Shuntaro seems rather miffed by how well she's getting along with his brother.
Well, that's his own fault for being a colossal moron while his brother got all the common sense, Asuka thinks. Even then as Yuriko-san prepares some after-dinner coffee, she turns her attention to Kojiro-san completely as he rambles on about random happenings at his boring office job.
It's something that would bore Asuka to tears in any other situation, but Kojiro-san is as nice as his brother is an impulsive jerk, and Asuka leans her elbow on the table and stares so as to appear utterly enthralled. Kojiro seems excited to have an audience, period.
"So the copy machine's jammed, wouldn't you know it, and I've got a presentation in thirty minutes. And I'm on the twenty-sixth floor and of course it's in the conference room on fourteen, and it's lunch hour so the elevators are going to be crazy, right?"
"Right?" Asuka chimes in with a smile as the Tokita boys' mother returns with the coffee tray and some after-dinner cookies.
Shuntaro's mother had insisted that Asuka join their family for dinner again, this time leaving the cooking to her. Of course, Yuriko-san had probably said so in a kind and charming way, but Shuntaro had served as middleman for his mother's message, telling Asuka in the office that morning that his mom wanted to show her "what nikujaga is actually supposed to look like."
If Asuka wasn't such a sucker for a decent home-cooked meal she would have slapped Shuntaro across his stupid face. Instead, she's decided to listen attentively to Kojiro-san because that would make Shuntaro feel far worse, and Asuka has a vindictive streak a mile wide when it comes to combating her co-worker's rudeness.
"...so I've got them all printed out double-sided," Kojiro continues, his son snoozing at his side with his little legs tucked under the kotatsu, "and then the stapler runs out of staples!"
"Oh no!" Asuka chimes in dramatically.
Kojiro nods. "So there's an office supply closet on the 28th floor and..."
Shuntaro has finally had enough, sighing in irritation. "Alright, alright, the trials of a salaryman, what a tough life you lead..."
Kojiro narrows his eyes at his older brother. "It was a meeting with the executive vice president of procurement."
"And I'm the executive vice president of utter boredom right now," Shuntaro snaps back with a little proud-of-himself grin, thinking himself so hilarious.
Asuka takes the offered cup of coffee and sugar cubes and shakes her head. "Are you always so mean to your brother, Shuntaro?"
"Only when he's boring."
"We can't all be private detectives. No offense, of course, Asuka-san," Kojiro says.
Yuriko-san just laughs and laughs. "Oh, Asuka-chan, there was never a dull moment raising these two boys!"
"I can only imagine," she replies. She likes Yuriko-san. She's patient, she's kind, she's generous. So it makes Asuka wonder how on earth someone like Shuntaro even came to exist with a family like this.
Kojiro looks down at his son and sighs. "We should probably be going."
"Another big day of stapling papers together tomorrow?" Shuntaro mumbles, and his brother ignores it, waking his son gently and getting him to his feet.
Mother and son get little Shota-kun up and moving, and they're off to the front door, leaving Asuka and Shuntaro alone at the table. "Since when do you find photocopying interesting?" Shuntaro snits at her in all too obvious jealousy. He just loves to be the center of feminine attention, even if it's hers.
She sips her coffee, trying to ignore how utterly comfortable she is here in the Tokita house. It's different from her tiny apartment. It's larger but seems somehow cozier, warmer. "I'm a guest of your family," she says sweetly. "It would be rude not to take an interest."
He doesn't believe her at all, adding more coffee to his cup as Yuriko-san returns with her friendly smile, heading off for the kitchen. "I'll do the dishes!"
"I can help," Shuntaro says, possibly trying to redeem himself the slightest bit, but his mother will have none of it.
"There's plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator," Yuriko-san calls, turning on the faucet. "Do take some food home, Asuka-chan!"
"Thank you very much, I'll do that!"
While she finishes up her coffee, Shuntaro slides his long legs out from under the kotatsu, getting up and stretching. "I can walk you to the train. I'll put the leftovers in a bag for you."
She doesn't need Shuntaro to walk her to the train. She doesn't need his protection. So maybe she got herself a little kidnapped on their last assignment - she'd only been trying to help their client. It was one of the risks of the job. But now Shuntaro's been extra annoying, leaving obnoxious voicemails on her phone telling her to send him a message when she gets home from work. Offering to walk her to the train because it's "on the way" even though she knows it's really not.
She's been in this job a lot longer than he has. She can take care of herself.
He goes to the kitchen, and his mother whispers something to him that makes him slam the refrigerator door a little harder than necessary. She watches quietly as he spoons out plenty of the leftovers of the delicious meal into a smaller container, sealing it up tight and putting it inside a plastic bag.
He returns, shaking the bag. "Ready?"
"It was lovely to see you again!" Yuriko-san calls from the sink. "Please come over any time!"
"Thank you for everything. The dinner was very tasty, I'm sorry to trouble you!"
Shuntaro's already pushing her toward the door, barely giving her time to snatch her jacket out of the hall closet. He sits down to lace up a pair of sneakers while she slides into her heels. He opens the door, following her outside. It had been a chilly day, and the temperature's only dropped more. He walks close at her side, hands shoved in his pockets while she carries the bag of food.
"Your mom's cooking is wonderful," she admits to him, wishing she hadn't gone with the thin leggings she'd chosen that morning.
"Of course it is," he says with the confidence of a man still living off his mother's cooking every single day, even at his age.
"You don't have to walk me the whole way," she complains, trying to keep up with his long strides as they wander through the neighborhood. Even when Shuntaro walks it's quick, as though any moment he'll break into a run. She supposes she has Nitta-kun to thank for encouraging that behavior. Then she tries not to think about Nitta-kun, and Shuntaro sighs beside her.
"Touko-san asked me to keep an eye on you," he lies boldly as they walk together. "To make sure you don't do something stupid and put yourself in harm's way again."
She knocks into him then, elbow to his side. "Mind your own business."
"We work in the same business," he says. "Your business is my business is Touko-san's business is Junpei's..." Shuntaro wrinkles his nose. "Eh, we can leave Junpei-san out of it..."
She can't help grinning the slightest bit at that. Junpei hasn't been much better, and she catches him watching her whenever she comes into the office in the morning, palpable relief in his face when she arrives safely. So pointless, these men thinking she would just wander into trap after trap.
But secretly, deep down where she won't let Shuntaro or Junpei-san see, she kind of likes that they look out for her. But only because she'll look out for them too. They're both pretty hopeless, after all.
They make it to the train station, and she holds up the bag. "Please tell your mother thank you again. I appreciate her invitation."
"I will," he says, staring at her a little longer than he has to. Almost as if he's trying to search her mind for what she's thinking so he can blurt it out, convincing himself of how clever he is. Shuntaro who thinks he knows everything there is to know about the female species.
"I will see you tomorrow," she says.
"Asuka!" he calls obnoxiously after her just as she's on her way into the station.
She turns around to scowl at him. "What?"
"I'm glad you're not getting married," he says with a grin on his face before turning around and walking off. She wants to fling her bag of food right back at him, but she can't bring herself to do it.
No, she's not getting married. She's not remotely close to getting married. And this makes Shuntaro glad.
Walking into the station and out of Shuntaro's range of vision, Asuka smiles. She allows herself to be glad about him being glad for only a minute (just a minute!) before shaking off the giddy feelings and boarding the arriving train.