, he replied. “You invited him right?”

That got Sho even more surprised. “I didn’t think that he would actually come”

Okada nodded eagerly. He turned his gaze back to Ohno. “Well, I’m off to chat with that guy”. He, then took a step back away from the pair. But before he leave, he looked at Sho and invited him, “Are you coming with me?”

“I…”, and he glanced sideways at Ohno’s direction. It’s been a long time since he have heard from one of his childhood friends. The problem was he promised Ohno that he would stay by his side the whole night. It guilted him to leave Ohno all alone.

Seeing Sho in a state of predicament bothered Ohno. He’s no longer a child to be taken care of. He tapped Sho’s shoulder and assured him, “It’s fine! I’ll stay here for now”

“You sure…”

Ohno nodded.

Sho was overjoyed to hear Ohno’s answer. He immediately exclaimed, “I’ll be back. Fast!”, and shortly ran off towards the direction where Okada took off.

As Ohno watched Sho’s retreating form, he could not help but to laugh lightly — remembering well how Sho acted like a kid. He could not blame him because if it ever happened to him, he, for sure, would continue to insist that he’ll meet up with that childhood friend of his. What’s saddening; however, is finally realizing that he was all alone, in a room that’s full of intimidating people. If only his boss came, unfortunately, Takki insisted that since he would be coming, he’ll now be the representative of their company.

Not far from him, there’s a group of young people discussing about their financial obligations. At his back was a group of grown-up men, maybe a little older than him, complaining about stuff in politics. He let out a deep breath, knowing that he can’t socialize with either groups. He stood up from his seat and decided that to pass the time, he’ll just get some food to eat.

While at the buffet table, he noticed Sho’s father talking to an esteemed TV personality. “Wow” was the only word that Ohno could come up with to describe the reaction he had upon seeing that. Not far from Sho’s father was Sho’s mother. She was beautiful and has that soft and gentle look that Sho has. Ohno did say earlier that he planned to greet Sho’s mom; however, he was too shy to even approach her.

He finally understood that without Sho by his side, he’ll have a hard time communicating with the people present in this party. Ohno began to feel discouraged and started to have thoughts of leaving the party. The only good thing that have happened here was he was not approached by a certain terrifying old man. And he wished from the bottom of his heart that he will continue to do so.

Returning back to his seat with a plate full of meat and shrimps, he realized that the group of young adults that were there earlier were replaced by three adults that were around his age. As usual, he did not mind and proceeded with his meal. He stopped abruptly when he heard a familiar name in their conversation, “Aoi”

He turned his attention to what the group was talking about.

“I saw Aoi earlier.”

“Yeah, she’s with Sho just now.”

“Man… I wonder why they broke up”

Luckily, Ohno’s ears were sharp and he picked up that conversation well. He roamed his eyes around and spotted the scenario that those three were speaking about. They were right. That’s the girl he saw months ago — the one who kissed Sho on his cheek, the one Sho broken up with. It was dark when he first saw her; that’s why it was just until now that Ohno ultimately realized how pretty Aoi really was. She was glowing with his white ankle length dress, as she stood right at the center of the restaurant, laughing and casually touching Sho on his shoulder.

Ohno would be lying if he said that what she did just now did not irritate him. Sho and Aoi were laughing and staring at each other like two couples who were unbothered by the people around them. He released his frustrations on the meat inside his mouth, chewing it even harder while giving Aoi a piercing look.

“I heard Sho’s dating someone new… I wonder who”

Ohno’s ears perked up upon hearing that. It’s quite complicated that the “who” in their conversation was just beside them. Would they be surprised if he instantly told them that he was the one they’re talking about. He laughed just imagining their reaction.

His glare gradually changed into a sullen, melancholic stare. It just dawned on him that those two look good together when they were standing side-by-side. A pretty, successful woman and a handsome, rich bachelor — that would instantly make them the couple of century. Maybe, Sho’s father was right, after all. He might be the one hindering Sho’s growth.

He placed down the utensils he was using and stood up fast. He was angry at himself for having that kind of thoughts. This party — it was not a good decision to come, after all.

Thinking that no one will bother if he leave, even Sho, he decided to cool down his head outside. He left his meal, still barely untouched, and proceeded outside of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, Sho was busy catching up with his college friends that it took him awhile to realize the amount of time he spent with them. He peeked over to the table where he left Ohno and was surprised to see it empty. He looked at the buffet table and Ohno was not there as well. There was a soft panic creeping inside of him.

Aoi, who noticed Sho getting quiet, worriedly asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Satoshi… I don’t see Satoshi around”, his eyes continuously moving around at every possible location inside his restaurant.

“Satoshi?”, Aoi further questioned, upon hearing an unfamiliar name.

Sho ignored Aoi and turned to his group of friends, “I need to check something outside.” And, he dashed off instantly, with a speed faster than what his friends have ever seen from him.

Aoi was left out with more questions in her head. He nudged the closest person on her right, which is Okada and asked, “Is Satoshi… his, you know?” And, Okada smiled with an accompanying nod.

 

—————

 

That was lame — Ohno admits to it. He’s a grown-up who should have a mature mindset on things, especially when it comes to relationships. He walked out like a typical rebellious teen and by now, looks like a big loser that is sitting all alone on a bench right in front of Sho’s restaurant. Good thing, Sho installed that or else, he’ll just end up mindlessly walking through the streets.

He was pondering whether to message Sho that he’ll leave early or go back to the party after cooling his thoughts. The problem with the former option — there’s a big possibility of Sho blaming himself and getting guilty about it for the whole week or worst, month. He was thinking of a good excuse and maybe, say that Kazu needed him. For sure, Sho would believe that.

As he grabbed his phone out of his pocket, he heard the door of the restaurant opening. He turned his head towards it and saw Sho looking over at him. He caught him heaving a sigh, relieved that Ohno hasn’t left yet. Sho swiftly marched up and sat beside him.

“Why are you outside?”, Sho asked.

Of course, Ohno won’t mention the true reason. He has his pride, after all. The only reason that he could give out was, “I got bored…”

“Hmm…”, Sho responded, not quite believing what Ohno said.

Then, they fell into silence. The pair just sat outside, watching the passage of people as they walk by. Chatters from the crowd and the sound produced by the speakers from the inside filled the gaps of their nonexistent conversation. They stayed like that for few minutes before Ohno finally spoke up, “Won’t they be looking for you?”

Sho was quick to answer, “My father’s there to take care of the business side.” Surprisingly, Sho, the workaholic, did not feel any kind of responsibility today.

Sho held his gaze over Ohno. He knew something was wrong. Ohno was being uncharacteristically sullen. It was not his usual silence. “Tell me… what’s wrong?”

Well aware that there was no point in hiding it, Ohno gave Sho a sentimental look. Then, he began to speak, “I’m just thinking… Why did this guy chose me?”

Sho’s forehead went into a complete knot, trying to make sense of what Ohno was talking about. “Who? Me?”

Ohno nodded.

“I’m not pretty, I’m not rich, I don’t have any influence and such... I’m just a lame old man with three little kids. And compared to you, I’m just….”

And, he paused

“Nothing…”

Sho scratched his head. “Stop!”, he said out loud. “Who told you that?”

