High School Never Ends

Chapter 10: Time Skip Part One

Madcap Hospital Adventure

“I am soooo bored!” Tetsuko whined from her hospital bed. She was plugged into an IV and the dose of drugs she’d been given earlier was wearing off. Everywhere itched and her bandages cut into every part of her body, making her irritable and uncomfortable. She rolled up the sleeves of her hospital scrubs to scratch at her skin and complain. “Let’s go do something!”

“Stay put, ‘Suko. You’ll get to roll around in a wheelchair in just a little while.” Antonio looked away from the TV to dissuade the girl from getting up and doing something herself. Riding in the wheelchairs was the only time all the teens were allowed to go outside their room while they healed.

“He’s right, nee-san. You should stay in bed.” Ivan was the only one allowed to been in a wheelchair all the time now and that little freedom let him roll around the floor without being stopped and interrogated by every nurse he passed.

“I agree! And again, agree!” Keith called happily from his bed.

“Thanks for ganging up on me! All I wanted to do was have a little fun. We can only play so many games of ‘I Spy’ without vomiting.” The girl pouted, carefully crossing her arms as much as she could in her condition. How did I get stuck in a room with these guys? Seriously, couldn’t I have my own room? I wish Bunny were here, arguing with him would make the time pass faster. Tetsuko blew a strand of her dark hair out of her face and turned her head away from the boys. Bad idea. Her skull throbbed in pain, still aching from when Jake smashed it repeatedly into the gym floor. Her newly revived headache caused her to whine more until Ivan shut off the room’s lights so she would shut up and take a nap or something. She decided a nap would be the best thing to make the time pass quickly and get rid of her headache.

Tetsuko’s dream was all drug-muddled and wacky, filled with dancing bears, umbrellas, bunnies hopping around kicking miniature Jakes, cows chasing raccoons and other weird stuff. The girl followed her subconscious until she woke up to the sound of voices and the bright lights of the recovery room. The nurses came in to the room to help all the friends into wheelchairs so they could get some fresh air. Tetsuko nearly bounced out of bed when Sara came to help her out.

“Careful, Ms. Kaburagi, we wouldn’t want you injuring yourself further.” The fellow brunette smiled at the girl, her green eyes shining brightly.

“Right!” Tetsuko let herself be wheeled out into the hallway with her boys who were friends and chatted excitedly to anyone that they passed. Keith was the only other one who had to be pushed; his arm injuries were just as bad as Tetsuko’s, but Antonio and Ivan were open for some mischief and when they were involved, Keith would join as well. “Hey, Sara?” The brunette twisted around carefully to glance at the twenty-something year old.

“Yes?”

“Can I push for a while? I feel better today.” Tetsuko winked at Antonio who knew she was up to something. The nurse didn’t suspect a thing.

“Okay, but only if you’re careful.” The woman let go of the back handles as the girl put her hands on the wheels.

“Antonio! Ivan! Keith! Race ya!” With a powerful push, Tetsuko shot down the hall, trailing all three boys who ditched the nurses in charge of them.

“Come back here!” Sara was running after the teens, but she couldn’t catch up.

“’Suko! You’re going to fast!” Antonio reached out for her shoulder, and grabbed onto her scrubs.

“This is fun! And again, fun!” Keith was keeping up nicely despite his injuries, and Ivan was right behind him laughing quietly.

“Hold on to your tacos!” Tetsuko called to Antonio as she put on more speed and skidded around a corner for the elevators.

“I’m Spanish! Not Mexican!” He yelled, hanging onto her chair for dear life. They slid into the elevators, thankfully empty, crashing their chairs into one another. The doors slid shut on four yelling teens as various body parts were put through pain.

“Level one! Hit level one!” Tetsuko called to Ivan who was closest to the buttons. He reached over and hit the correct floor, falling out of his chair in the process. Keith helped drag him back up and laughed good-naturedly at the blushing boy.

“Are we there yet?” Antonio asked, wedged between the side wall and Tetsuko’s wheelchair.

“Don’t start that.” The girl glowered at the bull-man, ready to shove him out onto a random floor if need be.

“I was joking.” Elevator music filtered in through speakers and the teens listened in silence until the door opened with a ding! Tetsuko shoved Keith forward since his chair was in the middle-ish and then let Ivan pull out behind him. She went out next and dragged Antonio with her.

Once they were all out she called, “Last one outside gets to give ‘Tonio a sponge bath!”

“How is that punishment? I resent that!” The Spaniard smacked her in the arm, forgetting that they were all injured.

“Ow! That hurt, asshole!” She hissed, rubbing the sore spot tenderly.

“Sorry.”

“You don’t mean it.”

“I mean it a little.”

“Can we race now?” Ivan spoke up.

“Yeah, ten points for every time you run over someone’s toes!” Tetsuko called, placing her arms on the backs of her wheels as they lined up. “GO!” The teens shot forward and careened down the hall, giggling like maniacs. “Eat my dirt!” Tetsuko yelled, dodging a nurse who jumped out of the way, and took the lead.

“Its dust, you idiot!” Antonio shot back sourly.

“Whatever! Watch the turn! Door! Door!” She shouted as they slid through the swinging doors of the cafeteria. They zoomed past a line of patients and visitors getting food. They raced through tables and chairs, leaving chaos behind them as they exited on the other side. “You need more mayo!” Tetsuko shouted to the ladies running the joint as she whipped around the corner. Two turns later, the four teens were in the lobby where they made a mad dash for the outside world.

“CHARGE!” Antonio yelled.

“Get out of the way!” Ivan called.

“Move, please! And again, move!” Keith spun his wheels with a powerful push and inched up on Tetsuko.

“Coming through!” Tetsuko barreled past people, avoiding collisions when possible and nearly making it outside when she got distracted by three heads of blond hair and one head of fabulous pink. They came to visit? What bad timing! Tetsuko waved at Bunny’s, Karina’s, Pao-Lin’s and Nathan’s shocked faces as she continued her mad dash to the doors. The sensors picked up the teens’ movement and the sliding doors opened quickly to let them pass without breaking anything. Then Tetsuko’s left wheel caught in a crack in the sidewalk. Her chair threw her out of the seat and onto the ground as the boys crashed into her abandoned transport and tumbled out onto the concrete. Tetsuko caught herself on hands and knees, adding more cuts and scrapes to existing ones. She turned to the mess of limbs and metal behind her.

“Okay, who’s not dead?” Three male voices grunted their discomfort. “Good.” Then they all burst into laughter, untangling themselves and falling back onto the sidewalk to stare up at the portion of sky they could see between high rises. Tetsuko’s ribs burst into agony but she just couldn’t stop laughing, gasping every once in a while for breath.

“What are you doing?” Here comes the voice of reason. Bunny, Karina, Pao-Lin and Nathan came running up to them. The black man latched onto Antonio and helped him back into his chair.

“Nothing.” Tetsuko answered.

“Didn’t look like nothing.” Bunny righted her chair and carried the girl back into it. Pao-Lin was pushing Keith back into his chair, putting all her strength into it and Karina was just depositing Ivan back into his own chair.

“Well, we were bored and wanted to take a walk outside. It’s such a nice day not to.” Tetsuko gestured to the blue sky, even if it was a little chilly. It was winter for heaven’s sake, the world was supposed to be cold.

“Well, you’re supposed to be in there,” the blond pointed to the hospital, “So that’s where you’re all going.” He spun Tetsuko’s chair around and called to the others. “Come on, we’re going back inside.”

“Awww!” More than four voices whined, startling the blond boy. The whole group, including Nathan, Karina and Pao-Lin were giving him the biggest puppy eyes they could manage.

“What?” He flipped on the friends. “Do you want to stay outside too?”

“Yes!” Everyone giggled as they grabbed their respective partners and started walking down the street. “Fine!” Barnaby turned back to the hospital staff that was running out to collect their charges. “We’re just going to take a walk! We’ll be back soon.” He didn’t even wait for them to answer before grabbing Tetsuko’s handle bars and pushing off.

“Faster, Bunny! Everyone’s getting away!” Tetsuko giggled as his boyfriend walked faster.

“Calm down, we’ll catch up.” They group walked down the sidewalks, pushing pedestrians and dog walkers out of the way as they strolled by. Tetsuko laughed, as Antiono started poking Pao-Lin in the ribs, causing her to squeal and rock Keith’s wheelchair side to side.

“Careful! And again, careful! Wouldn’t want to spill here!”

“Stop it, Bison! It tickles!” Pao-Lin smacked his arm playfully.

“That’s why I’m doing it!”

“Well, stop tickling her and tickle me!” Nathan leaned down and nuzzled his man crush.

“Get off me!”

“You’re both disgusting.” Karina rolled her eyes at them and Ivan chuckled quietly.

“See, Bunny? Isn’t this better than meeting in a hospital room?” Tetsuko twisted carefully and grabbed her boyfriend’s hand.

“You just love it when you’re right, don’t you?” He shook his head at the girl.

“Yep! Faster!”

“Any faster and you’ll fall out of your chair.”

“Already did that! Faster!”

“As you wish.” Bunny gave her chair a shove and they raced down the sidewalk. He leapt onto the little bar in the back of the chair and rode along with Tetsuko like a skateboarder, laughing warmly.

“Whee!” Tetsuko threw her hands up as they passed everyone, flying by her friends smiling.

“Get them!” Antonio shouted, spurring Nathan to do what Bunny had.

“Let’s go, Karina!” Ivan waved his hand at his helped and they joined in the fun.

“Charge! Charge!” Keith called.

“I can’t push you that fast unless you help!” Pao-Lin seemed to be struggling with the heavier man and got going once he helped turn the wheels. She jumped onto his chair with a whoop and sped up to the others.

“You always know just how to make anything fun.” Bunny whispered in the girl’s ear, leaning down.

“It’s my job. I’m the oldest.” Tetsuko replied pointing to the park where she wanted to go.

“I thought the eldest’s job was to be responsible.” He steered the wheelchair along one of the park’s paths and lead the group through the winter bare trees.

“Well, that’s no fun!”

“Not everything’s fun.” Tetsuko listened to the whoops and yells of her friends, happy that they were having fun.

“But it’s nice. Faster, Bunny!”

“No, we’re not going faster.”

“Yes, we are!” Tetsuko grabbed her spinning wheels roughly and pushed hard. Bunny had to clutch the handles tighter as he compensated for the added speed.

“Are you trying to kill us?” He shouted, his voice joining the others who were trying to catch up.

