Per Diem

Chapter 6

Hiroshi got the idea since it was the weekend and it had been a while since he had cooked something for Handa (except for the party the day the calligrapher came back). He might as well do this little idea now since the weather was just going to get colder from here on out. Hiroshi woke up early that morning to prepare all the dishes for the day - boiling vegetables, cooking some rice, frying up some shrimp. He even made special note to make enough konomon the day before for Handa to take back home. He figured he should make enough for more than two people since there was a good chance that it wouldn't be just him and Handa. That was fine - it wasn't like he was just doing this so the two of them would be alone...

But Hiroshi had the sudden urge to go out for a picnic. He figured Handa would need a break after pouring all of his time into that competition in Tokyo, and he was in the mood to cook, so why not? He had already established that he enjoyed having Handa back on the island. There was nothing strange about wanting to treat him to a day out, right? He felt at this point he could even consider Handa a friend.

It took him quite a while, but he managed to get all of the food cooked and ready before noon. Everything was neatly in boxes and placed inside of a picnic basket. He grabbed a blanket for sitting on before leaving the house and headed out.

Hiroshi was glad that it was nice and bright outside. He worried if the weather was going to suddenly turn, but it seemed like it would be clear skies for the rest of the day. He couldn't help but have a bit of pep in his step as he made his walk to Handa's house. Even he couldn't deny his excitement of having a day out.

As soon as the house was in sight, Hiroshi picked up the pace a bit and saw that the front door was open. As expected, Naru was at the table with Handa messing around with some of the calligraphy tools.

"Hey, Sensei, Naru," Hiroshi greeted as he invited himself in.

"Oh, hey, Hiro," Handa seemed a bit surprised to see the younger man. He set his brush down on the table.

"Yo!" Naru held up a hand.

"You guys gettin' hungry?" Hiroshi held up the basket. "Thought maybe you'd like t'go on a picnic."

"Picnic! Picnic!" Naru jumped for joy at the idea.

"Ohh! I've never had one!" Handa seemed excited as well which improved Hiroshi's mood even more.

"Well, come on! I already got the food n' all so you jus' gotta bring yourself," Hiroshi grinned.

"Yay!" Naru ran out of the house with her hands over her head. Then she stopped suddenly, "Wait! I have'ta go to granny's store right quick!" And without another word she dashed off.

"Guess we'll wait on her then," Hiroshi set the basket down and sat across from Handa.

"What made you want to have a picnic all of the sudden, Hiro?" Handa asked.

Hiroshi shrugged, "Jus' kinda felt like it since the warm weather ain't gonna stay 'round for much longer."

"Ah, that's true," Handa nodded, "I've always wanted to go on a picnic though! My parents never thought they were a good idea so I never got the chance to go on one..."

"Well, now ya do," Hiroshi replied.

Handa smiled, "Did you make all the food yourself?"

"Yep, got up early jus' to do it."

"Ahh, I feel lucky to get a whole meal of Hiro's cooking!" Handa looked off with a content look on his face.

"'S not that big of a deal," Hiroshi rested his head on his palm, his face flushed slightly.

"I should get changed!" Handa stood up suddenly and stomped off to his room.

Hiroshi didn't think it was very necessary for Handa to get changed just to go outside and eat, but he guessed getting out of his calligraphy writing gear would help ease his stress.

"'M back!" Naru appeared at the entrance, breathing a little heavily and holding a package in her hands.

"Whatcha got there?" Hiroshi asked.

"A kite!" She held it up proudly.

"I've never flown a kite either!" Handa came out from his room in a normal t-shirt and jeans, a slightly childish and goofy look on his face.

"You haven't done a lotta things, huh, Sensei?" Hiroshi teased.

"I can't help it," Handa said in his defense.

"Le's go!" Naru jumped up and shouted.

Handa looked just as childish as Naru as he followed her out of the house. Hiroshi couldn't help but laugh a bit - it was like he was taking two children to the park instead of a famous calligrapher and a young girl.

The walk there wasn't too long. In the country, there were plenty of open fields and empty spaces where one could lay out and enjoy the weather outside. Hiroshi had been around these parts long enough to know the best places to go, though. It, of course, had to be free of many trees since Naru had brought along a kite, and it had to be an area where the wind was just right.