“No one…”

”Huh?!”, Sho exclaimed loudly, causing some of the passerby to glance at them. Ohno bowed as an apology for the sudden commotion. However, the person by his side was too caught up with his emotion to even say sorry. An intense gaze was directed right at Ohno.

“You! You of all people should know that I’m not perfect at all. I can’t cook, I can’t draw. Heck, I can’t even ride a roller coaster without you sitting by my side. I’m not good with cleaning. You’re called a “Super Dad” in the kindergarten. And you’re telling me… you’re nothing. I did not fulfill my promise that I would accompany you tonight. Look at me I abandoned you there! It should be the opposite! I should be the one being insecure here!”

Ohno was stunned by Sho’s sudden outburst. Two seconds before Ohno finally reacted. His shoulders started to shake and a giggle bursted out.  Then came a loud laugh. Tears gathered in the corner of his eyes as he continuously be amused by Sho’s response.

His breath came in quick gasps as he tried to speak in between those laughter, “That’s true… you can’t even draw Totoro” — imagining the questionable snowman that Sho drew once.

“See!”, Sho exclaimed proudly.

Ohno calmed down shortly, realizing how dumb his insecurities were. He’s just glad that he chose a partner ready to listen to him during his down state.

“You’re right. Sorry for thinking of such things.”, he said

A smirk appeared on Sho’s face. “That’s fine! You’re dating the Sakurai Sho, after all.”

Ohno snorted over Sho’s remark. He’ll let the man be, for now, as gratitude to what he had done earlier. And, thus in reply, he made a dead-pan comment, “yes… yes…”

Sho stared at him with a mirthless look. It was visible in Ohno’s face that he was not convinced by what he said, earlier. Nevertheless, he still accepted Ohno’s praise.

“But still…”, Ohno continued. “I got exhausted just by looking at all the people inside. Can I leave early?”

Sho sneaked a peek of the interior of the restaurant through the windowpane. It seemed that his guests were too busy talking with each other that they did not even notice that Sho was no longer there. He smiled and replied, “I’m done so let’s leave this place”

“Eh…”, Ohno was surprised by Sho’s response. “Aren’t you needed there?”

“Like I said before, my father’s there. He can manage that” and he stood up and stretched his arms up.

Ohno followed suit and left his seat. “If you say so…”, he mumbled.

“But!” Sho suddenly blurted out. “We are not going home...”, and there was a glint of excitement in Sho’s eyes

Ohno became curious.

In just a split-second, Sho took out a key card from his pocket and showed it to Ohno.

“Eh?! Wait… is that why you parked the car there?” Ohno, immediately, knew what that meant.

Sho nodded and pointed right at him. “You are not going home tonight and yes, haruka knows. Your kids know”

Ohno looked back at the time before he left the apartment. He was too nervous to even notice that the triplets were behaving strangely. He should have known when he saw Jun’s Funassyi stuffed toy packed in one of the bags.

“Is that why Kazu looked like I’m leaving for good, earlier?”

“Probably… you know how attached that kid is to you.”, and then he grabbed Ohno’s hand and dragged him off. “Let’s go”

 

——————

 

On their way to the hotel, small drops of water, suddenly, fall over and streamed on their cheeks. They looked up and saw a dark and looming sky above him. Several droplets of water started to fall and its pace increased. The drizzle turned eventually into a rain shower.

“Ah! I don’t have any umbrella!”, Sho exclaimed as he covered his head with his hands.

“Me too…”

Seeing as they don’t have any other option left. Sho took off his suit jacket and held it right above their heads. “Get under this” the water rushing over Ohno’s skin stopped. He shoot his head up and laughed.

“You know that won’t do with this rain.”, he teased. Drops of rain were still pouring over Ohno’s shoulders, making his suit even more wet. Nevertheless, he shuffled close until their faces were just inches apart.

“Better than none.”, Sho replied.

Ohno chuckled. “You’re right.”

Shortly, right after, Sho bursted out laughing. Ohno looked at him, confused. Sho waited for himself to calm down before speaking, “It looks like I’m kidnapping you.”

Ohno moved even more close and then, whispered, “I can’t wait for tonight” and his breath ghosted over Sho’s lips. Sho doesn’t step further away, but instead, pushed himself closer until their lips met. It’s a short, soft kiss under the rain.

“Me too…”

What happened in that hotel room... It will just be a secret between the two of them and will never be told to the triplets.

 

 

Chapter Text

After the long project that Sho did, he took some time off for a week and decided to use his longed vacation to be with Ohno and his kids. Coincidentally, the timing of his day off was simultaneous with that of the celebration of Tanabata Festival.

Making use of Sho’s availability, Ohno quickly requested for his help in preparing for the family’s yearly custom. In the previous years, it was Haruka who aided him in bringing some bamboos to the local shrine and getting it blessed. It should have been the same this year; however, he did not expect that someone new would be part of their lives — in the form of Sakurai Sho.

Sho had done it once when he was a kid, hanging Tanzaku (small pieces of colored paper where a wish was written) on a bamboo tree. That happened during one summer vacation when his family used to visit his grandparent’s house. He, together with his brother, was asked by his grandmother to place their wishes on a small piece of paper and hope that the gods would see it.

While doing what was told of him, he remembered his father preaching to them that success does not rely on luck alone; but rather, through sheer hard work. Despite that reminder, he still wished for something. Unfortunately, the gods were not able to fulfill it. It was his fault in the first place for wishing for something impossible. Years passed and Sho only thought of it as a yearly celebration that comes around during summer. This time, though, his perception about this particular event might change because he’ll be able to celebrate Tanabata with the people he’s close with.

And so, on one fine weekend, a day before the actual celebration of the Tanabata Festival, Ohno instructed him to get the bamboo from the shrine, a few blocks away from their apartment.

Meanwhile, Ohno’s task was to create the decorations and Tanzakus to be used. He also got help from the triplets, who were all excited to participate in the festival. They were looking forward to this event — mostly because they’re able to request something that they had always wanted. Fortunately, their wishes would always come in the form of material objects making it easier for Ohno to fulfill it.

When Sho arrived back at the apartment, he saw that Ohno and his kids were almost done cutting the colored papers and preparing the paper ornaments.

“You’re done already?”, he said as he lifted up the small bamboo tree and placed it in an available space, beside the television. Sho stepped back a few inches away, crossed his arms, and tilted his head.

“Is this place good enough?”, he asked.

Ohno moved his focus away from the paper mâché he’s doing and to the part of the living room, Sho was referring to. He was contented with what he saw and replied, “Yes, thanks”

Catching sight of Ohno’s satisfied look, Sho gave a thumbs up. He, then, proceeded to where Ohno and his kids were and sat beside them. The father and the triplets were busy arranging the finished cut-outs and origamis. Sho gazed upon the creations that they had done and noticed a peculiar blue paper cut-out. He picked it up and examined it carefully.

Sho curiously commented, “Is this a cat?”

“It’s a penguin!,” a high-pitched voice, suddenly, spoke. Sho’s eyes met Kazu. The kid’s eyebrows were knitted together and a pout was slowly forming in his mouth. Kazu stood up and stomped his way to Sho’s side. He snatched the paper from Sho’s grasp and traced his fingers over the side of the paper.

“Can’t you see?!,” Kazu said loudly and he pointed at the side part of the origami. “This is the wing of the penguin.”

