Shinjiro wakes to the smell of eggs cooking and something else frying, a fact that takes a minute or two to register in his brain, and then he's out of bed and swearing a blue streak because Aki knows the rules, and the rules are you don't fucking touch his cooking utensils. He grabs a crumpled shirt off the pile of not-too-dirty laundry and heads for the kitchen.
Minako is standing at the stove in a ruffly pink blouse, tilting the pan to get uncooked bits of egg under the tamagoyaki so they'll cook properly. With her other hand, she's stirring a pan full of tiny tofu cubes. The little bowl next to her is full of grated daikon, and the rice cooker is burbling happily to itself. Another bowl holds diced green onions and seaweed, presumably destined for miso soup along with the tofu. She has a pot of water heating and the miso paste laid out already. Her mise en place is even tidier than his.
Shinjiro finds himself at a total loss for words.
"Good morning," she says cheerfully, prodding at the tamagoyaki. It's almost done, and the miso water is close to the right temperature.
He has to be dreaming.
He has no real desire to wake up from this dream.
"Good morning," he says, and manages to bite his tongue before he asks what the hell she thinks she's doing in his kitchen—he doesn't want to admit it, but she's doing at least as good of a job as he would.
"There's tea," she says with a tilt of her chin toward the teapot emitting steam on the counter. She turns off the burner under the tamagoyaki with a quick twist of her wrist and turns all of her attention to fishing the tofu cubes out of the oil.
Shinjiro usually takes the weekend mornings to make something different for breakfast—bake something, maybe, if he can get up before Aki does, or else Western-style breakfast, but he finds it oddly comforting to pour tea and lean against the counter to watch her work. In the living room, he can hear Aki moving around. He wonders what Aki thought of all this. He sips tea and tries to figure out how to phrase what he wants to ask.
"Minako, what are you doing here?" Might as well go for straightforward.
She looks at him quizzically as she ladles hot water over the miso to start the soup. "Making you breakfast," she says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. Admittedly it is pretty apparent that she is cooking. She stirs the miso paste in the water, and then pours it back into the rest and stirs again. When the soup is to her satisfaction, she adds in the onions, seaweed, and tofu.
"That's not what I meant," Shinjiro says, and reaches past her for the bowls. She ladles soup into them, and he shifts them to a tray to carry to the living room. "I meant—you've been gone a while." Five years, his mind fills in silently.
She pauses in the middle of scooping rice out of the rice cooker, and eventually tips more rice into the bowl. "Shinji, are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine," he growls.
She gives him a look that is almost exaggeratedly patient. "It's Sunday," she says. "I always cook on Sundays so you can take a break."
He'd like to think that's true. He really, really would. But... "Is the seal still intact?"
"Of course it is," she snaps. "You think I'd just leave it?" She slaps tamagoyaki onto plates with more force than is strictly necessary.
"I'm sorry," he mutters.
She gives him a sharp look and picks up the tray to go into the living room. Shinjiro follows her and finds Aki pacing restlessly. He looks up when they enter.
"You're up," Aki says.
Shinjiro doesn't make the obvious sarcastic response. Aki's eyes slide sideways to Minako, and he looks just as confused as Shinjiro feels.
Minako sets the tray down on the low table and sets out the food. "Don't let it get cold!" she says, and that familiar cheerful tone, which he missed so much while she was gone, twists in his chest like a new wound.
He sits down and eats Minako's really excellent food, and wonders how he'll get away to contact Mitsuru and ask her to check on the seal. But that's for another time, and right now, Minako is here and she's laughing just like she never left, and he doesn't want to ruin it. Aki seems just as nervous, but just as pleased, and he keeps touching Minako's hand like he's not sure it's real.
Shinjiro's depressingly certain that she'll be gone soon enough—all good things must end—so he clings to it while he has it.