“Nope. I just wanted to go faster.” Tetsuko sat back, satisfied with her speed and let Bunny steer clear of the joggers and walkers as they clipped along. After a half an hour of frolicking in the sunshine, racing and disturbing the peace, Bunny corralled everyone and said it was time to go back.

“Do we really have to?” Tetsuko asked as they left the park.

“If you want to get out of the hospital, yes.” The blond stared pushing her towards the medical center, patting her head sympathetically. The girl huffed and moodily slumped in her chair with her arms crossed. “Cheer up. I’ll come visit tomorrow too.” Cocky bastard.

“It’s always about you, isn’t it? My whole existence revolves around your visits?”

“Yes, it does.”

“You’re lucky we’re dating.” Tetsuko grumbled. “Onward!” The girl dramatically sat up and painted forward with her arm outstretched.

“Quit telling me what to do!”

“Ooo! A skate park!”

“No!”


Christmas with a Crank

“So whatcha doing for Christmas, Bunny?” Tetsuko asked as the blond lounged on her floor. They were hanging in Tetsuko’s living room, watching a movie that neither was really watching while the girl rested on the couch. She’d been released from the hospital, but the doctors had put her on a strict schedule of bed rest and Bunny was there to make sure she kept to it.

“Nothing special. Christmas is different for me since…” he trailed off and Tetsuko filled in the blanks.

“Yeah, I get it.” Tetsuko felt the same way every time Tomoe’s birthday or the day he died rolled by. “Do you want to spend it with my family this year? You know, since you’re not doing anything Christmas Eve?” Bunny gave her a look that was part confusion part suspicion. “But if you don’t want to I get it.” Her voice stared speeding up, going into hyper teenager mode. “It’s just a party, right? I mean we open presents and stuff and the Reeds come over for dinner and breakfast and ‘Masa will come down from his new apartment and what not and we’ll make it a sleepover so you’re not alone, but its fine if you want to stay at home in the dark and…”

“Tetsuko.” Her name stopped the girl dead in her tracks. She still wasn’t used to him using it, she kept waiting for “old lady” every time he opened his mouth. “I’d love to spend Christmas with your family.” Bunny gave her one of those rare shy smiles that made her heart race. “But,” that single world brought her crashing back down again, “I think we need to talk about some things first.” He shut off the TV with the remote Tetsuko had trusted him with. The blond put on his serious face and sat up to take a seat by the girl’s feet. She scooted them over so he could have more room, tangling her legs in her blanket more.

“Like what?”

“Well, like about our fight.” That little sentence had the guilt the girl had capped surging upwards into her throat.

“I-I, well…”

“I don’t want to have a fight like that again. It was horrible the way we treated each other and I don’t ever want to say things like that again.” Bunny took both of Tetsuko’s hands in her own, and stared at her seriously. “I just want to know more about you so that I can understand you better. I should’ve opened up more to you, that’s what you’re supposed to do in relationships, right? You already know that I was meeting Kriem to get information about Jake, but I should’ve told you that before so you didn’t jump to the wrong conclusions. There was nothing going on between us and in the end, my own plan backfired and got my friends hurt.” That had to be hard, admitting he was wrong.

“It wasn’t all your fault. Jake and Kriem were crazy to begin with. And I am sorry I followed you. I’m sorry for not trusting you.” Tetsuko squeezed his hands apologetically.

“And I’m sorry for not trusting you. Kaede is obviously a very tender subject and if you’re willing to open up a little bit, I’m willing to listen. No judging.” Bunny squeezed her hands back, his deep green eyes soft. She had never done this before and Tetsuko felt like she was swimming in deep waters. She wasn’t very good at opening up, and here was a boy- a boy she really, really liked- and he was willing to listen to her. After a few deep breaths and a moment of looking into Bunny’s eyes, Tetsuko became someone she tried to hide from everyone: a serious woman with her own emotional pain.

“When I found out I was pregnant with Kaede, I immediately told Tomoe. We weren’t ready for this and I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. I was still in middle school, not even remotely ready for the huge responsibility of caring for a child.” Tetsuko didn’t sugarcoat anything as she spoke. Bunny deserved to hear it all. “My mother had a very complicated response: she was pleased to be a grandparent, but very disappointed in both Tomoe and me for behaving so reckless. I guess that’s because she’s raised two children herself.” Tetsuko’s solemn voice sounded so foreign to her, like a completely different person.

“Muramasa couldn’t believe that I had done something so stupid and Tomoe’s parents couldn’t stand the fact that their son had messed around with a delinquent like me. My kaa-san wanted to keep the child when it was born and Tomoe’s parents wanted to snatch their grandchild out of my dirty hands. I’ve always had a rocky relationship with them to begin with and now I’d just made it worse. I could hide the fact that I was pregnant for a while but the last few months of school were hell. The other students called me horrible things and my teachers couldn’t even take me seriously. Tomoe saw how much the abuse was killing me right from the start, and he had suggested that we abort earlier in the pregnancy. It was unthinkable to me. We discussed whether to abort or not for a long, long time but I just couldn’t.” Tears started to fill up her eyes and she looked away in shame.

“I loved my baby, Bunny. I loved her before I even knew her. Even if it was my stupid mistake for fooling around, I wasn’t going to end a life just because I didn’t want to deal with the consequences.” She disengaged one of her hands to wipe at the liquid flowing down her cheeks and felt another warm hand come up to stroke her cheek. The blond was then pulling his fingers through her hair, conscious of her bruises, and shifted closer to wrap his arms about the sobbing girl, silently waiting for her to continue. “Since I wouldn’t have an abortion we had to think of other options then. Kaa-san wanted to keep the child if I was up for it but with her helping manage the store and ‘Masa and I finishing up our respective schools, it would’ve been hard to raise an infant. It was hard enough being pregnant in school and a live baby was going to be so much worse. Tomoe wasn’t about to let his own parents control our baby’s life (they were kind of overbearing to begin with) and he also felt that he wasn’t ready to be a full-time father. That’s when we decided to look into adoption parents. We found the Reeds by accident one day while visiting the agency that would be in charge of getting Kaede adopted.” Tetsuko sniffed, laughing slightly as she recalled the fond memory. “Mr. Reed was the first one to spot me. Actually I ran into him while I was talking to Tomoe and not paying attention. My boyfriend caught me and told Mr. Reed that that was my way of saying hello. We all laughed and brushed ourselves off. I asked him why he was there and the man told me he and his wife were looking to adopt. I blurted out that we were looking for someone to adopt. Then we both met Mrs. Reed and somehow it felt right. I knew that these were the people who I wanted my daughter to go to.” Tetsuko knew she was soaking his shirt but she clung to Bunny as her sobs got harder.

“At least that worked out, right?” The boy placed his hand behind her head to comfort her as she cried into his shoulder.

“Yeah, but it was so hard, Bunny. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Kaede was mine and I gave her up. I was so happy holding her in my arms when she was born. My little angel, all wrinkly and red and screaming. Tomoe thought that she was cuter than me and I gave him crap about that. I mean, come on! I’d just gone through a eighteen hour labor and he didn’t even have the decency to lie about my appearance.” She pushed out a dry chuckle, wrapping her sore arms around Bunny’s torso even tighter. “I let her go because it was the right thing to do and half the reason I do crazy stuff is so that Kaede can see that her mother does great things. I want to her to be proud of me like I am of her. I help people because I promised Tomoe I would, but I also do it for Kaede, as an example to her.” Tetsuko talked into his shirt, not wanting him to see her puffy face. “Ya know, I cried for days after she’d been transferred to the Reed’s home. I kept calling to see how she was doing, not because I didn’t think the Reeds couldn’t take care of her, but I just wanted to know how she was doing. I think they understood that, but after a while they told me to stop because they were trying to get Kaede to sleep and I kept waking her up.”

“You’re a dork.” He chuckled at her, rubbing her back.

“And you know it.”

“And I love you for it.” Tetsuko’s sobs stopped dead in their tracks. She pulled out of Bunny’s arms and wiped her tears away with the heels of her hands.

“You love me?” She was a bit shocked. They went from hating each other to liking each other, to breaking up, to loathing each other again, to love?

“I love you, Tetsuko Kaburagi.” Her mouth dropped open in awe and the girl just stared at him. Bunny started glowering at her. “This is the part where you say you love me too.” She hugged him again, crying for totally different reasons.

“I love you, Bunny. “ She cried into his shoulder, fully happy at last.

“The least you can do is call me by my real name, old lady!” He was the one who pulled back this time to pout at the girl.

“Oh, so we’re back to ‘old lady’ now?”

“Only because you keep calling me a fluffy rodent.”

“A cute fluffy rodent.” She clarified.

“I’m not cute!”

“Yes you are.” She took his face in both of her hands to grin at him. “You’re cute and grumpy and insensitive and a show pony and handsomely gorgeous and I love you too.” Tetsuko gently kissed him on the lips and pulled away softly. “I love you, Barnaby Brooks Jr. and I don’t ever want to lose you again.”

“See, was that so hard?” He tried to act nonchalant, but he was totally blushing hard.

“No, and when you’re good I’ll call you by your name. Maybe.” Tetsuko winked at him with a smile.

“Can’t you ever stay serious?” Barnaby sighed.

“I’m serious all the time, Bunny. I just hide it around everyone because they expect me to be the dorky, reckless screw up I was. I’m scared of acting like an adult because, technically, I’m already supposed to be one. That’s one of the reasons I put up the act.”

“Well, you can still be dorky and reckless, as long as you’re serious with me sometimes. I want to learn to love all the sides of you.” Barnaby kissed her cheeks one by one.

“And I want to do the same for you. So lighten up once in a while!”

“You’re hopeless.”

“And you know it.” They sat in silence for a while, Bunny snuggling into Tetsuko’s side as she scrunched herself into the back of the couch. “So, do you visit your parents on Christmas Eve?” The girl didn’t know whether he’d answer or not, but since she’d opened up, maybe he would a little.

“Christmas Day, actually. You’re supposed to spend Christmas with your family.” Sadness leaked into his voice and Tetsuko was regretting that she brought it up.

“Can I come with you? Is that okay?” She laced her fingers in his when he tucked his head into her shoulder.

“Yeah.” His soft breath ghosted against her neck, sending shivers down the brunette’s spine. This was a big step for Bunny and she wasn’t going to blow it. “But only if you let me carry you. You’re in no condition to walk that far anywhere.”

“No! It’s embarrassing when you carry me!”

“Deal with it.”

