It was nearly eight o'clock at night, which meant that Akaya was supposed to be narrowing in on the end of his homework. That would clear the way for a solid two hours of video games before an early ten PM bedtime that would allow him to wake up on time for morning practice.
"Why did I let you guys talk me into this?" he groaned. His arm ached, his shoulder was screaming, and there didn't seem to be an end in sight.
His two tormentors giggled at him. Nine year old Sachiko looked cutely innocent in her over-sized apron that said 'Kiss the Cook', and a bandanna tied around her hair in a way that brought a certain snake-loving tennis player to Akaya's mind. She stood on a small stool that let her reach the counter, and was demonstrating her control over the cook book by refusing to let Kirihara touch it. Not even to verify that what she told him to put in the bowl was accurate.
Over at the kitchen table, seven year old Michiko was picking the chocolate chips out of the other batter bowl. She also looked angelically adorable, which Akaya knew was pure deception. He, of all people, knew how not innocent these two little tricksters were. All it took was a batting of big blue eyes and a pouting upper lip and then the next thing he knew, he was hip deep in flour and baking soda and things that were more up Marui's alley then his.
"You'll have to stir faster, 'Kaya-nii," Sachiko said imperiously, brandishing a mixing spoon at him. "There's still lots of flour on the sides."
"My arm is going to fall off," Akaya grumbled, but obediently sped up the pace. "If I can't practice tomorrow, I'm going to tie you to the tether ball pole at your school and tell Omi you like him back."
Sachiko gave him a look of distaste. Omi Hideki was a classmate of hers who had professed his love for her the week before. Apparently, he was the one boy in class who was immune to the 'cooties' all little boys knew full well girls possessed. Kamio had thought it was cute, once he'd realized it was A) innocent, and B) stupid to get arrested for threatening a nine year old with ritual castration. Kirihara thought the same thing, and wasn't averse to using his knowledge of the situation to help himself. "You wouldn't."
"Oh, I would," Akaya countered. "I'd take pictures too. Maybe I can get one of Omi kissing you on the cheek."
"Ewwwww!" Sachiko gagged. "That's gross, 'Kaya-nii!"
"Kissing," she spat out, screwing her face up. "I don't want to kiss Omi. I don't want him to kiss me."
Kirihara chuckled. "That's a good way to think," he told her, checking the batter to make sure the flour was completely mixed in. "You're too young for it anyway."
Sachiko nodded solemnly. Then she tilted her head, considering. "Will I like kissing when I'm your age?"
Kirihara shook his head at her. "Nope."
"'Cause that would mean someone actually got past both me and your brother to kiss you, and they'd have to be pretty stupid to even try. Never kiss stupid people, girls. Idiocy is contagious."
Sachiko looked confused, but Michiko was nodding her head, a wise expression on her face.
"Okay," Akaya said. He picked the bowl up and carried it to the table, setting it down with a thump. "Now comes the fun part." He rolled a small ball of batter between his hands and plopped it down on one of the baking sheets. "Do this a hundred times."
Sachiko obligingly took her bowl and began to scoop out batter. Akaya watched to make sure she didn't make them too large, and then sat down next to Michi, helping her make balls out of the other bowl. When it had been agreed that cookies needed to be made to maintain peace in the household while Kamio was at track practice, trying to decide which cookies to make had threatened to bring about World War 3. Michiko loved chocolate chip cookies (as did Akaya), while Sachiko preferred ginger snaps (also a favorite of Kamio's). The only solution therefore, was to make two batches.
Sachiko was doing well. Michiko was making strange shapes that could be ball-shaped if you squinted and looked at it sideways. Akaya shrugged. It didn't matter what they looked like, as long as they tasted good, and really, how bad could they be if they were following a recipe?
Two sheets were filled, and Akaya stuck them in the oven, before turning back to his two assistants. "Okay. You promised to help clean up if we made cookies, and I'm holding you to that promise."
Sachiko and Michiko exchanged looks, and then snapped quick salutes. "Yessir!" They chorused.
Akaya rolled his eyes and started running the water in the sink. "Michiko, gather up all the dishes and bring them here. Sachiko, I wash and you dry. Deal?"
"Deal." Sachiko got a towel and joined him at the sink.
CRASH! Akaya jumped, and turned to see Miki biting her lip, looking down at the small plate that had slid off the stack. She looked back up at him. "Sorry!"
Kirihara groaned. "Good job, kiddo." Gingerly picking his way over, he lifted her up and sat her on the table. "Sachi, stay there until I clean up the shards." He'd known it was going too smoothly.