No matter at what angle and what side Sho looked at it, for him, that doesn’t look like wings; moreover, the shape doesn’t resemble a penguin, at all. When he said “cat” earlier — that’s just him being nice.

He, immediately, covered his mouth trying to prevent a burst of laughter from coming out. His shoulders started to shake as he tried to contain the impending laughter. To think that he’s not the only one here who’s not good with art.

And as he lifted his head up to look at Kazu, once again, the kid’s face was totally red, blushing out of embarrassment. Sho realized that he must have pushed it too far with his reaction. And Ohno’s not helping when he further said, “That can be a cat or penguin… anyway you like it Kazu.”

Even Kazu’s own father doesn’t recognize what his own son did and so Kazu angrily shouted, “Papa!” He faced his back towards them and curled up, sulking by the side.

Sho slid closer to Ohno and whispered, “Should I apologize?”

Ohno simply shook his head. “He’ll get over it…”

Kazu’s other two brothers, on the other hand, were finishing up with their own paper foldings. Once done, Masaki stood up and showed it proudly to his father. What Masaki did was comparatively even better than Kazu.

Recognizing the shape, Ohno smiled. “It’s you, three” and Masaki nodded.

Sho peeked over Ohno’s shoulders and was pleased by what he saw. It’s a cut out of three little stick figures holding hands in different colors: green, yellow and purple.

“That’s nice…”, Sho praised and the little kid beamed over getting compliments from the pair.

Ohno gave it back and told his son, “Let’s place that one higher so that the gods would bless you, three, all year round.”

Jun creeped over to their side and showed his, as well.

“Papa!”, he, then, exclaimed. Ohno turned his attention towards Jun’s paper mâché. He laughed lightly noticing that the ‘papa’ said by Jun, earlier, refers to the one he did.

“It’s Papa, right! Me!”, Ohno gushed as he ruffled Jun’s hair. “We’ll put this beside Masaki’s, okay”

It was an adorable scene right in front of Sho’s eyes. He let out a contented sigh and decided to start cleaning up the mess that the four did. Then, Sho, all of a sudden, realized something. He skimmed over the table where pieces of colored papers were scattered. He scanned through it, as if he was trying to find something.

“Hmm…”, he mumbled as a wrinkle formed in his forehead.

“What’s wrong?”

“Really…”, Sho gave a deep breath. “I think you’re forgetting someone here.”

Ohno pretended to think for a moment. “Oh if you mean Satomi… she’s here, I just made a paper origami of her.”

“No! No— well, she too… but she’s not what I meant!”

The outburst caused Ohno to laugh. Pitying Sho, he, finally, pulled out the one that he’s been hiding all this time. There was a red paper origami that was hidden underneath a pile of the cardboard papers.

“Of course, you’ll have one.” and, he gave it to his partner. Sho was astounded by what he got; it was a beautiful origami chibi version of him.

“Wow! This looks a lot like me!”, Sho was delighted by the art he received that he can’t take his eyes off it.

Ohno chuckled. “That’s you, after all.”

He, then, stood up and invited Sho and his kids to decorate the small bamboo tree. Masaki and Jun dragged Kazu out of his sulky state and pulled the unenthusiastic kid to join them. And true enough, Ohno was right. Kazu returned back to his cheeky-self, real quick.

Gradually, the green bamboo tree was slowly filled up with colors of different shades and structure. Ohno and Sho reorganized the decorations that the triplets have placed. They were too excited that they carelessly positioned the colored papers in a disorganized fashion.

With the decorations all set, Ohno gathered the long thin sheets of paper that he had just prepared and distributed it to his kids and Sho.

“Write your wishes there”, he instructed them. “The Tanabata God will help you make your wishes come true.”

“Even me…”, Sho teased causing him to received a light slap in the head from Ohno.

It took only seconds for Kazu to finish his. He ran up towards the bamboo branches and stretched his arms up to tie the Tanzaku. Ohno always told his kids that the higher it is hanged on the tree, the higher is the chance that the Gods would see their wishes.

As usual, Ohno checked what Kazu wrote. Curious, Sho followed suit. They were surprised by what was written — “World Peace”

The pair glanced back at Kazu and saw a grin spreading in his face. He was showing an expression that he did good, for once. Aware that there was more to it than what meets the eye, Ohno returned back to the paper Kazu have written. And, he noticed that at the end of the strip, in very tiny letters was written “Toy car”

“Should have known…”, Ohno murmured.

Sho laughed after seeing that. “What I’m impressed about is that he knows the word ‘World Peace’”

Jun was also done with his and he went his way towards the bamboo tree, pushing himself right in between the adults. Sho and Ohno watched as little Jun try to tie his Tanzaku. From where they were standing, they could easily read what was written. In the red paper, one big word could be seen, “HAT”

“Too pure…”, Sho commented

Ohno continued, “Easy to buy”

Not long after, Masaki finished his Tanzaku. He tied his beside his brothers. Ohno crouched to get a better view on what Masaki had wished for. To his surprise, it was not the usual one.

Ohno read out the words written in a low voice, “To win in basketball”

“Basketball?”, Sho asked. “Isn’t he too young for that?”

“What he meant probably was the athletic festival…”

It was an annual thing in the triplet’s kindergarten to celebrate The athletic festival. Different classes compete with each other in various sports activities like obstacle races, short 10-meter run and basketball.  Masaki has been looking forward to it ever since it was announced earlier this month. He even asked his Dad to buy him a basketball hoop stand for him to practice on. That particular request made Ohno surprised because the kid rarely asks for something.

The two adults were in the midst of their mumbled talk when the two brothers stepped up and told off Masaki.

“Our section never won in that,” Nino was the first one to speak up.

“Right! It’s always those big guys from section C.”, Jun followed. “You can’t win against them.”

Instead of getting discouraged, Masaki was burning with enthusiasm. He wanted to prove to his brothers; more so, to his classmates that even with their tiny built, they could get that coveted first place.

Ohno witnessed the braveness that Masaki showed and he was truly proud of him. Satomi would surely be crying up in heaven by now. He ruffled his hair and wished him luck.

“I can’t watch the first game so I hope you do your best so I can watch the next one.”

And, Masaki nodded eagerly with his tiny hands forming a thumbs up.

Sho, similarly, gave some words of encouragement and promised that he’ll go together with Ohno, if Masaki’s team won the first game. He, then, went on to lecture the other two to just support their brother and not discourage the little kid.

“…really”, he ended his scolding with that and proceeded back to get his own Tanzaku. He placed it, on the other side. It was kind of awkward to tie it on the bamboo tree; while Ohno was positioned at his back, staring intently at what he wrote. Immediately, he covered it with his hands and reprimanded him, “Don’t look!”

Ohno tilted his head and crossed his arms, “You do know that I would see that once you leave this apartment.”

Sho could only say “Oh…” upon realizing that he’s not in his own apartment.

“Don’t laugh when you read that!”, he sweared.

Ohno quickly sneak a peek, once Sho removed his hands. And, upon reading it, he made a light laugh.

“Didn’t I just— oh… nevermind.” Sho’s already tired to deal with Ohno’s quirks, right now. Nonetheless, he made a quick come back. “Then, let me see yours”

Sho, hurriedly, snatched the paper Ohno was holding and read what was written.