Christmas Eve morning found Tetsuko in Bunny’s arms as he walked to his parent’s gravesite. She’d convinced him that with the craziness of Christmas day at her house, that it would be better to visit the graves on the day that his parents died. He reluctantly agreed, picking up Tetsuko in a rented car so she didn’t have to cling to a bike. She was also the one in charge of carrying the flowers and motorcycles and flowers didn’t mix well. Actually, Tetsuko and flowers didn’t mess well, but the girl was going to do her best not to drop anything. The ground was barren even with store bought poinsettias dotting the lawn, and the sky looked gray enough to dump buckets of white but it just wouldn’t. Tetsuko was dressed in layer after layer because Bunny didn’t want her catching a cold in her “condition.” Seriously, what condition was she in? Condition of nervous and embarrassed, that’s what. The brunette used one arm to fix her green earmuffs. Bunny was carrying her princess-style, held close to his chest as they walked to the Brooks’ gravesite.

“So, uh, Bunny? This is embarrassing for me, so can you put me down now? I think I can walk on my own.” Her legs definitely didn’t want to walk on their own. And besides, it was nice being in Bunny’s arms again, even if it was a princess carry. She cradled the two small vases of flowers reverently, naming the flower meanings as they walked. Red roses for respect, love and courage, white lilies for sympathy, pink carnations for remembrance, and white chrysanthemums for grief and truth. I wonder if Bunny knows all these flower meanings. I bet he does.

“No, we’re almost there anyway.” The blond had been quiet all morning, his face strained and his body language closed off. He wasn’t even looking at the girl as he spoke to her, his obvious suffering held in check by his strict code for keeping up appearances. If there was one thing Tetsuko had learned about Barnaby was that he held his emotions at a distance, keeping them hidden behind a carefully constructed façade and he knew how to react and around whom. Consequently he could let go a little around the brunette, he felt at least safe around her. This is hard for him. I know it’s hard for me. If we were at Tomoe’s grave right now I’d be a bawling mess. He probably doesn’t function normally on this day, staying in his house in the throes of sorrow. I know that’s what I do. Tetsuko brought her hand up to his cheek to stroke the wind chilled skin, trying to ease his quiet grief. He smiled softly at her, sadness welling in his eyes as he started to break down. He stopped in front of his parent’s gravestones and set the girl down gently. She carefully kneeled down and arranged the flowers carefully on the clean cut grass. Then she began her rituals that she preformed for Tomoe’s grave, habit persuading her to clean off the headstones. Bunny kneeled to help her; his hands making the work go twice as fast. Once clean, the girl clapped her hands together twice, startling the blond and sent up a prayer to her boyfriend’s parents.

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, I’m Tetsuko Kaburagi. I’m Bunny’s girlfriend. Barnaby’s girlfriend, I mean. “Bunny” is what I call him. We’ve been dating a little bit, we broke up for a while, but now we’re back together again and all I want to do is stay with him. Please let me help him. Please let me protect your son. Please let me love him like you did. Or still do. I’m not perfect Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, but I’ll do what I can for your son despite that. I’m sorry for you loss of having to leave Barnaby behind and I’m sorry that he’s lost you too. I’ll protect him in any way I can, I promise.

“W-what are you doing?” Bunny had started crying while Tetsuko prayed, silent tears falling down his cheeks. Tetsuko scooted over and hugged him. She sat him down on the cold grass, ignoring his protests about graveside protocol.

“I was introducing myself. You’re parents have never met me before.” She wrapped her arm around his shoulders, pulling his head into the crook of her neck.

“They can’t meet you, Tetsuko! They’re…they’re” Bunny was trying to look angry, but sadness dispelled that. He was fighting for some semblance of control, his emotions coming apart at the seams.

“See what I have to put up with?” The brunette began talking to the headstones. “Bunny has to contradict me in everything I say, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks. It’s like he wants me to be wrong.”

“Don’t say that. Mom and Dad, she’s just difficult all the time so I have to knock her down.” So he talks to them too. Glad I’m not the only one who talks to dead people.

“Anyway,” Tetsuko rolled her eyes, “I came here with Bunny today so he wouldn’t be alone.” She threaded the fingers of her free hand with one of the blonde’s. Bunny looked up at her, eyes wide. “You see, I know what it’s like to lose someone you love and sometimes it sucks to be alone. Tomoe told me that once and if you see him, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, tell him that your son is keeping me in line for him.”

“You always need someone to keep you in line. Which is okay, Mom and Dad. It gives me something to do.” Bunny cradled her hand against his face.

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah.” Bunny stood up, bringing Tetsuko with him. “And you’ll be happy to know that I’ve defeated your murderer. I kept my promise to you. You’ve finally been avenged.” His voice broke halfway through the sentence. This was the closure he needed, Tetsuko thought, wrapping her arms around his waist. His arms came up around her shoulders and pulled her close.

“With a little help from me, of course.” Tetsuko informed the parents.

“More like a little hindrance.” The blond squeezed her tightly for a moment.

“I hate you.”

“I thought you said you loved me.”

“I love you, but I can still hate you. It’s like a running theme of our relationship.” Tetsuko laughed softly.

“See, this is what I have to deal with. Every day. Every damn day.”

“Don’t swear in front of your parents!” Tetsuko smacked his back since his arm was out of reach. “They don’t want to hear that shit coming out of your mouth.”

You don’t swear in front of them. This is supposed to be an introduction.”

“When I introduce you to Tomoe, I’ll let you swear.”

“That has nothing to do with this.”

“Sh! Time to shut up and observe a moment of silence.” Tetusko felt their argument getting out of hand and this was supposed to be a solemn visit. Bunny lightly smacked her head and buried his curls in her shoulder, crying again as soft sobs shook his body. All the years of pain and grief must’ve got to him. That and the fact that these past few weeks have been hell for both of us. The girl felt the boy letting go as he fulfilled his vow to his parents. Tetsuko felt a warm presence next to her, like a hand on her shoulder. Bunny must’ve felt something too because his head snapped up and clipped her chin.

“Ow!” They both looked around, finding themselves alone in the gray morning. They stared at the graves silently.

“I think they’re okay now.” Tetsuko whispered, not wanting to disturb the blond.

“You felt that too?”

“Well, I felt something.” The brunette let her boyfriend collect himself again. “Do you want to stay?”

“Just a little longer.” They stood hand in hand, gazing at two headstones until Tetsuko’s torso and legs decided they had had enough of standing. Bunny carried her back to the car and they went to get ready for a party.

“They lights are not even on this side.” Bunny pointed out as Tetsuko decorated the tree. She was grateful that his crisp speech patterns had returned, signaling that he’d collected himself enough to function.

“I can’t only reach so high, broken ribs and all!” She complained.

“Quit complaining and give them to me.” Tetsuko did as she was told. She are Bunny were in charge of the tree, ‘Masa was in charge of all the other decorations and Tetsuko’s kaa-san was making dinner. Tetsuko kept trying to sneak a snack because it smelled so delicious but not only did her kaa-san hit her with a spoon, but then her boyfriend would drag her back to the tree by her collar. The girl grabbed the ornament box and waited until Bunny was satisfied with the placement of the lights. She proceeded to decorate the tree with colored balls, candy canes and those keepsake frames that held photos of her and Muramasa growing up.

“You wore pigtails?” Bunny asked, hanging up a picture of the girl and her brother at an ice rink. That was the day she broke her arm.

“I was eight and it was the trend. And for your information, I also shaved the sides of my head and had long hair at one point so don’t laugh if you find them.” Bunny liked her long hair and laughed at her punk phase. Tetsuko laughed with him, glad to see him smiling, even if he was making fun of her. Tree all decorated, the brunette ran up the stairs as fast as she dared to wrap the gifts she was supposed to wrap days ago. One for kaa-san, one for ‘Masa, five for Kaede, one for each of the Reeds, and one for Bunny. She counted out her now wrapped gifts, nicely wrapped she might add, nearly hidden in the mess of bows and tape that was her room. I hope he likes it. I hope everyone likes their gifts, but I really want Bunny to like his. Tetsuko heard the doorbell ring and the clamor of her other family enterin the house.

“Tetsuko, get down here! The Reeds are here!” The girl’s mother called up to her.

“Coming!” She grabbed all the gift she could and stumbled down the stairs, catching her breath as the bottom. Chest aching, she dumped her presents with the others that had been placed uner the tree.

“Mom!” Kaede ran into the sitting room, half out of her coat and smiling widely.

“Kaede! Give me a hug, pumpkin!” Tetusko knelt down and opened her arms to the toddler. Kaede dashed into her hug, slamming into the teen with all the strength her little body possessed. The girl’s ribs flared in pain and breathing became a chore punctuated by gasps of agony. Even wrapped tightly, Tetsuko could feel them shift slightly at the contact.

“Mom?” Kaede was looking up at her, concern in her big brown eyes. The teen fell backwards onto the carpet; she couldn’t breathe let alone speak. “Mom!” The toddler’s scream brought Bunny running in.

“Kaede, let go of Tetsuko.” Bunny took control of the situation. He kneeled down by the girls and supported the older one.

“It’s you, asshole!” The brunette wanted to laugh if she could’ve. After a moment of staring at the blond in awe, Kaede punched him in the arm once she let go of her birthmother. “Let go of her!”

“Kaede, Tetsuko and I aren’t fighting anymore, but she’s been hurt by someone else. I need you to take a step back so she can breathe.”

“Mom hurts? Where?” The child watched her birthmother, putting her little hands on her chest softly. “Here?” Tetsuko nodded and her kid nodded back. Bunny kept holding Tetsuko as the girl got her lungs back.

“I’ll…be…okay.” Her sentence was broken up between her pants and Tetsuko reached out to take her daughter’s hand comfortingly.

“Not hurting now?” Kaede asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re not fighting anymore?” The toddler looked back and forth between the teens, eyeing Bunny carefully.

“No. See?” Tetsuko tipped her head back and kissed her boyfriend. Kaede gasped and Bunny blushed deeply.

“Yay! More parents!” The small girl clapped her hands together, all her dislike of Bunny disappearing with the thought of more presents.

“No! Don’t jump to conclusions!” Bunny protested.

“Let her. She won’t…change her mind…believe me.”

“Tetsuko, what have you done to yourself now?” Mrs. Reed entered the room with everyone else and they all looked concerned.

“Nothing…just took out a criminal…and broke three ribs in the process. No…biggie.” It was easier to talk now, and Bunny propped her up against the couch. “I get the shi-crap beaten out of me all the time.” She censored her language around Kaede, no need to reinforce the swear words she’d already learned.

“Don’t blow this on off, Tetsuko.” Her mother was stroking her hair now. “We’re all just worried about you. I should’ve told Kaede to be more careful.”