Cleaning up the mess only took a minute, then it was back to the sink. He got in the rhythm of wash, rinse, hand off, and a few minutes later, Michiko was tugging on his pant leg. "Akaya-nii?"
She pointed past him to the oven. The oven that had a suspicious cloud of dark smoke hanging over it. "Are the cookies done?"
"Damn it!" Akaya cursed and leaped over to the oven, wrenching it open. More smoke billowed out into his face, and he coughed as some got into his lungs. He grabbed another dish towel and yanked the baking sheet out, setting it on top of the stove before grabbing the other one. The ends were all burnt, but the ones in the middle looked okay. He lifted one with a spatula and flipped it – no, they weren't. He glared at the solid black coating the bottom of the cookies. "Fuck."
He blinked suddenly, and whirled around, pointing his finger at the giggling girls. "Do as I say, not as I do," he told them sternly. "If your brother hears you swearing, he'll kill me, and then we'll never make cookies together again, got it?"
They nodded, well-used to his 'lapse in language', as Kippei-nii would call it.
"Excellent." He set the baking sheets down on the table. "Back to the drawing board, ladies."
Two more sheets were filled, and this time Kirihara remembered to set the timer for eight minutes. The dishes were almost done, and he looked at his watch. Almost a quarter after eight. "Sachi?"
Akaya nodded at the dishes. "I'll finish these. Take your sister up and get your pajamas on, okay? The cookies should be done by the time you get back down here."
Sachiko nodded, and the two of them scampered out of the kitchen. Akaya grinned softly, and finished stacking the dishes.
A lot had changed since then. It was hard to believe that in less than two months, he and Kamio would have been together for a whole year. He was happy and mostly content with life, and much of that was due to Kamio's appearance in his life. Kamio and his sisters, that is. His lips curled into a gentle smile at the thought of them. They had welcomed him into their tight-knit family, accepting him where his own family could not. And though they were young yet, they still accepted him and Kamio being together. Really, they probably didn't understand what the big deal was, but he had no doubt that even when they did, the way they thought of him wouldn't change.
The alarm went off over the stove and he walked over, opening it and pulling the sheets out. Golden brown on top and on the bottom. Perfect.
The patter of running footsteps echoed overhead and then two tornado's tore into the room. "Cookies!"
"Let 'em cool off a bit first, ya doofs," Kirihara said, waving his towel at them. "Back! Back, I say!"
Milk was procured and cookies were eaten before he sent them upstairs to brush their teeth and wash their faces. The ritual on Thursday nights was that they could stay up until Kamio came home (after all, they stayed up when Makamoto-san watched them on Tuesdays) but they had to be ready for bed. Kirihara inspected them as they came back downstairs, before letting them get settled on the couch.
They were working their way slowly through Akaya's collection of Dragonball Z DVD's. They were up to the Buu saga, and Michiko fell asleep before Trunks and Goten managed to learn the fusion dance. Sachiko however (and unfortunately), was wide awake, and so when Kamio came home to see Akaya bent over sideways, touching his fingertips to Sachiko's, it was no surprise that he nearly fell to the ground laughing.
"You will speak of this to no one," Kirihara grumbled, red-faced. Straightening up, he glared at his boyfriend. "I was forced."
"Yes, I can see that," Kamio said, eyes dancing. "She's so good at twisting your arm, too."
The girls were sent off to bed, and Kirihara stretched out on the sofa, waiting for Kamio to come back down after saying good night. Since he babysat on Thursdays, he often wound up spending the night and taking the early bus back to Rikkai in the morning. His father was away on business trips too often to know, and his mother worked sixteen hour days at her law firm as it was, so there were problems there either. Kamio's mother usually wandered in and collapsed sometime after four AM (Kirihara often woke up at the sound of her entering the house, but Kamio never did). She never checked the rooms.
Kamio came back down and lay down next to him. Blue light from the TV washed over them both, and Akaya closed his eyes, wrapping his arm around the redhead's waist. "Good practice?"
"Set a new personal best," came the soft, half-yawned reply. "House smells good."
"We made cookies," Akaya murmured, nosing Kamio's hair. "We burnt the first batch. I may take them to school tomorrow. I'll throw them at the first years for dash practice."
Kamio snickered. A few minutes later, Akaya felt his body relax completely, soft even breaths escaping out into the quietness of the room. Though he knew they should move to the bedroom, the overwhelming peace of the moment was just too compelling. Still, a few minutes rest wouldn't hurt...
"Love you," he whispered, almost automatically to the warm bundle in his arms, before closing his own eyes.
He'd wake them up and move later. For now, everything was just perfect.