"I think 'round 'ere is good," Hiroshi said as they made their way onto a flat and pleasant piece of land.

"Woo!" Naru jumped in the air and fell in the grass, proceeding to roll about.

"Ah, the weather is so nice today too," Handa took in a deep breath and inhaled slowly, taking in his surroundings.

"Sure is," Hiroshi agreed, setting down the basket and laying out the blanket.

"Kite! Le's fly the kite!" Naru cheered, holding up the kite in the air.

"Alrigh' lemme see it," Hiroshi signaled for Naru to hand it over so he could unwrap the string and tie it to the piece of wood it came with so it wouldn't fly off into nothingness.

"Hiro, you've flown a kite before?" Handa stood next to him and asked with intrigue.

"Yep, use'ta fly kites all the time when I was Naru's age," Hiroshi knelt down and gave the handle to Naru. "Hold on tight, now. You might hafta watch so she doesn't go flyin' off too, Sensei. The wind is pretty strong."

Handa nodded a confirmation.

Hiroshi held the kite and walked further away from Naru until the string seemed to be far enough out.

"Alrigh', I'm lettin' go!" Hiroshi shouted, holding the kite in the air.

"Ohhh!" Naru shouted.

And at that moment Hiroshi's hands let go of the kite and it went soaring in the air.

"Ahaha!" Naru giggled with glee as the kite nearly pulled her across the grass.

"Woah!" Handa grabbed her shoulders quickly before she went anywhere else.

"Look, Sensei! Ain't this awesome," Naru smiled and laughed as she looked up at the rainbow colored kite.

"Yeah, its really something," Handa looked up in awe as the kite swooped through the air.

"Wanna hold it, Sensei?" Hiroshi asked as he trotted back up where the other two stood.

"C-Can I?" He asked with a hopeful look on his face.

"You'll let 'im for a bit, right, Naru?" Hiroshi looked over at the young girl.

"Mhm!" Naru nodded.

"Okay!" Handa's face was clearly flushed with excitement as he grabbed the handle from Naru.

"Ah!" The pull from the kite was much stronger than Handa had expected and his arms were quickly jerked up.

"You gotta hold on tight too, Sensei!" Hiroshi grabbed for the handle and battled the kite back down.

"Th-Thanks, Hiro," Handa laughed a bit out of embarrassment of nearly getting jerked away from the kite.

"You should hold it like this so you've got a better grip," Hiroshi ghosted Handa's hands to show him.

"Mm, alright," Handa gripped the handle tighter.

Hiroshi almost didn't realize how close he was now that the scare was over. In fact, his body was flush against Handa's and he had an arm around the other man in order to grab the kite's handle with both hands.

"I-I think I've got it now," Hiroshi heard Handa say next to his ear.

"Ah, right!" Hiroshi let go almost instantly. He wasn't entirely sure why he had froze up there for a bit. "I'm gonna get all the food unpacked..." Hiroshi rubbed the back of his neck and walked back over to the blanket.

Handa and Naru seemed to be off in their own little world with the kite, so it was nice that Hiroshi got a bit of breather after that strange incident. It didn't seem to bother Handa at all, but Hiroshi couldn't help but find it a bit strange. For a moment he could've sworn that he felt he didn't really want to move away from Handa...

"Nn, I must be tired from wakin' up so early," Hiroshi mumbled to himself, unpacking things one by one.

Naru's voice could be heard as she tried showing some tricks that she could do with the kite, yanking at the handle to make it dive bomb only for it to go back up. Handa seemed impressed and clapped as Naru's ego also inflated and continued to try and make the kite flip and zoom across the sky.

Hiroshi sat back on his hands and watched them for a moment. It was pretty relaxing to watch the two have fun without a care in the world. It seemed like Hiroshi's plan to give Handa a relaxing day was working out so far and he felt pretty proud of himself. He was also feeling pretty lucky that the only other person he had to deal with was Naru - he guessed Miwa and Tama were causing terror elsewhere for the day.

"You guys hungry?" Hiroshi shouted after a bit more of watching them.

