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The Turnabout Birthday

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“Oh god, oh fuck, this is the worst fucking day of my life...”

Mondo Owada, biker man and love interest of a certain attorney, had all but dropped dead at the front door of an apartment he was almost always comfortable approaching.

He raked a hand through his long fluffy hair and kept staring at his fisted hands, willing them to do—something. Just knock at the door.

But—shit—the guilt was threatening to upend him. If only he had a fucking time machine. He paced nervously, holding his rumpled box tight to his chest.

What, did he plan on standing out here all day? He needed to just get this over with. Accept that he was a total failure of a boyfriend.

Breathing out slowly, Mondo finally raised his hand to the door and rapped his knuckles against it. His heart seized as he waited. And—A part of him hesitated, the nervousness tightening like a fist around his throat, the thought of seeing his boyfriend again—coming in uninvited—overwhelming him.

He blinked when a woman opened the door.

A familiar woman, with pale olive skin, freckled cheeks, and waist-length midnight hair. Taeko Ishimaru—the adopted little delinquent of the household—immediately sneered up at her guest. “Kiyotaka's accessory! My, my, what brings you here?”

Mondo stilled. Did... Did she not know either?

He pitched his voice low and leaned in to whisper, “Taka's birthday.”

Her brows shot up her forehead. “H-His birthday?” Her cheeks swelled crimson. “When is it?”

Mondo bit his lip. “Yesterday.”

Fuck!” Taeko hid her head in her hands. “And he did not tell us? What sort of dipshit of a—I forged adoption certificates that legally make me his sister and he did not tell me his—?!” Taeko had to pause and compose herself so she wouldn't run inside and sock the man himself in the face.

“Did... Did he act off at all? Yesterday?” Mondo whispered.

“No? Just his usual, I think.”

“His entire fucking birthday was yesterday and he didn't even bother trying to...” Mondo needed a second. He put his gift box down before he accidentally destroyed it with his shaking, angry hands.

“Wait, wait,” Taeko murmured, grabbing her phone. “Give me a moment before you go in. I must purchase him something.”

“What? Another new suit?” It was becoming a joke by this point that the poor attorney was destined to ruin every suit he had.

“No, no. I already got him tailored for a new one. Crimson, this time. I am hoping stains will actually come out of it better.” Better than the nail polish, at least, or the bloodstains from that last case.

“But he doesn't like red that much,” Mondo growled. “At least do purple or something. He likes purple.”

“Yes, well, that shade of lilac he prefers would face the same issue as the white suits.” Taeko rolled her eyes. “Do not try to coach me in my area of expertise, you idiot accessory.”

Mondo had no idea why Taeko still insisted on calling him that, but he figured by now he wouldn't be able to get her to stop.

“Okay but hurry up,” he snapped, “because I've already missed his birthday by a day.”

Taeko's gaze shot to the rumpled gift on the floor. Mondo hurried to pick it back up. His frustrations had mostly done away; now he just needed to rectify his mistake. He couldn't believe it took Kyoko Kirigiri of all fucking people—the terrifyingly precise detective at their local precinct—texting him about the birthday for him to realize he'd missed it. How did she know when Taka's birthday was? How?

At least she'd bothered to share it with him. Like she knew, somehow, somehow, that they'd missed it.

“Alrighty,” Taeko said, putting her phone into her nightgown's pocket, “I am ready.”

She let Mondo in. They all but stormed over to Kiyotaka's side of the apartment. It was still pretty early in the morning, so he likely was asleep behind the door of his bedroom, but he wouldn't be for long. Mondo pounded his fist against the door and shouted, “Hey, Taka? You in there?”

He was shortly greeted by a bleary Kiyotaka Ishimaru, still in his blue striped pajamas and socks. “Mondo,” he yawned, “it's almost seven in the morning. You're never up this early.”

“Yeah—but—” to be honest, he hadn't slept at all the night before. Had to get Kiyotaka's gift done. “No matter. Happy birthday, you fucking snake!”

Kiyotaka's brow furrowed. “Snake..?”

“Yes!” hissed Taeko. She peered from over Mondo's shoulder. “How dare you not tell us when your birthday is! You will rue that decision for the rest of your life! And on that note.” Out came her phone, and she opened up a screencapped receipt of—something.

Kiyotaka stared at it for a long moment. Then he slowly handed the phone back to Taeko. “This is a joke, right?”

“Nope. All for you!”

Taka's eyes shut entirely. “What am I supposed to do with a seaside cottage in Europe, Taeko?”

Taeko giggled, shrugging. “I guess we will have to visit it!”

And just like that, Kiyotaka Ishimaru became a European homeowner.

Mondo should have gone first. He realized now that his gift was gonna seem all the more cheesy in comparison to a little wilderness home in the middle of fucking Europe. What was even in Europe? Mondo had no idea. He liked to imagine ogres and fairies and fanciful attorneys with weird powers.