“More time for fishing”

And, Sho gazed up at him with a disappointed look on his face.

“This… really…”, he chided. “Wish for something beneficial.”

Ohno just shrugged his shoulders and continued on to tie the Tanzaku on the tree. With Ohno putting his wish up, the celebration of the Tanabata festival was now on its way.

 

————————

 

That’s the thing about the Tanabata festival and wishing to the Gods; it might come true… It might not… It’s all about believing. And, in the case of Masaki, the Gods would sooner or later favor him.

The Sports Day in their kindergarten school occurs in a span of three days. When their teacher Toma announced who’ll the basketball team of the class would be competing with during the first day, the class got dismayed. It was the top bet — Section C. As Masaki glanced back at his two brothers, they were staring at him with an “I told you so” look.

That alone did not pull his spirits down. And, on the first day of the athletic festival, the Gods rewarded his passion.

“We won!,” he shouted excitedly while jumping onto Ohno, who was waiting for them by the gate. Beside Ohno was Sho who gave him a high five after.

“Yay!”, Sho exclaimed as tiny hands hit his big palms. “I wish I saw you play.”

Nino walked past them as he proceeded to cling onto his favorite spot, Ohno’s pants. He tugged it down lightly, just to get his father’s attention.

“They won not because they’re good.,” the kid pointed out. “It’s because most of the best players in section C got sick. Right, Jun?”

Jun nodded. “But still… Masaki’s luck is good. We might win this Kazu!”, he contested.

Ohno gazed over at Masaki wondering what the kid was feeling, knowing that he won in — how should he say it — an odd way. Relief came over him when he saw his son still being him, a little ball of sunshine.

“We still won!”, he proclaimed to Kazu earning him a big pout in reply.

Ohno’s pretty sure that Kazu’s happy about Masaki’s win deep inside and he’s just too shy to say congratulations to his big brother.

“So how was your obstacle race, Kazu and Jun?”, Ohno, then, moved the focus to the two kids.

The two remained silent and averted their gazes away from their father. That itself is an indication that they have lost.

Sho snickered on the side after seeing the dismayed faces of the two kids. It caused him to get a light kick on the leg from Jun and Kazu.

“Ouch!”, Sho yelped in pain.

“I was joking!”, he said as he held on to the part where he was hit.

And as they walked back home, Masaki proudly told them that they would have another match tomorrow and he’ll win it again this time.

“Both your father and I could only go on the third day so go and do your best to win it.”, Sho gave encouragement to the kid.

Masaki smiled with delight after hearing that.

 

————————

 

Luck? Skills? Or simply Fate? During the second day, the best player of Section B got a food poisoning and their remaining players were short in skills and Masaki’s team swept the victory against them easily.

After watching the game, Jun and Nino could only look at each other, wondering if it was the effect of the Tanzaku. Even Ohno and Sho were surprised when they heard about the main reason why Masaki’s team won. The pair managed to even think that it was the work of the Tanabata Gods.

“Luck is a skill, as well.,” Masaki declared to all of them.

“That’s the first time I heard those words from you.,” Kazu mocked.

Ohno managed to get in between the two bickering brothers by bringing a prepared food down on their dinner table. It caught the attention of the hungry kids.

As he took a sit beside Sho, he told Masaki, “Shochi and I would be watching tomorrow. Do your best!”

That got Masaki even more fired up. “Yay! Papa and Shochi would be watching me!”, he excitedly said in a loud voice.

 

————————

 

That night when all should be asleep, Sho got up from his and Ohno’s shared bed and proceeded to the bathroom to relieve himself. Walking across the short, dark hallway, he, suddenly heard whispers. He flinched.

Little by little with his feet in tip-toe, he approached the opening connecting the bedrooms and the living room. He gulped as the whispers get louder and louder. With slightly trembling hands, he touched the walls and took a peek. He was continually reminding himself that there was no ghost, no supernatural beings.

And as he slowly sneak his head out, he saw little figures. He almost yelped in surprise upon seeing that — good thing, he covered his mouth. Narrowing his eyes, he realized that it was Kazu and Jun.

He moved himself near but not that close as for the two kids to notice. He wanted to hear their conversation.

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking right Jun?”, Kazu said in an almost whisper.

Sho could see Jun nodding and replying, “The higher, the better, right?”

It seemed that they were attempting something. As he took a closer look, he realized that they were reaching towards Masaki’s Tanzaku. Both were in tip-toe and arms all stretched up. Just yesterday Ohno placed it at higher place, believing that it might have been the work of the Gods, and the way it was positioned barely reached the short arms of the kids.

“Should we get a chair?”, Jun suggested.

“It’s too heavy and we might wake Papa up.”, Kazu responded as he continued to grab Masaki’s Tanzaku.

His fingers were almost touching the end of the green cardboard paper. “Almost there… Almost there…”, Kazu muttered. And, after minutes of repeatedly trying to get Masaki’s Tanzaku, Kazu managed to grab a tiny part of the end of the paper.

Amidst the darkness in the room, Sho managed to see how Kazu glowed when he was able to get Masaki’s Tanzaku. He heard the kid say a soft “yay”

“Jun! I got i—

But, before he knew it, he lose his balance and fell down on the floor.

“Ouch!”, Sho heard. He almost stood up and went out of his hiding to help the kid; however, his feet went into a complete stop when he saw the thing on Kazu’s hands. A horrified expression appeared on him which was exactly the same expression as that of the two kids.

“Ah! Kazu! That!”, Jun panicked.

Kazu only stared at what he was holding with eyes in wide circle. He glanced back at Jun with mouth gaped open. Slowly, nervously, he spoke, “Wha—What should I do?”

And, he looked down at the piece of paper in his hands.

 

“I destroyed Masaki’s Tanzaku…”

 

Kazu was in a state of panic. Unable to get up from his position, he just sat there looking at the ripped cardboard paper.

Luckily, Jun thought of an idea to remedy their situation.

“Let’s do Masaki’s Tanzaku again!”, he urged and quickly went to get some materials from the cabinet near the sofa. He brought out a set of colored papers and some markers.

He dragged Kazu up and the two kids positioned themselves near the window, to get some lights to aid them in getting some progress for the plan they were about to do. It took them awhile but they managed to produce a similar replica of the Tanzaku. They tied it up; but this time, in a lower position because that’s what their short arms could reach.

After seeing the finished product, the two sighed in relief.

“I hope that still works…”, Kazu wished.

Upon saying that, they, then, decided to return back to their room. Sho, who was witnessing all of these, hurriedly and stealthily, went back to Ohno’s bedroom. As he locked the door, he worriedly whispered, “Would that really work?”

“What would work?”

He jumped up in surprise after hearing Ohno’s voice. Turning around, he saw him with half-lidded eyes, trying his best to get up from his sleeping position.

“Did something happen?”, Ohno asked in a soft voice while rubbing his eyes and yawning, right after.

“No—nothing…”, Sho nervously responded while darting his eyes away. He was trying to hide the truth. Stepping away from the bedroom door, he swiftly went back to Ohno’s side and patted his unruly hair. “Let’s go back to sleep…”

As usual, Ohno did not bother knowing what got Sho riled up. He’ll surely learn about it sooner or later. There’s no need to press Sho further.