“It’s okay, kaa-san. I just love her hugs too much.” Tetsuko tweaked her daughter’s nose and the girl giggled. Subject diverted, Kaede started babbling about Christmas and presents and how it sucked that it hadn’t snowed yet. Bunny sat Tetsuko on the couch and told her not to move an inch until dinner.

“Bossy, Bunny.” Tetsuko laughed. “Kaede, come meet my boyfriend, Barnaby. He’s really nice, even if we had a big fight.” The girl came running and leapt up onto the seat next to her birthmother. She stared at the blond intently, studying his face.

“Cute asshole.” She nodded her approval.

“You can’t think he’s cute!” Tetsuko protested.

“I like him now. He’s poofy!” Kaede patted his hair but Bunny swatted her hands away nicely.

“Hands off the hair.”

“No, I like him. He’s my boyfriend.”

“You’re really arguing with a four year old?” Bunnyy raised an eyebrow at her.

“Why not, it gives us something to do before dinner.”

“I want him!” Kaede trapped the blonde’s arm in both of hers and clung to him.

“No, I want him!” Tetsuko grabbed his other arm possessively.

“Me!”

“Me!” Bunny was tugged this way and that as the girl’s fought.

“Stop fighting over me!” Ten more minutes of fighting ensued before someone stopped it.

“Dinner’s ready!” Mrs. Reed called. Both girl’s dropped the boy and dashed off to eat.

“Hey!” Bunny called out as he was ditched.

“Hurry up, Bunny, and I’ll let you kiss me under the mistletoe!” Tetsuko ran back to grab the boy’s hand and pull him to the table.

“That’s not how mistletoe works!”

“Will both of you get in here?” Muramasa’s serious voice spurred Tetsuko faster. “We’re all hungry.”

“Fine, fine! Let’s eat!” Tetsuko sat Bunny in his seat and took her own. Dinner was lively, Kaede jabbering from her seat and the teens swapping jabs and gossip with the grownups over ham and potatoes. Tetsuko’s mouth kept working so she barely ate anything until her boyfriend snapped her jaw shut so she could eat something. Once dessert was served and the table cleared, Kaede zoomed over to the tree, intent on opening a few presents before bed. All three mothers got their cameras and phones to take pictures as presents were opened. Kaede walked away with no less than three dolls, two kiddie purses, fake make-up and about ten movies she’d been dying to own. Muramasa got a CD from his favorite band from Bunny (informed by Tetsuko) and a gift card to his favorite shop from his sister. All the kids and parents got knit sweaters that Mrs. Kaburagi made herself: Tetsuko in green, Bunny in red, Muramasa in purple, Mr. Reed in brown, Mrs. Reed in maroon and Kaede in light blue. The Reed’s got the Kaburagi’s a trip to the hot springs and the Kaburagi’s gave them the complete series of scholarly (and incredibly boring in Tetsuko’s opinion) novels that they’d both been studying. Kaede handed out pictures to everyone (minus Bunny) that she’d drawn and Tetsuko told Bunny he could share hers since the kid didn’t know he was going to be there. Muramasa had bought his mother a nice silver pendant and chipped in to get Tetsuko’s bike repainted since her last drag race trashed the job. And low and behold, Tetsuko gave her mother a new set of dishes because she’d broken half of the other set. Everyone thoroughly distracted by their gifts, Tetsuko reached to the back of the tree where she’d hidden Bunny’s present. Hiding it behind her back, she dragged the boy to the front porch and closed the door behind her.

“Here, Barnaby.” She thrust a package wrapped in red paper into his hands, blushing the same crimson as the wrapping paper. “I know you’re not one for gifts, but I thought you’d like one.”

“T-thank you.” He stammered, reaching into his pocket to draw out a green wrapped package and handed it to the girl. “I have one for you as well.”

“Thanks.” They both blushed at each other and then opened their packages, paper falling to the ground as their breath puffed into the night air. Bunny got his open first, reaching into the box and pulling out the black ring his girlfriend had bought him. “It’s small, so it won’t take up much space since I know you love your belongings just so and when I saw it I thought of you because you’re a little sharp but you’re solid like stone, and you’re always there for me now and-“ Tetusko was babbling again.

“You don’t have just justify your gift, you old bat. I love it.” He chuckled at her, slipping his three pointed stone ring on his left index finger. “Now finish opening yours.” Tetsuko complied and opened the little back box and gasped at the sliver locket inside. The metal was etched with sweeping curls and flowers, the border accented with little emeralds.

“Bunny, it’s beautiful.” She reverently picked up the chain and let the pendant dangle before her amber eyes.

“It was my mother’s. My father bought it for her because the emeralds matched her eyes.” The blond took the necklace and wrapped the chain around her neck and hooked the clasp. He pulled the chain down and the girl brought her hand up to feel the cool metal against her fingertips. “Now it reminds me of you, because you wear so much damn green.”

“What can I say? It’s a good color on me.” She twirled for him, showing off her deep green coat. He laughed at her and swept the girl up into a twirl. “Thank you, Barnaby.” She fluffed his curls and wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his red jacket. Tetsuko giggled as she realized something.

“What?”

“I just realized we wear Christmas colors all the time. Red and green.”

“Great, now I’m going to remember that all year.” As Bunny was speaking something white fell on his nose and melted. Another flake hit his glasses and smudged the lenses. Another flake hit Tetsuko in the eye.

“Gah!” She blinked the water away and gazed up. It was snowing. “Finally! It’s snowing!” The girl jumped up and down in Bunny’s arms, happier than a tornado in a trailer park. “Kiss me in the first snowfall! It’ll be romantic!”

“As you wish.” Bunny pulled her into a passionate kiss, his lips devouring hers like no other kiss they’d had. Tetsuko gasped into his mouth and his tongue slipped into hers. She moaned and lightly bit his tongue as he explored her mouth.

“Sneak.” She accused when they broke for air.

“You asked for it.” He smirked. “And I couldn’t resist.

“Do it again.” Tetsuko grabbed his collar and yanked him into another bruising kiss, fighting for dominance as their tongues dueled.

“Ew! Gross!” They were interrupted when Kaede opened the door and caught them in the act. They jumped apart as the adults came to see what was up.

“Shame, shame!” Mr. Reed wagged his finger at the embarrassed couple.

“Take a hike!” Tetsuko snapped, grabbing Bunny’s arm.

“Were they kissing?” Kaede asked her uncle.

“Yes, they were.” Muramasa ruffled her ponytail. “Off to bed Kaede. Santa Claus will be here soon!”

“Santa!” The girl dashed away and ran up the stairs in a hurry to get to sleep so her other presents would get here faster. Once everyone was inside, the Reeds retreated to the guest room for the night, Muramasa got comfortable on the couch, Anju headed to her room and warned the two teens who were sharing Tetsuko’s room to keep it quiet so she could sleep. Bunny blushed at the comment, but Tetsuko knew her mother was kidding about the sex joke. The brunette helped Bunny settle in for the night on an air mattress (he’d refused to share her bed, even if it was just for sleeping) and he had to meticulously construct his little nest of pillows and blankets for five whole minutes before he was satisfied. He went to go brush his teeth in the bathroom and Tetsuko went to change into her pajamas. She’d gotten all her clothes off except her underclothes when her boyfriend strolled back in.

“Bunny!” She was more pissed off than embarrassed. He always seemed to walk in on her when she was changing. Hand on hip, holding out her bottoms, the girl glared at him in her underwear. He was blushing again but he wouldn’t stop staring.

“Sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry.

“Is this going to be a regular thing with you? Walking in on me?”

“I hope so.”

“Hentai.”

“What does that mean?”

“Pervert.”

“Oh.” He thought for a moment. “Now all your conversations with Nathan make sense.”

“Shut up and let me finish changing.” Tetsuko slipped on her pants (thanking the heavens she was wearing sexy underwear) and slipped on her sleeping socks. She made the boy close his eyes while she changed out of her bra and into her tank top, but she suspected the blond was peeking. Bunny was decked out in a long sleeve shirt and red bottoms and a jacket. Apparently he had a low body temperature and was always cold in the winter so Tetsuko threw him another blanket and snuggled up into her fluffy comforter. All bundled up and in bed the girl called goodnight to her partner.

“Goodnight, Bunny. Merry Christmas.” Tetsuko said down to her boyfriend.

“Merry Christmas, old lady.” He replied.

“Hey.”

“Say it.”

Barnaby.”

Tetsuko.” It was like a running gag now, how they used each other’s names to get what they wanted. Tetsuko smiled smugly, and snuggled into her covers, her heart light and blood hot thinking about the kisses the blond had given her. Maybe I can get some more tomorrow under the mistletoe! She giggled quietly, earning her a remark about getting some sleep from the room’s other occupant. The girl flipped around to gaze at the locket Bunny had given her. Best Christmas ever, she decided, taking her boyfriend’s advice and getting some sleep.


Second First Date

After the Christmas season, the biggest date on Barnaby’s mind was the one where he was going to take Tetsuko out to the opera using her own tickets she gave him back in October. I hope she doesn’t mind going with me. She’s my girlfriend after all, who else would I take? And she said the tickets were for me and some lucky girl, it just happens to be her. Barnaby stared at himself in the mirror and wet his hair to comb his bangs back. Going to concerts or operas was really the only time he ever put his bangs back, for formal occasions. One last check over his outfit: a black, tailor-cut suit with a red shirt with black dress shoes and a black tie. He grabbed his red handkerchief and folded it to stick in his pocket. The blond grabbed his wallet and overcoat as he walked out the door and down to where the car was. His guardian Mr. Maverick had hired a driver for the night to chaperone the two teens on their date. Barnaby knew opera wasn’t his girlfriend’s cup of tea, but he was still glad that she agreed to go with him. Going with someone else would’ve just been weird or awkward and the whole night would’ve been torture.

Since Tetsuko’s house was so out of the way, the girl was actually changing the getting ready at Nathan’s place and then the whole thing had turned into a girl’s night. Barnaby had gotten a phone call from his girlfriend an hour ago, begging for him to save her from Karina’s flat iron and Nathan’s make-up. The blond had refused; satisfied that Tetsuko would be in good hands appearance-wise. Barnaby took the elevator all the way to the top and rang the doorbell once he’d gotten to the complex. There was a flurry of movement inside that was accompanied by shrieks and the sound of running feet. He chuckled as the distinct voice of Nathan rose above the sudden din yelling, “Tets, get back here!” That puzzled the boy, where could she be going?

“Crap!” That was Karina’s voice now. “She locked the door!”

“Lin! Let Handsome in!” After that order, the door finally opened.