"Yeah, I'm actually getting pretty hungry from just flying this kite," Handa replied.

Hiroshi watched Naru point to a large rock not too far from them. They both walked over to it and Naru lifted the rock as Handa stuck the handle underneath it. After that, Naru darted towards Hiroshi and the food, Handa trailing behind.

"Food, food!" Naru cheered as she plopped down across from Hiroshi.

"I made you some konomon, Sensei," Hiroshi held up a large bowl.

Handa's face lit up with delight as he sat down next to Hiroshi and grabbed for the bowl. "Thank you..." He opened up the lid immediately and took out one of the pickles, placing it in his mouth and chewing merrily.

"Don' eat too much though 'r else you won't have room for the rest o' the food. I made you enough konomon t' take home," Hiroshi handed over a bento box to Naru.

"Really? That's so kind of you, Hiro," Handa's face flushed with the happiness of food.

Hiroshi chuckled a bit. It was already well established that Handa had a bit of a childish side to him, but it was always amusing to see his reactions over small things.

The three began eating their food, laughing and talking while the kite flew above them as if all their troubles had floated away. Naru wasn't old enough to have many troubles of her own, but Hiroshi and Handa definitely had their share of them. Hiroshi knew he'd probably need to visit colleges and look for jobs soon. With every day that passed, he was closer to graduating and closer to stepping into the real world. And Handa always had the burden of being a famous calligrapher on his back - it was always expected of him to only produce the best work.

But at this moment, none of that mattered. The next moments were filled with the sounds of eating and good times. Handa continuously praised Hiroshi's cooking enough to make anyone blush from all the compliments.

"Ah, I'm stuffed with Hiro's good cooking!" Handa sighed as he flopped backwards onto the grass, rubbing his stomach with content.

"Thanks for the meal, Hiro-nii!" Naru patted her stomach as well.

The wind picked up a bit and caused the blanket to rustle up slightly.

"Ohhh, the kite is a kickin'!" Naru stood up and ran towards the kite that was now whipping through the sky.

"Be careful with that, alrigh'?" Hiroshi turned around and yelled after her.

Turning back around, he glanced over at Handa whose eyes were now closed. Hiroshi wasn't sure if he was asleep or not, but he certainly looked relaxed. Hiroshi took the opportunity to also lay down for a bit. There was something about laying down in the grass, the weather perfect and the sun warming your skin.

He closed his eyes for a bit as well. Letting his surroundings soak in and everything felt pleasant. He turned his head and rested his face against the grass that was surprisingly soft. Slowly, Hiroshi opened his eyes and noticed his face was quite close to Handa's head. He could mostly just see Handa's dark, black hair blowing in the wind but that didn't stop him from his eyes lingering for a moment.

Handa's hair seemed so soft - it was really obvious that he took care of it. Hiroshi could even slightly smell the shampoo that he used. It smelled really good. Hiroshi got the urge to get closer to it, and before he knew it his hand was reaching out to gently touch Handa's hair.

He was right - it was soft. Hiroshi stroked a few locks ever so slightly, twisting a bit of it around his fingers.

"Nn, Hiro?" Handa's voice was soft but Hiroshi's hand retracted in surprise at the sound of his voice.

"Wh-What?" Hiroshi stuttered a bit.

"Oh, I thought you were pulling my hair or something," Handa said in a lazy voice.

"Err, nope," Hiroshi lied, he felt his heart beating a little faster.

"Woooo!" The sound of Naru's incoming voice could not have been more welcomed at this awkward moment as she jumped and landed across both Hiroshi and Handa.

"Oof!" Handa nearly got the wind knocked out of him as most of her weight landed on him.

Hiroshi scooped up a giggling Naru, "Don' go jumpin' on people like that, Naru!" He scolded.

"Its okay..." Handa rubbed at his chest.

Hiroshi sighed and let go of Naru who chose to just lay on top of Hiroshi's arm and joined the two lying on the grass.

"Sensei, come catch beetles with me!" Naru tugged at Handa's arm.

"I want to lay here a while longer," Handa whined, "I'm still full from eating so much."

"Aww..." Naru pouted, she remained latched onto Handa.

"Look at the clouds," Hiroshi spoke and pointed up. "Doesn't that'un look like a fish?"