Giving in to the comfort brought by Sho’s hands, he wrapped his arms around Sho, embracing him. And, he pulled them down together onto the bed, laying down face-to-face.

He smiled and said, “Alright… Good night”

 

—————————

 

It was a stressful night, if Sho were to describe it. Watching the kids get in some sort of trouble and keeping his mouth shut about it, that was harder than he had expected. Even worse was during the morning. As they were about to leave the apartment and go on their way to the kindergarten for the final day of the athletic festival, Jun and Kazu won’t stop fidgeting and their face just reflected the worry that they’ve been carrying since last night.

As expected, Ohno noticed the unusual behavior of the two and questioned if there was something bothering them. Those two, surprisingly, were quite adept in creating some lies and stories allowing them to fool their father in thinking that nothing happened.

In Sho’s perspective, though, he believed that Ohno was aware that something was up. Because, after questioning his kids, he made a side-glance over to Sho’s side. Sho could only do a forced smile, in response.

Once they arrived, the three mothers, who Sho talked to before, were hanging out by the gate, probably sharing some recent gossips and family recipes for each of them to try on.  They have almost passed through them when they noticed Sho and Ohno. The three called out.

“Ah! Isn’t that Sho?”, one remarked.

“Oh! And also Ohchan!,” another one followed. “Heyy!”

The pair heard them and bowed down to acknowledge their greetings. When they glanced up, those three were looking at them with knowing eyes. Both blushed, embarrassed about what those looks meant. Since the match would start in an hour, they did not stop by for a chat and continued on to proceed to the gymnasium where the basketball match would be held.

Before Masaki separated himself from his family, he promised both to his father and Shochi that he’ll do his best.

“Good luck!,” the pair shouted as they watched him run towards the bench where his teammates and Toma, the coach, were situated in. From afar, Ohno could see Toma waving at him and he waved back, in return.

Meanwhile, the other two kids, who were sitting beside their father, were silently staring at their older brother, wishing fervently that their made up Tanzaku would still be effective. They even made a promise that they would strive to be good children if the Gods fulfill their brother’s wish.

Both were so nervous on the outcome of the game that they did not notice someone calling them from behind.

 

 “Kazu! Jun!”

 

“Kazu! Jun!” — the voice snapped them out of their deep thinking. Kazu turned around and saw his classmate Yuriko, staring at him with her big eyes.

 

“Masaki’s playing, right? Let me watch with you guys!”

Kazu, then, noticed his father looking at the girl and back at him with curiosity. Behind his father was Sho with the same expression as Ohno’s.

“Ah! Yuriko-chan, here’s my Papa!,” he introduced. “And… that normal-looking man is… hmmm…”

Kazu, suddenly, had a hard time pinpointing how to address Shochi. He was sure that it’s not “Papa” yet.

“He’s—

“Shochi! His name is Shochi!”, Jun interrupted.

“Ah…”, Yuriko simply accepted Jun’s response. She greeted the two adults properly and squished herself, in between the two brothers. Kazu and Jun were surprised for a little bit.

Ohno, who witnessed all of that, could only chuckle. He whispered over to Sho’s side, “Maybe soon, they should call you Papa, as well.”

“Wha—“

Sho was red all over.

“Too soon…” and he faced the side opposite to Ohno’s, trying to hide the impending smile that was ready to come out.

Right after teasing Sho, Ohno, then, decided to have fun with his bratty kid. “Hey Kazu, is she your girlfriend?”, he said in a whisper.

This caused the child to frown.

“No…” Kazu grumbled with a hint of blush appearing on his cheeks.

Ohno laughed as he gazed at his son’s reaction with complete adoration.

 

——————————

 

The referee whistled, signaling the start of the basketball match. Unlike the other two matches, nothing unusual happened, no players got sick, no players got food poisoning — they fought, normally. And, even though, Masaki and his team tried their hardest, he wasn’t able to win this round. The players from Section D were really good and Masaki’s team were not on par yet with their skills.

Sho and Ohno clapped their hardest as Masaki went his way close to them after the game. His father hugged him while giving him praises, “You did great!”

Sho gave him a high-five and told him, “You’re like an MVP out there!” He, then, imitated the shooting actions done by Masaki during the middle of the game.

Sho and Ohno commended Masaki’s talent for basketball. Sho even commented that he might become a professional athlete, someday. Ohno backed it up by saying he would support him all the way. The two adults were so hyped up that they did not notice the increasing volume of sobs coming from their right. They glanced over to check what was happening and it surprised them to see Jun and Kazu crying. Even Yuriko, who was in between them, was confused over the sudden rush of tears of Kazu and Jun.

“So—Sorry Masa—“, Jun’s voice quivered as tears fall down from his eyes.

“I— I—,” even Kazu was too far gone with his crying to let out coherent words.

Masaki stood there, looking at his two brothers, with a troubled expression. This was his first time to see those two cry with all their might.

“Ah… ah… why are you two crying?”, he asked with a hint of panic in his tone.

Ohno, too, was puzzled by the reaction of the two. He knew that it was not just simply because of Masaki losing in the game. He connected it to the earlier behavior that the two showed.

As minutes passed, the crying sounds of his sons were slowly attracting the attention of others. Not wanting to cause commotion, he went close to the two and tried to calm them down, despite not knowing the underlying reason for their emotional outburst.

Sho was the only one who was aware on why those two were crying. Together with Masaki, they approached the two brothers and he slowly explained while comforting Jun and Kazu, “You see, it’s never your fault that Masaki lost. It’s not the broken Tanzaku. It’s just like that. Don’t blame yourselves...”

“Broken Tanzaku…”, Masaki mumbled. He thought back during the morning before they departed. His Tanzaku did seem kind of odd but he was too excited on today’s game that he did not pay attention to it much.

Masaki let out a sigh and he walked towards them, with his chest puffed out. He, then, slapped, lightly, the foreheads of his two brothers.

Both Sho and Ohno could only gasp at Masaki’s reaction.

“So what if it is like that! It just means that I’m not lucky all the time and I should practice more and be better! Don’t cry! You’re worrying Papa and Shochi!”, he lectured them.

The two kids sniffled as they take in the words said by their older brother. Masaki can sometimes be described as an air-head. But, whenever it comes to important matters and situations such as this one, his older brother trait would always show up. Despite the numerous bickerings the three have all the time, they truly cared for each other.

Kazu wiped his runny nose with his sleeves and glanced over Aiba’s way. Jun, on other hand, bit his lips hard, resisting another round of tears to occur. They both nodded in unison, accepting Masaki’s response.

“If you’re really sorry then let me be the one to play the robot that Papa bought tonight.” And, Masaki made a big smile.

Kazu, who was usually the one to complain first, immediately agreed. Following his brother, Jun nodded, once again.

Ohno and Sho, who witnessed all of that, could only look on with satisfaction in their eyes.

 

————————

 

It’s already past 3 am and the triplets were already deep in their slumber. The only ones awake were the adults. They were on their bed talking in hushed whispers. Ohno was in a reclined position, his back comfortably resting against Sho’s chest.

“So… that’s what happened...,” Ohno responded after confirming with Sho the details on what transcribed last night.

Sho held Ohno tighter, pulling him closer to his chest. He placed his chin over Ohno’s shoulders and spoke, “I’m glad it got resolved.”

“They have grown up… Satomi might be crying right now...”