“Hi Barnaby!” Apparently everyone had had a makeover because Pao-Lin was all dolled up. Her hair had been crimped and she was actually wearing make-up (which was not her style at all).

“Hello. What was going on in here?” Both blondes walked inside and the girl shut the door behind her. The whole front room looked like Nathan’s closet threw up all over it. Dresses, shirts, bright colored pants and accessories were strewn everywhere, covering up the furniture and the dining room table was a display of cosmetics that even a hard core fashionista would be jealous.

“Well, you ran the doorbell and Tigress panicked. Something about being embarrassed or not wanting you to see her and then she ran upstairs to Emblem’s room and slammed the door. I thought she looked pretty.” Barnaby heard Karina and Nathan banging on said door. And if tomboy Pao-Lin thinks she’s pretty then Tetsuko must be gorgeous. Barnaby’s heart sped up at the thought. His girlfriend was hopelessly attractive in sweatpants and a hoodie (he knew that from experience), but he’d never seen her in formal wear.

“Tetsuko Kaburagi! Come out from there right now!” Nathan was yelling at the closed door now. “You’re date is here! He’s waiting downstairs while you’re up here hiding like an incest scandal!”

“If I walk out I’ll be a scandal!” The brunette’s muted voice filtered down through the crack under the door.

“I resent that!” Karina was now banging on the door again as Pao-Lin and Barnaby carefully peeked up the stairs. “I worked on your make-up for an hour!”

“And that made my butt hurt from sitting for so long!”

“And don’t forget I did your hair and worked out your accessories for you! I want Handsome to see all my hard work too!” Nathan began to pick the lock with a bobby pin, his fuchsia back turned toward the boy.

“But I feel ridiculous!” Tetsuko sounded really uncomfortable.

“You’re acting ridiculous, that’s what.” Barnaby’s voice caused the brunette to shriek from Nathan’s room. “We need to go now. Our reservations are in twenty minutes and we still have to drive to the restaurant.” The blond walked up the stairs until he edged his way in between Nathan and Karina. “What are you so scared of? It’s just me.” He crossed his arms, careful not to get to many wrinkles in his suit.

“Ooo! You look gorgeous yourself!” Nathan cooed, appreciating the treat in front of him. He dragged his painted nails up Barnaby’s arms, sending the not-good shivers up his spine again.

“Don’t touch. I just had this pressed.” Barnaby brushed off his hand.

“Ouch. Well, it’s for Tets to touch anyway.” Nathan winked and Barnaby blushed, just a little bit.

“I’m not good with this sort of thing.” Tetsuko was talking again. “This whole date is like a whole different horse race!”

“Not even close that time.” Barnaby sighed and shook his head, “It’s ‘ball game.’ A whole different ball game.”

“Well, I feel like a horse in these shoes. They’re too tall!”

“I’ll be the judge of that. Let me see them.” Barnaby decided to see if he could trick her into coming out.

“No!”

“Well, I told her that your dress shoes would have a bit of heel so that it would be okay if she wore heels too. We practiced walking for a half an hour just to make sure she could actually move in them.” Karina motioned for Nathan to keep picking the lock as she talked. “I don’t think she’s every worn heels before.”

“Dating you has made me self conscious! It’s because I’m so tall! No need to make me stick out more by putting me on platforms!”

“Tetsuko, we need to go and I’m tired of talking to a door.” Barnaby needed to get her out so they could go.

“Fine.” The name works every time. Barnaby smiled. “But only if you go back downstairs and close your eyes. I need to make sure everything looks okay first.”

“Deal.” The blond did as he was told and closed his eyes.

“Are your eyes closed?” She yelled down at him.

“Yes!” Four different voices answered. The boy heard the door open and then two mother hens fussing as they clucked over their chick. Barnaby heard the click of heels on the hardwood floors and the rustle of fabric.

“Okay, you can open up now.” Barnaby opened his eyes and was blown away. Tetuko was wearing a high neck, short skirted dress, in emerald of course, with a wide black belt that extended from just under her breasts down to her hipbones with two rows of white buttons. Around her shoulders was a white fur wrap that fell to just above her skirt and her hair shined like a new penny, gelled to perfection most likely. She was also wearing black gloves that only came down to the heel of her hand, along with her beaded bracelet and a sliver bangle on her opposite wrist, a silver teardrop pendant necklace and similar earrings. The overall look of the outfit was very her, but also sophisticated and clean with a touch of elegance. “Do I look okay?” Tetsuko was blushing, her gray shadowed eyes bashfully fluttering under her long lashes, her golden eyes pleading.

“Okay?” Barnaby swallowed, momentarily forgetting how to breathe. “You look absolutely fantastic!”

“See! I told you he’d love it!” Nathan gushed, fawning over the lone brunette.

“I think he’s broken.” Pao-Lin poked Barnaby’s cheek when he didn’t move and the boy quickly collected himself.

“I’m fine.” The blond extended his hand to his date. “Shall we go?”

“Yeah.” She took his hand and they swept out the door calling goodbyes. Once they were in the car Tetsuko breathed a sigh of relief. “If you took any longer I swear I was going to tear my hair out!”

“Don’t do that. Nathan actually tamed it for once.”

“You look handsome too, by the way.” Tetsuko fiddled with her silver bangle, smiling softly.

“Thank you.” He took her hand and squeezed it lightly. “And you do look gorgeous.”

“I feel so out of place in stuff like this.” She tugged at some fur on her wrap. “This is Nathan’s. He has so much fur, it’s scary.” They both chuckled as they drove to dinner.

“I’m not surprised he does, but you make it look fabulous.”

“Don’t you mean fabulous?” She sang the word like the transvestite did and flung her arms out giggling.

“Just like that.” Dinner went smoothly after that (no damages to be seen) and then their driver took the teens to the opera house. Tetsuko was in awe of the grandeur, her eyes wide in child like fascination. She took it upon herself to point out every little detail, from the scroll work on the banisters right down to the color of every fashionable lady’s shoes. Barnaby ushered her to their seats when he got bored. Pleased that the girl had purchased seats in the center of the theater (so they didn’t see the performers in the wings) and far enough back that they didn’t have to stare up at the stage. Tetsuko kept pointing things out and asking questions as the orchestra warmed up to perform Don Giovanni. When the curtains finally opened she shut up and the music began. When Leporello began his introduction of the opera, the girl leaned into Barnaby’s personal bubble. The blond glared at her, trying to enjoy the opera in peace.

“It’s in another language? How am I supposed to understand anything?” She whispered.

“Watch and you might learn something. Italian is a beautiful language.” Barnaby whispered back, getting drawn back into the opera.

“Do you speak Italian?” She asked.

“A little.”

“Will you explain the plot to me a little bit? I’ll shut up, I promise.” Barnaby gave the shot version of Don Giovanni: Don Giovanni cavorts and seduces women and kills one of the women’s father and then at the end of the play gets pulled into hell by the statue of the dead man. Knowing what was in store, the girl turned back to the stage and then had to stifle giggles as Don Giovanni was all over Donna Anna’s body. “This is explicit!” She whispered to the boy. Barnaby gave her a fierce glare. “Shutting up.”

She snapped her mouth shut for the rest of the act. After the first intermission, back in their seats, Barnaby was surprised that his date hadn’t said a word. He glanced over, pulling himself away from the addicting music and found that she was asleep sitting straight up. Barnaby rolled his eyes at her. Falling asleep on a date, old lady? Your age is starting to show. The blond patted her had that was on the arm rest in between then softly, intertwining their fingers and turned back to the stage. He poked her awake softly at the start of the second intermission.

“What did I miss?” She shot up, her eyes still heavy with sleep.

“Not a whole ton. We’re got the rest of Act Two to go.” Barnaby helped her stand up so they could stretch their legs. She took his arm and leaned close to him stumbling a bit on her heels.

“I knew this thing was long, but geez!”

“You’re the one who bought the tickets.” Barnaby pointed out, leading her into the foyer.

“I didn’t expect you to take me! When I got them we were still in between loathing and tolerance.” She steered him towards the drinking fountain over by the bathrooms and leaned down take a drink. Barnaby could appreciate the view he was getting, her butt was really cute in that dress.

“I probably would’ve taken you anyway just to torture you. You know for a fact I don’t have very many friends.” She stood up and dabbed her mouth carefully, then pulled a tube of lips gloss out of who-knows-where to apply to her lips.

“That’s because you don’t get out there. You close yourself off, Bunny-chan.” She waved her lip gloss at him before capping it and returning it to who-knows-where.

“I like more meaningful relationships with just a few people, if even that. I have no need for massive amounts of acquaintances.” He shrugged and stepped up to the drinking fountain.

“You’ve got fan girls to take care of that.”

“And I’ve got you to take care of the fan girls.” Barnaby wiped his mouth once he was done and offered his arm to Tetsuko. “Back to the seats?”

“Only if you let me lean on you. My back’s stiff from my last nap.” She arched back, stretching her arms up and in the process shortening her skirt. Barnaby glanced down unable to resist the show.

“That’s what you get for falling asleep.”

“Oh, shut up.” Tetsuko walked gracefully back to her seat, only tripping once when her heel snagged on and uneven carpet.

“Don’t break your hip, old lady.” Barnaby chuckled at her as he followed.

“I’ll break your jaw!” The girl managed to stay awake for the last section of the act and when the lights flipped on she asked Barnaby what the whole point of killing off the main character was.

“’ Questo è il fin di chi fa mal, e de' perfidi la morte alla vita è sempre ugual.’” He replied to her question.

“Huh?” Her face was the picture of confused.

“’Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life.’ That’s the moral of the play the ensemble sang at the end. It’s basically saying that your death reflects what you did in life.”

“That’s morbid.”

“That’s classic.” The couple stopped at Nathan’s house to pick up Tetsuko’s things while they were harassed by Nathan about how the date went. Barnaby assumed that what Tetsuko was saying to the black man in Japanese was either a very short explanation of the date or a string of very colorful curses when the transvestite started straightening her outfit. They left the penthouse and the driver dropped Tetsuko off at her house where the girl kicked off her heels with a whoop.

“Hallelujah! Finally I can take these things off!” She danced around the sidewalk in her dress as Barnaby walked her to the door.

“You’re so simple to please.” He chuckled at her silly behavior ducking a shoe as it was accidently hurtled back into the driveway.

“Oops!” Tetsuko ran to grab the shoes and rejoin her boyfriend at the door. “Yep, give me a beautiful evening and a bottle of sake and I’ll be happy to watch the cherry blossoms bloom for eternity.”

“What happens when the sake runs out?” Barnaby opened the door for the girl as she hauled her bags inside.

