Tanaka watches as his sister lights a match, her right arm holding his favorite poster dangerously low. His hands reach out for it as she pulls back.

"Ryuu," she starts calmly, "I know you and his brother don't get along but I don't want to be alone with Tsukishima-kun at his house so you're coming with me." Saeko wiggles the poster like he needs a reminder that she does, in fact, have it. "Or else..."

He scrambles for something to say. The light from the flame flickers against the hard plastic of the poster. His eyes turn back to Saeko. "You could've just asked!"


Her arm drops just a little too much and they both watch in horror as the corner catches fire. "Oh no!" she shouts at the same time that Tanaka screams, "Nee-san!" Once it's been thoroughly tamped out and he's assessed the damage, Saeko clutches his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Ryuu. I'll buy you a new one. I promise."

"Yeah?" He looks at her, curious about her sudden complacency.

She nods. "After dinner."

The only sound in the otherwise quiet kitchen is the soft tapping of wooden chopsticks against ceramic bowls. Tanaka eyes the two blondes sitting across from him and Saeko. They seem to be silently communicating with a death glare spared every other second. At some point, Saeko points her pink pig chopsticks in Akiteru's direction.

"These are really cute, Tsukishima-kun!" she says, fierce excitement clear in her voice.

Tanaka half wants to smack himself on the forehead at her inability to read the room but he manages to stop himself. "Nee-san," he whispers, nudging her in the side. She pointedly ignores him, going as far as to kick him under the table to which he yelps.

"Oh! You think so?" Akiteru puffs out his chest in a weird show of pride. He runs his index finger under his nose as a grin fails to stay off his face. "I got them at a convenience store in Sendai. It was a great find, huh?"

Saeko nods aggressively. "Yeah! You can't find cute stuff like this easily around here. And it's always way overpriced for what it is!"


The two of them share wide smiles. Tanaka feels his rice start to come up a bit in a dramatic show of disgust. He chances a look at Tsukishima to see him being pulled back into his seat by his brother. Tanaka is sure he wasn't meant to see that. Just like how Akiteru isn't supposed to know Saeko is holding his favorite poster hostage to make sure he doesn't try to sneak off.

"I'm done eating, Aki-nii. I'm going to my room now," Tsukishima says as he rises from his chair. He stacks his bowls and puts them in the sink.

Akiteru squawks indignantly. He leans across the table toward where his younger brother is washing his dishes. "Are you sure you don't want to stay for dessert?" He grasps at the back of Tsukishima's shirt, still too far away to do anything other than hold it for a second or two. "It's strawberry shortcake," he practically shouts.

Curiosity nips at Tanaka. What does strawberry shortcake have to do with his teammate? He, Akiteru, and Saeko watch Tsukishima turn rigid at his brother's words. Then, like a ball dropping onto the other side of the court, he sighs before returning to his seat.

"Cut me a slice," he says.

Akiteru seems to relax at Tsukishima's typical yet bratty behavior returning. He huffs out a laugh. "You have to wait for everyone else to finish, Kei. Where are your manners?"

Tsukishima pouts for a second. It's a ridiculously childish face Tanaka has never gotten to see on his junior. However, now that he has, he finds it suits him.

Instead of an actual rebuttal, Tsukishima says, "My ears hurt."

A flash of sympathy crosses Akiteru's eyes. Before he can ask anything, though, Saeko leans forward on the table.

"Why do your ears hurt?" she asks. She's as loud as ever. Awkward dinner situations have done nothing to perturb her.

Tanaka guesses that Tsukishima reaches for his left ear out of shock, but it's enough to draw everyone's attention to the flesh-colored plastic pressed against his skin. Tanaka has never seen it before. Then again, it appears to be something easily covered by strategically styled hair.

"Oh!" Saeko almost shouts. She releases the pink chopsticks she was holding so reverently not even five minutes earlier. "It hurts?" she signs as she speaks.

Both Akiteru and Tsukishima are wide-eyed in surprise. Tsukishima recovers faster than his brother, hands moving to sign a response. "I've had them in all day for practice and I try to keep them in for company. If I don't wear them, then I sound… odd…" He trails off, discomfort clear on his face.

Saeko waves her hands to either catch his attention or brush off his worries, it's difficult to tell which. She goes for an easygoing smile. "I get it! I left mine in for the same reason." She pulls back a piece of hair reveal the bright red hearing aid in her left ear. It shines enough to rival her cartilage piercings under the kitchen lights. "I can't imagine the aches you're feeling right now. I rarely wear mine all day but when I do, I just want to go to bed!" She sends a deathly glare in Akiteru's direction. "So why haven't you let him go? He's obviously uncomfortable."

Akiteru scrambles over his words, starting about ten different sentences that never find endings much to Tanaka's amusement.

"It's not his fault. Aki-nii may not seem the type but he constantly worries about looking like a fool in front of new friends," Tsukishima says. He rests his hand on his brother's shoulder.

Akiteru's eyes have tears of gratitude as he stares at Tsukishima. "Kei…"

"He needs to accept that he is a fool, no matter what he does."

Ah, Tanaka thinks, there it is.

Akiteru yelps just as Saeko breaks out into laughter. "I like you! You're funny, Kei!" The two of them share a grin across the table. "C'mon Tsukishima-kun! Let's get this cake out already. I want dessert."

Tanaka watches his sister and his teammate talk animatedly through sign language while Akiteru cuts them each a slice of cake. It all feels a bit weird, the personality differences yet the physical similarities between the two. He finds himself laughing along as they start to make light jabbing remarks about Akiteru every time he turns his back to them. Maybe being dragged along wasn't such a bad thing.

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