Sho stifled a laugh as Ohno chuckled quietly.

“Yes… yes… you did a good job.,” Sho teased.

Ohno shifted his head and nuzzled his nose over the crook of Sho’s neck. It was kind of ticklish that it made Sho squirm and laugh a bit.

They remained in that position for a moment, in total silence, when suddenly Ohno spoke, “I learned something you might like…”

Sho hummed.

All of Sho’s thoughts melted as Ohno stroke his hair and sang to him a soft lullaby. It was utterly sweet and soothing. It caught Sho by surprise that instead of his eyes relaxing and shutting, it opened up widely and he quickly glanced down. Ohno stopped for a moment and smiled. “It’s written in your Tanzaku, right. You want someone to give you a lullaby.”

 

And, Ohno made a small laugh. “You should have asked me directly.”

 

It has always been Sho’s wish ever since he saw his mother humming a sweet lullaby to his father. In their eyes reflected the magic that occurred due to a simple song. He wanted to experience that with his special someone, as well.

To think that after a decade or so, it was fulfilled. Sho tightened his hold on Ohno and asked him to continue.

He have already heard Ohno sing many times already. Every time he cooks, every time they watched a musical together and even during their night drive back to the apartment after picking him up from the office. But this one, the lullaby he dedicated to him, that one was Sho’s favorite. And, he thanked the heavens for that. It was worth the wait.

 

Feeling guilty after receiving something and not having to give in return, Sho asked, “Why won’t you wish for something more, other than the fishing stuff?”

 

Ohno chuckled. “What else can I wish for… everything I always wanted, I already have…” and he rested his head comfortably over Sho’s chest. A smile appeared on his face as he slowly drifted off to sleep. He remembered the nights when he was all alone in his bed, wondering if that would last for a lifetime. The wish that he had always held in his heart has already been granted and he was happy and satisfied with it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Toma-sensei was getting himself ready to dismiss the class when he realized that he forgot to give today’s homework. Instructing the kids to go back to their seats, he wrote in the blackboard the word, “Family”

“You know what that word means?”

The class said “Yes” in unison. There was also an eager nod coming from the triplets.

“That’s your homework. Draw what your family looks like to you. Then, tomorrow, you’ll present it in class.”

Typical students — just by blurting out the word “homework”, endless whining ensued. Though, some got excited because it involves the use of coloring pencils and paints.

Amidst the complaints brought forth by the kindergarten kids, one raised his hand up, “Sensei!”

Toma shifted his attention to the said student and his expression ultimately became dead pan.

“Yes.. Kazu…”, he said in exasperation. He was already expecting a silly and unimportant question to come from the kid.

“Masaki, Jun and I are brothers. Can only one of us present in class tomorrow?”

“No!”, Toma, immediately, answered. Turns out, his hunch was right and he could clearly see how Kazu’s trying to escape from his assignment. “All of three of you would report your drawings!”

“Fine…”, the kid mumbled with an accompanying eye roll.

Toma happened to notice that and surely, tonight, Toma would rattle to Ohno about Kazu’s behavior in class. He believed that the father might have been going easy with that second child of his.

And, with that, Toma concluded the class and directed the kids to help in cleaning up the classroom. All of them obediently followed their teacher and lifted up their chairs, returning it back to its original position. Some made their way to the blackboard and erased all the doodles and notes that were not needed anymore.

After arranging the kindergarten bookshelf, Kazu went to his table and started fixing his things. He was already packing up his notebooks and placing it inside his bag when he saw Masaki run off.

This prompted him to call him out, “Masaki!”

However, he was unheard as the boy have already dashed off outside with his fast tiny legs. Kazu looked at the window by his side to check what got his brother excited and upon seeing some kids playing dodge ball, he, instantly, understood what made Masaki exhilarated.

A sigh escaped Kazu’s lips. He lifted up his backpack and decided to follow Masaki, with the intention of watching him and preventing him to get caught up with playing dodge ball too much — and it happens a lot of times, causing them to get scolded by their father.

Kazu turned to his other brother, who by now was picking up some crumpled papers and throwing it in the trash bin. “Jun!”, he said loudly getting the attention of not only his brother but some of his classmates. “Masaki and I are going outside!”

“Ah! Wait for me!”, Jun replied, hastily

“I’ll wait for you in the hallway.” and Kazu proceeded out of their classroom.

Wanting to join in with the fun, Jun quickly placed his notebooks and pens inside his backpack, not minding at all how his things would end up getting unorganized. He was grumbling continuously on how Masaki just left and played ball without him. “…he should have called me…”, Jun rambled on.

And as he finished zipping his backpack, the pretty girl on his side, with the name of Mao, suddenly asked him out of pure curiosity, “Hey Jun! Who would you put in that family drawing of yours?”

Jun looked at Mao and then, pondered for a bit. He hasn’t actually thought about that yet. He started to mention the names of who he’s going to draw while simultaneously counting with his fingers, “There’s Papa… Masaki… Kazu… and…”

He paused. Jun looked at his fingers — four. There was hesitation to include Sho in the list. He, for one, was still confused on where to place Sho in his relations. Is it right to place him as part of the family, already?

“My Papa says you’ve got a new Papa”, Mao continued, not waiting for Jun’s reply.

Yamada, who was busy sweeping the floor next to them, slipped in in their conversation. “Eh… what happened to your previous Papa?”

Mao frowned, not wanting other persons to take part in their talk. “No! Their previous Papa is fine! They’ve got another Papa!”

“Eh?! Another Papa? What does that mean? Two Papas?”

Jun was about to butt in when, suddenly, Yamada commented, “Weird…”

Some of his classmates looked over and heard the talk. It seemed that they too have agreed with what Yamada said.

“What are you talking about? It’s not weird!”, Mao defended earnestly. “Tell him Jun!”

Realizing that all eyes were on him, Jun gazed down on his feet, his fingers fumbling on the straps of the backpack; he doesn’t know what to say back. He was hoping that Toma-sensei would comeback and hopefully, put a stop into this. But, their teacher went out to get a spare dustpan and it might take him awhile to go back to the classroom.

“It’s weird cause it should be Mama and Papa! Boy and Girl! Have you seen anyone here with two Papas? only those three!”

Yamada looked for support, “Even Ryo, here, thinks so...”

Afraid, Ryo nodded meekly. This made Jun sad; it was hard to see one of his close friends acknowledging the opinion of Yamada.

Before Mao could fight back, Jun walked off carrying with him his things. What would he tell his classmate when everything that Yamada spouted out was true.

“Jun…”, Mao could only watch Jun’s back as he departed off from their classroom. She felt guilty for asking that question.

Still, wanting to get her revenge against Yamada, she pushed him down causing that classmate of theirs to stumble down to the ground. “That’s for Jun!” and she strutted off with a smug smile on her face.

 

———————

 

“What took you so long?!”, Kazu complained with his arms crossed over his chest. He was about to ramble on and on over how long he waited when he realized that Jun came out of the classroom looking down. The last time he saw him, which was around 10 minutes ago, Jun was all happy and bubbly.

“What happened?”

What he got was a shake of the head only. Jun can be secretive, at times, and it’s not helping at all. Kazu wanted to push his brother to tell him more about it; however, with the way Jun’s face looks, he might not be able to get the answer right away.