“I’ll fall asleep for eternity.” Tetsuko dumped the bags on the floor and spun around to hug Barnaby. The blond stiffened, his habit of pushing others away kicking in even after weeks of knowing the brunette who constantly hugged him now. “Thank you for the evening, Bunny.” She spoke into his shoulder, wrapping her arms around him tightly.

“You’re the one who bought the tickets.” He replied, gently finishing the hug by wrapping his arms around her.

“Not that, thank you for taking me. The tickets mean nothing unless you go with someone. I know you like to make memories instead of buying things to commemorate them, so I’m thanking you for the memory.” Her head popped up to peck the boy on the mouth with her lips and she smiled brightly. “We should make some more tomorrow, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I’m good with that.” Then the blond smiled mischievously, “Or we could make more right now.”

“How-“ The brunette was cut off as Barnaby captured her lips in a searing kiss, holding her closer against his body. Tetsuko chuckled against his mouth and threw her arms around his neck. They kissed deeply and a warm, pleasant feeling rush over his body. Is this was true happiness is? I could get used to it. Being with her is just so easy. Barnaby got distracted from his thoughts when Tetsuko’s tongue was licking at his lip, as if asking for entrance into his mouth. Barnaby opened up and she deepened the kiss by exploring the corners of his mouth and then feeling very left out, the boy started to duel with her, trying to get the edge on the girl. They broke for air and Barnaby watched Tetsuko’s eyes opened slowly, the very picture of sexy. He just had to kiss her again. And then his mouth was on her neck, his fingers pulling down her high collar to taste her skin. Then Barnaby did something he didn’t expect: he lightly bit her neck and then nuzzled the mark he’d made on her tan skin. She gasped and giggled as the blond caught the laugh in another kiss.

“Was that a ‘bunny bite’, Bunny?” She teased when they broke apart again, killing the mood.

“You just love nicknames don’t you?” He blushed and let go of her to let his hands slide down her body and intertwine with both her hands.

“Yep, they’re cute.” She squeezed his hand and smiled devilishly at him. “And ‘Bunny’ is a lot easier to say than ‘Barnaby’ because it’s simpler. ”

“Calling a man ‘Bunny’ is not cute.”

“You can call me whatever you want, you already call me ‘old lady’ and I’m not that much older than you.”

“You’re old enough for me to consider our relationship cougar hunting.”

“Yeah but you’re the one spending money on me all the time, not the other way around.”

“You’re racking up quite the debt, then. The kissing makes up for it though.” Barnaby smiled when Tetsuko reached up and kissed him again.

“Then let’s get to work. I hate being in debt.” After twenty minutes of making out, Mrs. Anju yelled at the kids to keep it down so she could sleep and Tetsuko kicked Barnaby out and told him they’d kiss more tomorrow. The blond walked out of the house completely breathless and had to wake up the napping driver so he could go home. Yep, I could definitely get used to that every day.


The Beginning of Spring Break: Swimsuit Vacation!

“Do I have to go?” Barnaby asked while talking on the phone with Tetsuko.

“Yes! Come on! Nathan’s dad is paying for us to party! Of course, you’re going!” Barnaby heard the rattle and bang of Tetsuko’s own packing. Apparently Mr. Seymour thought the best thing to do for Spring Break was get the kids the hell out of Sternbild so he could have some quiet. All of Nathan’s friends had been bribed into going to the beach. The beach was fine in Barnaby’s opinion; he could show off his body to his heart’s content without getting ticketed for lewdness. It was the sun he had a problem with. The blond burned very easily and sunburn was not attractive by any standard.

“I just find this an irresponsible way to waste a week. I have essays I could be writing and reading assignments that will be pushed back.”

“You prude, just bring the books with you! Knowing how fast you read, you’ll have them done in no time! Shit.” Barnaby heard something break on the other side of the line and Tetsuko started swearing. “Damn it!”

“What did you break?”

“A bowl. I left it in my room and was trying to wash it out. There are shards everywhere in the sink.”

“Are you hurt?”

“Na, but my kaa-san going to be pissed.” A lot of scraping and clanging ensued while Barnaby imagined the girl stumbling around the kitchen with the phone pressed against between her ear and shoulder. “Anyway yesterday Nathan dragged me to go swimsuit shopping. He remembered the other one I had last year when he threw a pool party and decided that I needed a new one.”

“What did the old one look like?” Barnaby grabbed four bottles of sunscreen and placed them neatly in his suitcase. Everything was folded and color coded by clothing article. He had shorts, pants, polo shirts, T-shirts, pajamas, socks, shoes, sandals and three pairs of swim trunks all in red. Now all he needed was his toiletries and to go pull some money from the bank in case of emergencies (and so he could spoil Tetsuko with gifts the way she would spoil him, which he would actually keep for once because they were from her).

“A tasteful one-piece.”

“That’s hard to believe.”

“Believe it.”

“What does the new one look like?”

“You mean the new four? You’ll just have to see when we get to the beach!”

“Tease.” Tetsuko giggled and Barnaby rolled his eyes at her.

“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at Nathan’s in a couple hours, ‘kay?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there.” And he was. Dressed in a red T-shirt and green board shorts and sandals, Barnaby was the first one to get there and rolled his red suitcase to a stop just outside the door. It was too nice a day to think about going inside and the blond just sat down on his luggage to wait for the others. When Nathan came down he had a similar outfit on, only his shorts were shorter and his shirt tighter and massively pink. He also had about three more pieces of luggage than Barnaby. Antonio was already there with his suitcase, having been dragged out by the girl-boy and sported his typical V-neck and shorts as well. Then Keith and Ivan joined them in jersey tank tops and flip flops as and they all talked excitedly as they waited for the girls. Karina and Pao-Lin showed up at about the same time, accidently wearing the same yellow tank top and Karina had to run inside to change into a baby blue one. They all sat on their luggage, waiting for the oldest member of the group. Even the van showed up before she did and everyone got their stuff loaded in it before she got there. Tetsuko came running up the sidewalk a few minutes later, toting a single duffel bag and satchel purse.

“Sorry! The bus was late today!” The brunette had on her daisy dukes and a very revealing green tube top. She yanked down her shorts when she skidded to a halt in front of her friends, hair wildly all over the place.

“Maybe you should’ve taken an earlier one then. Is that all you packed?” Her boyfriend asked.

“Yes, I’m not like you Mr. Hair Products.” Barnaby took her duffel and placed it in the back of the van. He then proceeded to put her hair back in some sort of order before ushering everyone into the vehicle. They had a flight to catch. Once everyone was safely on the plane and in the air (they were only stopped once when Tetsuko’s flatiron set off the security alarms for some reason, twice) Barnaby could finally relax. With his girlfriend settling down for a nap, Karina and Pao-Lin whispering to each other, Ivan and Keith playing on their phones and the noise of Antonio warding off Nathan, the blond took out book and began to read. Then Tetsuko shifted, distracting him. And then she shifted again, just trying to get comfortable, but it was seriously disturbing Barnaby’s concentration.

“What’s the problem?” He snapped his book shut, resolving to fix this problem so he could read in peace.

“I can’t get comfortable.” She squirmed around in her seat, causing her shorts to ride up even more. Barnaby had to avert his eyes so he didn’t blush. She fiddled with the seat, putting it down and then bringing it back up multiple times, irritating the blond to no end.

“We’re in first class, old lady. This is comfort. Settle down so I can read.”

“Have any ideas?” She crossed her arms over her ample chest, pouting in the sexiest way.

“Why don’t you lean on my shoulder? You always do that when you’re tired at home.”

“Good idea.” Tetsuko leaned over and rested her head on the blonde’s shoulder, even though it had to be pretty uncomfortable with the armrest in between them. It took her a record minute and a half to fall asleep. Barnaby leaned her seat back and laid her back so she wouldn’t wake up with a crick in her neck and went back to reading for two hours.

On the ground again, the friends made their way to the beachside hotel where they’d be staying for a week. The place was fantastic with a full dining room, pools, a concert hall and a salon, all with French doors right to the beach. The rooms were massive with two queen sized beds in each one with a plasma TV, mini fridge, a full bathroom and twenty four hour room service. Karina and Pao-Lin disappeared into one room to change into their beach attire, Nathan chased Antonio into another one and Ivan shrugged when Keith suggested that they share a room. That just left Barnaby and Tetsuko alone in an empty hallway.

“So, I guess we’re sharing a room?” Barnaby asked his girlfriend, slightly uncomfortable with the situation.

“I guess.” She didn’t look too bothered, or maybe she was just being mature about this, for once. They walked in and dropped their stuff on separate beds, Barnaby on the one closest to the door and his roommate took the one near the balcony. Tetsuko disappeared into the bathroom to change. Barnaby slipped into his swim trunks and grabbed a small bag for his sunscreen, towel, snacks and bug spray and waited for the girl to emerge.

“How long are you going to take?” He knocked on the door to get her attention.

“If you’re impatient just go on without me. I’ll find you guys in a minute.” She called to him through the door.

“Okay, see you on the beach.” Barnaby left the room, meeting up with everyone except Karina; apparently she was taking forever as well. Pao-Lin skipped around in her yellow tankini, Ivan and Keith were both in navy and purple swim trunks (respectively), Antonio had army green cargo trunks and Nathan was wearing a bright pink Speedo under his see-through body wrap. They headed down to the beach and Barnaby grabbed and umbrella to shade his towel and bag. Their group had two other such umbrellas stuck in the sand and after applying sunscreen, everyone was off to the water.

Pao-Lin shrieked when Keith tossed her into the waves, soaked from head to toe as she splashed around. Origami got in the background of some other tourists’ pictures and then dashed into the ocean. Keith tackled him and they both foundered for a while laughing heartily. Nathan was sun bathing on the sand and Antonio was free for the moment to grab a boogie board and head into the water unmolested. Barnaby was waiting for Tetsuko to come out so they could enjoy the sun together but he was disappointed when Karina was the next one to come out. Her swim suit was a blue bikini, designed to make her chest look bigger, and it worked. She walked onto the beach with her hair pulled up in a messy bun; eyes shaded by sunglasses and caught the attention of a lot of the boys. She joined Nathan by his towel and sat down to get a tan. Barnaby scowled in the shade, taking out his book to pass the time. His concentration was then interrupted by wolf whistles sounding up and down the beach.