As Kiyotaka's crimson eyes reopened, they locked upon the gift Mondo clutched protectively to himself. “Is... that for..?” he started, too hopeful to actually state it aloud.

“Oh—um—yeah. This is for... yeah.” Mondo laughed weakly, cheeks pinking, before handing it over. “It's uh, it's no cottagecore fantasy, but...” He just kind of let it hang there. Fucking Taeko. Of course Taeko went and purchased something Mondo couldn't hope to one up.

Kiyotaka was careful with the snowy white wrapping paper (which Mondo had found in the discount bin at a craft store). Rather than tearing into the paper, he located where tape tucked sloppy corners into place and gently unwrapped them as the anticipation budded in his sleep-soft eyes. His cropped black hair was all rumpled, and Mondo touched it before he knew what he was doing.

Kiyotaka paused, momentarily, and glanced to him. A small smile formed at his lips. Blushing, Mondo hurriedly took his hand back and stuffed it into his coat. What the fuck was he doing. Why the—Why the fuck was Taka so cute... and now he was staring... god...

Once he'd unraveled all that wrapping paper, he handed it over to Taeko, who mushed it into a prickly ball and threw it at Mondo's face. He blocked it and noogied her head with it until she cried at him to stop, pushing him away. When he relented, she snatched the ball back and threw it at him once more. It got stuck in his hair.

All the while, Taka carefully untied the red ribbon atop the box and lifted its lid. He gasped softly at what lay therein.

It was terrible, but it was Mondo's master work. It took an all-nighter and pointers from a couple of his kids to make it a reality. He ran over here as soon as it was done, ignoring the parts where he'd skipped a stitch here and there and the slightly too-long left sleeve that definitely no one needed to know about because Normy said no one would notice as long as he didn't point it out.

Kiyotaka gazed at the sweater for a long moment before giddily grabbing it and pulling it over his head. It was pink, the only color Mondo could find lying around his kids' dormitory in enough excess, and he'd stitched a big goofy red heart atop it that sloppily read “Kiyo” in poor lettering.

Hurriedly—before Mondo could move away—Kiyotaka embraced him, tucking his head under his chin. “Thank you,” he breathed. “I love it.” His hands tightened against Mondo's back, his hold snug.

Mondo smiled, murmuring into his hair, “Happy birthday.” Then he froze. “Wait. Why the fuck didn't you tell us your birthday was yesterday? What the hell, Kiyotaka?”

Taka froze. “Uh, it's no big deal—”

“Fuck you!” Taeko squeaked, grabbing him by the arm. “I literally invited myself into your family. And I do not even know your birthday? Kiyotaka, your logic is atrocious.”

Kiyotaka shut his eyes, his grip tightening on Mondo. He didn't speak, but he let out a small whine when Mondo stroked along his back, patiently waiting his response.

He spoke slowly, haltingly. “I never... um...” Deep breath. “You know I didn't grow up with a lot of money... so I never really came to expect anything. My mother didn't usually have much time, either, and my father died early on, so...

“And then I...” His fingers scrabbled against Mondo. “And then I think of my grandfather... with all that affluence, and all that wasted luxury, and I'd think, as long as I'm balancing out everything he took, everything he corrupted, then that's okay.”

The quaver in his tone belied his inner torment.

“Fuck that.”

Taeko broke the silence first. “Fuck him, for being a total wasteful bitch. And fuck you for thinking you do not deserve to be celebrated in any remotely nice manner.”

“Ditto,” Mondo said. He gently took Kiyotaka's chin and tilted it up, inviting their eyes to meet. “No more ignoring your birthday, alright? We wanna take care of you.”

Grateful tears gathered and fell from Kiyotaka's eyes. He pressed his trembling lips tight together and managed a nod. His soft skin brushed along Mondo's fingers.

Mondo leaned in close to kiss his forehead.

Taeko redirected their attention, incessantly tapping Taka's shoulder. “Okay, now that we got that out of the way, can we please buy a cake for breakfast?”

“Why for breakfast?” Taka broke in. “Why not save that for later and make someth—”

“Nooooo! I want chocolate cake, and I want it now.”

Mondo had eaten very little in the span of time he'd spent tirelessly knitting that sweater, and the sound of chocolate cake caused his stomach to let out a wail. Flushing, he mumbled, “She's got a point, Taka. I can't deny that I also want chocolate cake right at this very moment.”

Kiyotaka snorted. “What compelling testimonies you offer.”

“Hey! You yourself said you haven't celebrated a birthday in years!” Mondo gently shook him. “We gotta make up for this as soon as possible!”

He put up a small defense, but quickly enough Taka gave in. “Fine. Let's go buy some chocolate cake.”

“Yesssss!” Taeko grabbed them both and started dragging them to the front door. “To the nearest grocery store!”