The only thing he could do was to cheer him up. He patted him on his back and teased, “If it’s Mao, you’ll have luck with her tomorrow.”

And, to Kazu’s relief that got Jun laughing. Mission accomplished… for now…

As they made their way out to join Masaki in playing dodge ball with the other kids, they heard Haru, the kindergarten teacher, calling out to them, “Kazu! Jun! — where’s your other brother?”

“Playground…”

“Oh… your Papa’s here, waiting for you outside.”

“Yay!”, a sparkle appeared on Kazu’s eyes. Similarly, his brother showed enthusiasm. Ignoring the other reminders from their teacher, they dashed off, in a flash, gripping tightly on their backpack straps to prevent it from falling off.

Disappointment loomed on their faces when they saw who that “Papa” their teacher was talking about. It was Shochi.

“Hey! That hurts! Can’t I get a smile, at least?”

And, despite Sho’s reprimand, those two still looked at him the same way.

Sho crouched eye-level to the kids and ruffled each of their hair. “Your Papa’s stuck in his work right now, so I’m going to be the one taking you home.”

Noticing that they’re missing one brother, he opted to ask his whereabouts, “Where’s Masa—

“Shochi!”, a loud voice came banging in their ears. They turned towards the source and their eyes caught sight of a little kid running with all his might. When he was almost near, he jumped and embraced Sho.

Sho laughed. “Yup! This is the reaction I’m waiting for!”, and he held the kid tighter.

Then, Sho shifted his gaze to Kazu and proudly said, “I’ve downloaded your favorite anime songs so we’ll play it in the car later.”

Kazu’s quite easy to please and gave a big thumbs up as an approval to the adult causing Sho to chuckle and mimic Kazu’s gesture, in return.

Jun, who was just standing beside Kazu and barely giving any reactions, glanced on his side and saw his classmate who was mean to him earlier. Yamada was looking intently at him and when Jun gazed up, so was Yamada’s mother.

“Weird…” — that word popped out of his mind. It was seconds, after, when he realized that not only his classmate and his mother were staring but other families, as well. This got him to step back lightly, embarrassed by the stares that they’re receiving.

Seeing that Jun was acting weird, Sho became worried. “What’s wrong, Jun?”

Jun simply shook his head and said, “Let’s just get out of here…”

 

—————————

 

Tsuyoku nareru riyuu wo shitta…”, in a high pitched voice, both Masaki and Kazu sang along to the tune of Gurenge, the opening song of their current favourite anime.

Surprisingly, Sho did not mind the loud noise that the kids were making — though, he still thinks that it would be better to tone down their volume, just a little bit (to spare him from too much distraction)

It was Ohno who told him the title of the anime that the triplets was recently hooked on. He was considering when to use that information to increase his likability. Who would have thought that playing one original soundtrack from that series would prove effective, especially, on Kazu?

What baffled him the most is Jun… From his rear view mirror, he noticed that the kid was oddly quiet and less energetic. This should not be the case; especially, when Jun’s always part of the noisy group together with Aiba. Even insisting always that Sho would stop over at the ice cream stand near their place. Jun has been acting weird ever since Sho picked them up from the kindergarten.

“Do you not like the song, Jun?”, he asked, just to create a conversation, with tiny hopes of knowing what’s the bothering the kid.

“I like it…”, Jun replied in a melancholic tone.

“You sure, there’s nothing wrong?”

And, Jun just shook his head.

Aiba, then, joined in, “It might be the pudding earlier. It tasted bad.”

“Why the hell is it about the pudding?!”, Kazu shouted out.

“Language…”, and Sho raised a brow as he made an eye contact with Kazu over his rear view mirror.

“The pudding’s not delicious at all. I even saw you throwing it away.”

“Ah! Shh…”, Kazu tried to silence his brother; too late though cause Sho had already heard it loud and clear.

“Haven’t your Papa told you not to throw away food?!”, Sho scolded the little kid and for the first time, Kazu had nothing to say against it. He was utterly guilty about what he did. All he could do was to slap Masaki’s shoulder for spilling the beans.

Due to that, the topic had turned 180 degrees from Jun’s worries to sweets, in particular pudding. Sho had himself be distracted by the two kids. And as he pulled over to park the car in an empty lot near the apartment, the conversational topic still remained about sweets.

He would be reminded later about Jun’s predicament once they arrived back and settled at the apartment. Once their shoes were placed inside the rack, the kids quickly ran towards their bedroom for the reason that they would be able to continue playing their unfinished saved state of Dragon Quest. However, Sho was quicker and he managed to block the trio from entering their bedroom with his feet.

A grin came across his face as he gazed down at the now, frustrated kids. “Finish your homework, first, then play.”

The trio were dejected. They hesitantly nodded and obediently followed Sho’s instruction. The three positioned themselves in the living room and got their assigned homeworks started.

Since it’s a drawing assignment, Masaki pulled out their art materials from the cabinet and placed it down on the center table. Each brought out their drawing pads and pencil and started sketching.

Meanwhile, Sho went to the kitchen with hopes of finding snacks for the kids and him —— mostly, for him; because the talk of pudding and cakes made him hungry. Luckily, he found a half-eaten strawberry cake inside. He texted Ohno, in haste, if they could eat it. Good thing, the other was active and replied immediately.

“Sure”, Ohno texted back with a heart emoji that led to Sho smiling like an idiot.

He portioned the cakes, appropriately, and placed each slices on the plates he prepared — with him having the largest piece. Well, he’s an adult so he should have the largest, right?

When he went back to the triplets, the two, Kazu and Masaki, were already finishing up with their assignments. Sho peeked on Kazu’s paper and chuckled.

“What’s that a dog?”, he teased.

“Huh! Of course not!”, Kazu countered. “Do I need to explain it again to you?”

Sho laughed. “No need…”, and right after, took a big bite of the cake. He was just getting back on Kazu for all the teasings that he did to him always.

“By the way, what are you dra—

“Yay! Cake!”

Sho was interrupted by Aiba, who, all of a sudden, shouted and grabbed the plate in front of him. He ate it so rapidly that he was able to finish the cake slice in a minutes time. Sho was amused by what he saw and he made another laugh — perhaps, the bigger portion was more suited to be given to Aiba and not him.

That was then that Sho realized that Jun hasn’t uttered a word ever since they came here, except from the one earlier where he whined together with his brothers about him stopping their supposed video game time.

Sho shifted close and asked him, “Can I see what you’re doing?”

He was about to peek when all of a sudden, Jun yelled while glaring, “No!”

He, then, curled atop of his paper, covering it away from Sho’s sight. This got Sho and both of his brothers stunned. Sho gazed at Masaki and Kazu, wondering if they knew what’s up with their brother. He only received a shrugged from them.

With that kind of reaction, it would worry Sho a lot. He was quite aware that Jun was fond of him ever since he met him, even before he dated his father. Sho tried his best to recall if he did something wrong to the little kid these past few days but nothing comes out of his mind.

Realizing the he might have caused a commotion, Jun quickly retracted his statement and apologized, “Ah… I’m not done yet… so… you still can’t see it...”

Sho simply nodded. With a sad smile, he created a distance between him and Jun.

Wow, so only one kid left who likes me, Sho thought.