“I told you that one was hot!” Nathan was standing up suddenly, and Karina peeked out from behind her glasses, envy shining in her eyes. Barnaby glanced behind him to see what all the fuss was about. He had to grab a tissue when his nose started bleeding. Tetsuko was strolling down the beach, nearly naked it seemed in her glorious tan skin. Her swimwear consisted of a black, high neck top that barely held in her breasts, cut off like a tank top to show off all of her stomach and bottoms that were just as bad as her Wild Tigress costume in the severity of the cut, exposing almost all of her hips. She’d pulled her hair back into a loose pony tail, bits and pieces of it escaping from the hair band to fall in her face.

“Yeah, yeah you were right. I’ve never seen so many turned on guys in one place. Your entrance had to have helped, Karina.” Tetsuko addressed both sunbathers as she sat down next to Barnaby, her endless legs folding up underneath her.

“Yeah, but you stole the show.” The blonde girl huffed, taking a sideways glance at the brunette’s chest.

“Don’t you even think about it.” Tetsuko shielded her chest and continued talking. “The only reason I bought this one was because it was a ‘buy one get one half off” deal at the store and Nathan told me I had to have at least two.”

“And you can thank me for it. I’m sure Handsome appreciates the show.” Nathan waggled his eyebrows at the boy.

“Yes, you look very attractive.” He pushed up his glasses to hide his expression behind his hand.

“Come on! I was looking for something like, ‘You’re so sexy I just want to take you to bed right now!’” Nathan squirmed with his hands clasped together, clearly disappointed by Barnaby’s reaction.

“If I ever said anything like that to her I’d do it without any of you around.” The boy was blushing again, guilty of thinking those thoughts when he saw the girl.

“Stop teasing him, Nathan. I’m sure Bunny likes my swimsuit. Now let’s go get wet!” That sounded so wrong. Tetsuko stood up again and ran out onto the sand like a child.

“Wait, don’t you need sunscreen?” Barnaby called after his girlfriend.

“Oh, you’re right. I wouldn’t want to turn black in this sun. It’s happened before.” She sat down long enough to put some lotion on the places she could reach and then asked Barnaby to get her back. He loved the feel of her heated skin under his hands, lingering over the dip of her spine and the small bit of her exposed neck. “Enjoying yourself?” Tetusko teased wiggling her butt at him.

“Yes, I am actually.”

“Come on, we’re getting in the water now, pervert.” Tetsuko grabbed the blond and hauled him to his feet.

“You make it hard not to be one in that swimsuit.”

“That’s the point of a swimsuit isn’t it? To make guys look at you?” She grinned at him and dragged him to the ocean, leaping in excitedly. They splashed in the water with everyone and searched for seashells under the waves. Nathan waded over to Barnaby when his girlfriend was off with PAo-Lin and struck up a conversation.

“I never knew just how beat up she was. You can see all her scars.” The pinkette playfully splashed the blond.

“You can?” Barnaby hadn’t noticed.

“Yeah, look.” He did. Barnaby noticed the pale scars littering her back and arms. He couldn’t see the ones on her legs because they were under the waves. The one that he didn’t want to see was thankfully covered up, Lunatic’s burn mark was hidden by her top.

“I hadn’t noticed until now.” Nathan rolled his eyes at the other boy.

“Well, you know what they say: love is blind.”

“I guess that’s true in this sense.”

“Hey! Get over here Bunny so I can mess up your hair!” Tetsuko waved at the boys and called them over.

“You’re not touching my hair!” He yelled back as he waded over to the girl. She ended up sneak-attacking him with a dunk underwater and he retaliated by unclipping her top so she almost flashed everyone. Tetsuko managed to convince Barnaby to build a sandcastle with her and that took up most the afternoon. Once complete, the castle had four levels with towers, a moat, seashell décor and little flags that Pao-Lin had made out of twigs and seaweed. Tetsuko fell asleep under one of the umbrellas and Antonio and Keith buried her in sand up to her neck. She didn’t even wake up while they were doing it but when she did, everyone got some pretty hilarious pictures, including Barnaby.

“These are so going on the blog!” Nathan snapped another as the brunette raged, her head the only thing moving in the sand. “These and those pictures of your swimsuit.”

“Why must you do this to me?” Tetsuko whined.

“Because it’s fun!”

“Get me out of here! I’ve got sand in places that I didn’t even know existed!”

“That means she’ll be taking up all the hot water in the room when she showers.” Barnaby sighed, already missing his bathroom time.

“Or you could just take a shower together!” Nathan cooed, giving the couple a hot look.

“Hentai!” Tetsuko’s face was beet red at this point, one of her arms free from her struggling.

“I would never-!” Barnaby shut his mouth before he could start lisping, he was that upset and turned on. The whole group started laughing at them both and settled down to watch the sunset once Tetsuko was free. She could only stand the sand for so long though, and left to go shower. Barnaby packed up the umbrella and returned it to the rent stand and walked inside once the sky had gone dark. The bathroom door was closed when he got back up into their room, and having already taken a rinse down at the beach showers, the blond changed into some street clothes and walked outside to give his girlfriend some privacy. He checked with the dining room staff to get the hours of their operation and then ordered dinner for the both of them. Walking back upstairs, Barnaby wasn’t expecting what he saw when he got back in the room. Tetsuko was on the floor digging around in her duffle bag, her loosely wrapped towel barely hiding her breasts, skin and hair glistening with moisture.

“Tetsuko?” Barnaby made his presence known softly, trying to keep the lust out of his voice as he stared at his own version of a siren. Tetsuko was almost beautiful enough to drown him right now.

“Bunny!” She scrambled to more securely wrap her towel around her body. “You have the uncanny ability to walk in on me when I’m trying to get dressed! This happens at work all the time.” She looked only slightly miffed at his intrusion (probably used to it by now) and twirled her finger around. “Turn around so I can get dressed.” She didn’t ask me to leave the room? This is getting strange. Barnaby did as he was told and waited until Tetsuko told him it was okay to look. Now dressed in jean capris and a tank top, the brunette asked what was for dinner. She’s queen of distraction, I swear. But even though Tetsuko could forget that she was practically naked (for real this time) Barnaby couldn’t and her bare cleavage kept popping into his head during dinner and she caught him staring several times.

All the teens changed into their sleepwear later that evening and they had movie time in Nathan’s and Antonio’s room, an action thriller that kept them all up until two in the morning. Understandably tired after that the friends all dragged themselves off to bed. Barnaby collapsed onto the bed after depositing his glasses on the nightstand and setting an alarm for eight am.

“Why so early? We can sleep in longer, ya know?” Tetsuko snuggled into her pillow, facing the blond as he flipped off the light.

“I want to keep some sort of semblance of my sleep schedule. No need to mess it up and then have to deal with the consequences when school starts back up.” Barnaby blew his bangs out of his face, gazing at his roommate as the moon lit up their room.

“Whatever.” Tetsuko closed her eyes and her breathing deepened a few minutes later, signaling that she was asleep.

Barnaby tried to sleep, but he was hot, then cold and every time he almost fell asleep, his body would twitch and wake him up again. And then his nightmare came back, the one with the flames and his parents slumped on the floor and couch. He hadn’t dreamed of that since Jake had died, but now Barnaby really couldn’t fall asleep. After an hour and a half of semi-consciously reliving one of the worse moments of his life, Barnaby did something he hadn’t done for years and never with anyone other than his parents. He got up and crawled over to Tetsuko’s bed. She was sprawled all over the place, her sheets a tangled mess around her legs and not ever covering her upper body anymore. Barnaby fixed her top so her breasts didn’t fall out and carefully straightened the sheets without waking the girl. Then he got under them and pulled the fabric over his own body. The blond scooted closer to the brunette until her soft body was right up against his hard one. Still being cautious, the boy wrapped his left arm around her waist and rested his head on her shoulder. Tetsuko shifted suddenly, pulling the blonde’s head into her chest and holding him there against her breast.

“My arm will go numb after a while if you put your head on my shoulder.” She whispered in his ear, startling the boy. Damn, I got caught! She probably thinks I was going to rape her or something crazy like that.

“I-I’m s-sorry I woke you, I’ll just-“ he made to get out of his girlfriend’s bed when her own grip tightened on his head.

“No, it’s fine. Were you having nightmares?” How does she do it? She always sees right through me.

“Yeah.” That was all he needed to say and Tetsuko wrapped both her arms and him and pulled him close to her, his head now in the crook of her neck, his body flush with hers. She tangled their legs together and coaxed him to hug her, their usual roles of caretaker now reversed since Barnaby was usually the one cleaning up after his girlfriend. It wasn’t even embarrassing to be held like this. With Tetsuko, being a caring, mother-figure was natural for her and Barnaby didn’t mind the comfort once in a while.

“Now, isn’t that better?” She kissed his head like he was a child.

“Yeah, but will you actually kiss me?” He tilted his head up, inviting her to carry out his request.

“Greedy, Bunny.” She smiled in the moonlight and leaned down. The first kiss was light, like the brush of butterfly wings. The second was light too, but the third was not. Barnaby forcefully pressed his lips against Tetsuko’s, gripping her back roughly. She gasped and kissed back with just as much force, never one to have Barnaby have his way, tangling her fingers into his hair once they traveled up his neck. Barnaby licked at her bottom lip, seeking entrance into her mouth. She opened up to him, her tongue sliding along his as he explored the familiar contours of her mouth. All rational thought flew out of Barnaby’s mind, letting him lose himself fin the kiss. They parted for breath, panting over each other’s skin before going back for a second round. This time Tetsuko was in Barnaby’s mouth, dueling with his tongue for dominance of the kiss. They hadn’t had a make-out session like this in a long time and it was getting to the boy. His blood was racing, his body heating up as his hands roamed the girl’s back and as one of her hands trailed down his own back, scratching his skin through the material of his shirt. His wandering hands worked their way down to Tetsuko’s ass, gripping hard enough to make her gasp.

Barnaby’s now free mouth latched onto Tetsuko’s neck, licking and tasting her skin lightly so not to leave marks that everyone could see. She purred like a cat, baring her neck to him. On one of their experimental sessions with kissing, the boy had found that Tetsuko - despite being pushy and cocky everywhere else - liked being submissive in physical relations. She also enjoyed necking, especially when he bit her. He did so now, carefully taking the juncture of her neck and shoulder in his mouth and biting down softly. Tetsuko moaned, her voice drawing out the blonde’s innermost desires and lusts. One of his hands left her butt and reached up to stroke her breast, eliciting another moan from the girl.

“Barnaby!” Tetsuko threw one of her legs around his hips, pulling him closer so their pelvises ground together. The sound of his name made the boy’s heart skip a beat and he growled his approval into her skin. His hand came up from her ass to plant itself on the small her of her back, gluing their bodies together.