"Oh! I see it!" Handa said excitedly.

"You ever look for shapes in the clouds, Sensei?" Hiroshi asked.

"Hmm, maybe once or twice, but never with anyone else," Handa's eyes scanned the sky for another shape. "Oh! Look, a kitty!" Handa pointed up excitedly.

"Hmm, where?" Hiroshi searched near the area where Handa pointed.

"I don' see it, Sensei," Naru commented as she seemed to have joined the cloud search.

"Yeah me neither," Hiroshi tried tilting his head a bit.

"Are you two blind? Its right there!" Handa continued to point. "It has little whiskers and a cute little tummy... Ah, I wanna pet it..."

Hiroshi laughed and looked over at Handa whose face lit up with bliss as he pretended to pet the imaginary cloud cat. Hiroshi ended up finding it a lot more entertaining to watch Handa get so excited - the look on his face was priceless.

"Senseiiii," Naru grabbed at Handa's arm once again. It seemed like she was getting a bit antsy just lying there.

"You just aren't going to let me rest, are you?" Handa sighed and sat up. "Fine, I'll go bug catching with you as long as Hiro comes."

"Huh? Why do I gotta tag along?" Hiroshi sat up as well.

"Because... I'm bad with those huge beetles..." Handa recalled the time he tried catching them with Kenta and the other boys.

Hiroshi stifled a laugh, "Alrigh' fine. I'll pack everythin' up and we'll go huntin' for beetles."

"Ohhh!" Naru shouted, her plan a success.

The three ended up staying out until the evening searching for beetles. Unfortunately, there weren't too many out since the season was nearing the end, but Naru ended up catching a nice one for her collection.

On the way back to Handa's house, Naru's grandpa was going by on the main road in his tractor and picked her up on his way back home. Hiroshi could've easily just walked back to his house from there, but he insisted on walking Handa home.

"Isn't it a little embarrassing for me to get walked home by someone younger?" Handa commented, holding the bowl of konomon under his arm.

The sky had turned an orangish-purple by now and both of them were pretty exhausted from their day out.

"Are you sayin' you don't want my company?" Hiroshi teased.

"No, but still..." Handa mumbled.

"Besides you act jus' like a kid anyway so 's all the same," Hiroshi grinned.

"And after I was thinking you're such a nice guy for planning this picnic!" Handa lightly pushed Hiroshi.

Handa's house came up faster than Hiroshi expected and both of them walked towards the entrance. It seemed to be quiet so apparently there wasn't any unexpected company.

"Really, though - thanks for inviting me out today. I really needed that," Handa smiled, placing his free hand on his hip.

"No problem. You needed a break," Hiroshi shrugged.

Handa let out a chuckle, "I feel lucky getting this pampered by you! I should take advantage of it while I can before you get yourself a girlfriend," Handa joked and unlocked the door to his house.

"Um..." Hiroshi grabbed Handa's wrist without thinking.

"Hm?" Handa turned around and looked at Hiroshi.

"Uh..." Hiroshi froze in place. He wasn't sure why he had grabbed Handa's wrist, why he got his attention and now had no idea what he wanted to say, why it slightly bothered him that one day he might not be able to do things for Handa anymore...

Hiroshi could feel a wave of heat run up to his face and he quickly let go of Handa.

"Good night..." He said hurriedly and turned around.

"Oh? Night, Hiro," Hiroshi could hear a bit of confusion in Handa's voice, but he refused to turn around and instead concentrated in getting home as soon as possible.

He could feel his heart beating faster and he started walking so fast that he nearly broke out into a run.

This was scary. Hiroshi was definitely having feelings he had never felt before - and it was all because of Handa Seishuu. The way he enjoyed seeing the man smile, his urge to touch him without much thought, how sad he felt at the thought of being separated from him... This wasn't how someone typically thinks of a friend, right?

"Dammit...!" Hiroshi cursed under his breath as he stopped suddenly.

His breathing was heavy, he grasped the hand that had just held Handa's wrist. He would've just denied that any of those other feelings meant anything like usual - he would've if he hadn't thought only a few moments ago that he wanted to lace his fingers together with Handa's.

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