Jun felt guilty. It was wrong of him to shout at Shochi that way; after he went through all the trouble of taking them home and giving them snacks to eat. Gazing down on his assignment, he made a sigh. One… two… three… four… only four people… Will he include Shochi or not?

He liked the guy ever since he first met him in the café; Sho even treated them to cakes, at that time. Even he noticed that his father was quite enthusiastic in seeing Sho, again. And whenever he sees them together, he could not help but to smile and feel glad about it. It just disappointed him that the opinion of others reversed his perception of Sho. He tried not to think too much about what other people said; however, those judging looks and bad comments made him want to stay away.

 

—————————

 

Hours after that, with their homeworks finished and snacks fully eaten, the kids proceeded to their original plan — to play Dragon Quest. When Sho checked the trio, he saw Masaki and Kazu arguing on what to do next in their game. He glanced around and noticed that Jun wasn’t around.

“Where’s Jun?”

“Bathroom…”, Kazu replied without looking at Sho, eyes fully concentrated on the screen.

“Don’t get too close to the screen”, he reminded Kazu before leaving them to enjoy the game fully.

Following what Kazu said, he made his way to the bathroom. To his surprise, the lights were off. He decided to look for Jun in the kitchen and the living room —— no luck, he can’t find him. As he surveyed around the apartment, he caught sight of opened lights in one room. It was that particular area where Satomi’s picture and things were placed.

Sho took a quick look inside and finally, found what he’s looking for. Jun was sitting, all alone and staring at his mother’s picture intently. No words were uttered. The kid wasn’t even doing anything in particular — he’s just looking. Confused, Sho remained standing outside of the room, waiting for Jun to do something.

It took awhile and eventually, Jun started to speak — though the words he said struck a chord on Sho.

“Mama, I wish you’re alive…”

 

———————

 

It was a long day for Ohno and the only thing that he wanted to do was to have a long rest and maybe, hopefully, some cuddle time with Sho. He entered the apartment and was greeted by the loud voices that surely came from the trio. He knew, immediately, that they were in their room and finishing up the game that they have started yesterday. Ohno’s now planning on what he would do, later tonight, to make those three sleep early.

What got him baffled, though, was Sho not welcoming him on the door steps — probably, busy taking care of the three. As he proceeded to the living room, he got startled by what he saw.

“I believe I did not order a body pillow”, Ohno joked around as he made his way near the sofa and sat on the side of the center table.

Sho was lying face down on the sofa, all stretched out, silent and unmoving. Ohno could feel the sullen atmosphere in the room and he’s not liking it.

“What happened? Are you sleeping? Did the kids tire you out? Did Kazu teased you again?”, he asked continuously while squeezing himself on that tiny space beside Sho.

To Ohno’s relief, Sho was not sleeping and responded back with a shake of the head. Ohno combed his hands over the dark brownish hair strands of Sho, caressing it gently with hopes that he could ease his burden, despite not knowing at all what’s bothering him.

Sho enjoyed it and allowed Ohno to do that for awhile. He let himself be spoiled. Even requesting for Ohno to hum a ballad song that he’s been frequently listening to. Fortunately, Ohno gave in and sang a little bit to him. Oh! Thank God for that voice!

Ohno chuckled upon seeing how Sho acted like a little kid.

“What’s wrong?”

It was minutes after when Sho finally spoke. “Do you… Do you…”, he was having a hard time bringing out the topic —— furthermore, he’s afraid of what Ohno would answer.

“Do you, what?”

“Do you ever think that it’s better if Satomi is alive?”

Just in time, when Sho said that, Jun was on his way to the bathroom and happened to hear it. He curled up in an area where the adults could not notice him; but at the same time, would still be able listen to their conversation.

 

You see, my dad’s awesome and talented. He can draw, he can cook, he can bake, he can fish, he can craft, he can dance and he can sing. He also took care of us, three, when my mom died.

 

“Why did you suddenly ask that?”

There’s only silence —— quite indicating that Sho was serious and needed some answers

Ohno laughed lightly. “Well, if better you mean ‘make life easier’ then I would say yes.”

Sho glared, in response.

 

I’ve always known that we four would always stick together. I even promised my Papa that I would always stay by his side. But, sometimes, I could not help but to see him staring out of nowhere, looking all lonely. I thought to myself… probably… he needs someone, other than us, three.

 

“I did not agree to date you because I want someone to help me take care of the kids, that’s the bonus though.”, and he chuckled. “It’s not because you’re a replacement. It’s simply because…

I fell in love.”

 

A handsome, serious-looking, always in business suit man came into our lives and my father just changed completely. Whenever that man comes over Papa would always be full of smiles, his eyes would sparkle and he would become very energetic and talkative — that’s totally not our Papa at all. It was only him that made our Papa like that. And, I’m happy that Papa’s happy.

 

Jun went out of his hiding and quickly headed towards their bedroom. He grabbed his homework and started sketching. Kazu and Masaki checked what he was doing, out of curiosity, and realizing what Jun had drawn, they smiled at each other. After finishing, he dashed out to show what he had done to the pair.

Ohno and Sho were quite in a compromising position when Jun arrived, fortunately, Sho was quick to react and pulled his face away from Ohno. Both coughed lightly, faces red, both due to what they’re doing earlier and the possibility of Jun seeing what they were doing.

It was Ohno who asked, “What’s the matter, Jun?”

Jun showed the paper he was holding to Ohno. He examined it and got delighted by what he have seen.

“Is this your assignment? What did you draw?”, Ohno enthusiastically questioned the little kid.

And Jun, proudly, replied, “Family”

Ruffling his kid’s hair, he praised him again and again. Right after, Ohno presented the picture to Sho.

Upon getting a good look at the drawing, Sho carefully touched what was written at the bottom of the fifth stick man. He was smiling while tracing the words with his fingers. Maybe, he wasn’t hated at all.

His eyes started to turn red. Tears slowly forming, attempting to fall anytime soon. He bit his lips, trying his best not to get too emotional over a simple drawing.

Ohno smiled. “Look at that Jun! You’re making Shochi cry.”

 

My father always says that my mom turned into a star and has been watching over us. I do believe she’s also watching our Papa. And, she led him to meet that man…

 

All of a sudden, two kids came rushing in and showed their assignments, as well.

Seeing more of him in the drawings, Sho declared, “I really want to cry…”, causing the other four to laugh at him. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped it on his eyes.

“There’s Papa, Kazu, Jun, me and the star is mama. Then, the other one is you Shochi.”, Masaki explained.

“Be thankful we added you Shochi…”, of course, Kazu would always have a thing to say but Sho knew that he means well.

As thanks, he gave a big hug to the three.

 

———————

 

“…I’m glad and proud that I have a new Papa that takes care of not only us but also Papa. We love calling our new Papa with a nickname. He is Shochi.”

Jun finished his presentation with that and he received a big clap from his classmates. He looked over to his brothers and the both of them were smiling proudly at him. Yamada could only watch in jealousy and envy as praises were given to Jun and even to his brothers.

Toma decided to contact Ohno later and report to him how beautiful Jun’s words were.

“Do you call Shochi, Papa, as well?”, Toma asked.

Jun shook his head. “No… We already call our Papa, Papa. So… we might call him Daddy or Dad soon...”

Kazu and Masaki nodded, agreeing to what Jun had said.