“Tetsuko, you sound so perfect when you come undone.” He began licking her neck again, tasting her skin like he was addicted.

“God, I love it when you say my name.” Tetsuko arched into his touch and then she pulled away slightly, pushing against his hand to put breathing space in between their bodies. “We have to stop.” Her voice was hard, despite the undertone of longing to continue what they’d been doing. The blond pulled her close again, his head dipping into the softness of her cleavage.

“Why? You sounded like you were enjoying yourself.” Barnaby said, pointing out her vocalization. He traveled up her neck and nibbled in her lower lip, adoring the moan she sent across his face, confirming his earlier statement. Her fingers untangled, the passion cascading out of her form as she settled down.

“Don’t sound so smug, you’re the one who started it all.” Tetsuko stared him in the eyes, her eyes glazed over and a miffed look on her face. Barnaby grabbed the thigh of the leg thrown around his body in a tight grip and crashed his lips against hers, almost desperate for her touch. “We have to stop.” She pushed him away gently but firmly, uncurling his hand from her thigh so their legs could tangle innocently again. “I don’t want to start something that we both might regret in the morning.” She stroked his face and kissed his lips softly. Heat rose up in the blonde’s stomach, craving the passion that they had a few moments ago. Barnaby pushed down the feeling, trying to get a hold of his rational calm. She’s being careful with this, not wanting to repeat what happened with Kaede. He told himself that, but the boy wanted everything that Tetsuko could give him, even if it was selfish.

“I suppose you’re right for once, and I’d still like to get some sleep tonight as, even if what we were doing was enjoyable.”

“At least you admitted it.” Tetsuko chuckled, the vibrations traveling over to Barnaby when she pulled him close again. This time it was her head on his chest, curled up against his body. She yawned cutely, her eyebrows scrunching up as her golden eyes fluttered shut. “Maybe someday we’ll finish what we’ve started.” Barnaby’s cheeks flushed at the thought of Tetsuko naked in his bed, succulently tangled in the sheets. “Sweet dreams, Bunny.” You bet I’ll be having some tonight.

“Goodnight, old lady.” Barnaby covered up his tipsy emotions behind a snarky comment.

“Hey.” Her irritated voice didn’t sound nearly upset at the nickname as it usually did, probably because the girl was falling asleep again.

“Say it then.” Give a little get a little, you old bat.

“’Night, Barnaby.”

“Sweet dreams, Tetsuko.” He didn’t have any more nightmares until he woke up. Somehow Nathan had figured out how to get into the room and woke the couple up with a squeal.

“You didn’t!” The black man was still in his sleepwear: boxers and that was it. Tetsuko woke up and surprised by the intruder, fell out of bed and onto the floor.

“Did what?” She asked, popping up with a seriously bad case of bed head. Barnaby’s glasses were on his face a flash, his own hair ruggedly perfect for the morning.

“We didn’t do anything.” He stated calmly. That’s mostly true for what he’s implying, no point in splitting hairs.

“You did too!”

“We did not!” Tetsuko stood up and reached out her hand. “Give me the phone!”

“What phone?” Nathan feigned innocence when they both knew he would’ve gotten pictures before waking them up.

“The one hiding in between your ass cheeks, pervert!” Tetsuko tackled the transvestite and rummaged about his boxers for the device. Barnaby wished she’d do that to him.

“Ooo! You fox! If only you were a man!” Nathan giggled and rolled out of her grasp before she could get his phone.

“Good thing I’m not!”

“For Handsome’s sake I supposed you’re right. This’ll be our little secret!” One fuchsia eye winked at the couple.

“Only so you can blackmail us.” Tetsuko pointed out.

“Bingo!” Nathan swept out the way he came in.

“Well, that could’ve been worse.” Tetsuko got up and started grabbing her clothes for the day; they were touring the town until the afternoon when they’d head back to the beach.

“Worse? What could’ve been worse than that?” Barnaby threw his legs onto the floor and made both beds.

“You could’ve just left that for housekeeping. Anyway, Bunny we’re in a serious relationship. Nathan expects us to do stuff like that, that’s why he snuck in.” Tetsuko grabbed her hair care products and walked into the bathroom. “I’m going in first since you’ll take forever doing your hair!” She laughed and shut the door on him. Once dressed and Barnaby’s curls looking fabulous, they both walked down to the dining room to eat breakfast with the gang. Nathan gave them a knowing look and smiled mischievously. Then they were off.

The gang cavorted around town, harassing tourists and locals alike with Ivan photo bombs, running through pictures at the last second, haggling for goods and making ridiculous orders at cafés. Somehow, someway, Tetsuko and Antonio got a hold of a two bottles of beer and had a chug challenge right in the middle of the street. Barnaby had to slap them into shape before they got caught. The girls (including Nathan) disappeared for an hour, leaving the boys to stand around and be bored to death. Luckily, Barnaby had brought along one of his assigned readings and offered to read it out loud. He was turned down and studied in silence. His ears perked up sometime later when shrieks and giggles, signaling the girl’s return. They all were toting at least three bags and Tetsuko was wearing a ridiculously (but attractive) sun hat adorned with bright blue flowers.

“What are you wearing?”

“A hat.” She preened in front of him while the females (plus Nathan) continued chattering. “Don’t you like it?”

“Do you always have to have a hat?”

“Yes. Do you like it?”

“Yes.”

“Good. And by the way, we just learned from these really nice guys-which I had to beat the crap out of because they kept pinching Karina’s butt and trying to stare down my shirt-that there’s a hot spot in town.” Barnaby blood boiled when he heard someone was checking out his girlfriend, but Tetsuko just barreled on through. “The pier that’s two hotels over throws parties every night for the tourist’s kids, because the parents want them gone and the locals always crash it. We should go!”

“I totally agree with Tets here, it’s going to be smokin’!” Nathan sidled up to Antonio. “Would you like to go with me?” He fluttered his shadowed eyes at the Spaniard.

“Even if I say no you’ll still drag me to it.”

“Glad we’re on the same page, sweetcheeks.” Nathan’s hand reached down and-

“Ow! Would you stop that?” Antonio rubbed his butt once the black man’s hand was gone.

“Nope.”

“Yeah, seriously, I’m pretty sure I could scam some guys out of dinner if we went.” Karina popped her gum, joining in the conversation.

“And I could get in more pictures.” Ivan peeked out from under his bangs.

“You always want to get in more pictures!” Pao-Lin jumped and gave the boy a nuggie.

“I think it’s a great way to spend the evening! It’ll be fun, fun!” Keith clapped the two closest people on the back, which were Barnaby and Karina.

“Hands off the shirt, I just bought it.” The ice queen pried his fingers off her new turquoise shirt and checked her nails.

“Okay, game plan-“ Tetsuko began.

“I’m not following any game plan you come up with.” Barnaby crossed his arms, smirking. She glared at him and continued.

“Game plan: we go to the beach for the rest of the day, shower and then get ready and go to the party.” Tetsuko eyed Barnaby.

“Then let’s go already!” Pao-Lin ran off to the hotel, trailing the rest of the gang behind her.

The beach was much like it was yesterday, sun bathing, swimming and sexy swimsuits. Karina was really pushing her breasts out with her pink halter top and wrap-skirt and Tetsuko’s second of four suits was a traditional bikini style in a sea green, but with fringe hanging off her boobs. So not only did Barnaby get to watch her chest bounce, he got to watch her fringe bounce with her chest. She had to keep telling him to stop staring, but she never covered up either. Her chest also distracted Barnaby from staring at the ugly scar running down the girl’s right shoulder. Getting ready for the party was more complicated than usual because all the girls kept trading rooms to use this person’s make up, or to borrow this person’s curler, even Nathan ran around in just his underwear once or twice before he got dressed. Once all the running was done everyone lined up for Nathan’s inspection.

“Line up, peeps! It’s time for me to see the fabulous!” The girl-boy clapped his hands and the crew assembled. He was dressed this time, thankfully. He wore a sequined jacket, a pink V-neck shirt, a silver scarf wrapped around his neck and his pants were sparkly. His patented pink boots tapped impatiently on the floor as the gang gathered.

Pao-Lin was ordered to change when she walked out in her bra and her excuse was, “I was trying to look like Tigress!” The brunette blushed deeply and said something about not walking out in her underwear all the time. The Chinese girl changed into a ruffled tank top and short shorts with sneakers and Nathan let the sneakers slide. All the girls had braided each other’s hair somehow and Pao-Lin’s braid was dangling on the left side of her face. Karina’s long white beach dress with blue accents and jewelry with her hair pulled into a loose braid passed with flying colors. Antonio got sent back to his room to get rid of the cowboy boots, other than that Seymour approved his tank top and long shorts. Keith’s clean cut polo shirt and shorts were classic, Nathan couldn’t argue with them. Ivan had to give up the Japan jacket, his tank and jean combo was okayed after that. Tetsuko’s outfit was dubbed “bohemian retro”: a short in front-long in back skirt in a blue/green with a pair of black suspenders hanging off her waist, a lacy white tank with a plunging neckline and flip flops. Her braid was tiny, a little cornrow right down her part and accented with a white, frayed ribbon wrapped around her forehead.

“You guys make me feel old when you say I’m retro!” Tetsuko twisted her promise ring in irritation.

“You are older than all of us, with the exception of Antonio.” Barnaby pointed out.

“Says the guy who’s going through his grunge phase.”

“This is not grunge,” Barnaby pointed at his black T-shirt and short red hoodie jacket to clarify, “This is laid back. Just like you are.” He flipped his hood over his curls (pulled back in a short pony tail), shoved his hands into his jean pockets and winked at her. He was also wearing his black ring and a shark tooth necklace his girlfriend bought for him. It completed the look no matter how tacky it was.

“I happen to like the laid back look.” Nathan’s fingers wandered down his back and the blond twisted out of his grasp.

“As long as you’re not laying my back-side you can like it all you want. Your friend with benefits is Lopez.”

“Is not!” The Spaniard yelled.

“Deal with it, ‘Tonio. Nathan’s going to bang you any day now.” Tetsuko smirked evilly at her best friend.

“Don’t say that!” Antonio protested, blushing slightly.

“Well, you are sharing a room.” The brunette pointed out.

“I locked myself in the bathroom last night I’ll have you know!”

“Your loss, sweetcheeks.” Nathan winked at him.

“I don’t need to be learning about gay relationships at my age! Can we go?” Pao-Lin whined, skipping down to the elevator.

“Quick! Before I’m molested!” Antonio dashed after the girl. Barnaby grabbed Tetsuko’s hand and they all dashed off to crash a party.

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