It’s early afternoon by the time the dorm truly comes alive, as it does every Sunday. Whether from Tartarus explorations, late-night study sessions, or just simple lust for life, everyone often has their own reasons to whittle away the nighttime hours awake, rising only past noon. Spare for a few S.E.E.S members, that is. It’s noon by the time Mitsuru, busy with student council business, papers spread across the lounge’s table, finally gets company. Ken ambles down the stairs, Koromaru at his heels. Mitsuru casts a glance at the boy, who’s rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, and nods warmly.
“Did you sleep well?” she asks.
“Yeah,” Ken responds, plopping onto the couch. Koromaru trots over to Mitsuru, snuffling at her until she reaches down a hand to scratch behind his ears, and, satisfied, returns to Ken’s side, resting his snout in the young boy’s lap. The television drones on, left turned on while Mitsuru works, Ken leaning forward, attentively, ever so slightly.
Yukari comes down next. “Is that Featherman?” she asks immediately.
“I wasn’t watching,” Ken scoffs, “I just left it on the same channel as last night.” (Even Mitsuru, whose focus was elsewhere, could tell that was a lie.) Yukari sits down beside him, and Koromaru’s tail begins to wag.
“It’s fine to be a kid sometimes. You don’t have to be strong and mature all the time.”
The boy shrugs. “Okay, maybe I like Featherman,” he admits, “I mean, I have a figurine in my room…” His voice is barely a mumble as her trails off.
They watch in silence for a moment.
The twins wake up next, Minato still in his pyjamas, while Minako is ready for the day already. “Morning!” she calls out, while Minato just hums in greeting as he takes a seat. The rest of S.E.E.S trickles down the stairs over the next half-hour, and Koromaru becomes increasingly antsy and restless as the time passes. He rises to his feet, dropping off the couch, and pads up to various residents of the dorm, drifting from person to person.
“Koromaru-san would like to go for a walk,” Aigis finally announces.
“Of course he would,” Shinjiro coos, ruffling the dog’s fur. No one acknowledges his softness at that moment; not even he himself did. Koromaru yips, prancing around Shinjiro’s feet.
“I can walk him,” Mitsuru offers, having finished her work long ago.
“Why don’t we go as a team?” Minako suggests.
After murmured agreements (and waiting for Minato to change out of his pyjamas), the group sets off into the warm summer air. Koromaru leaps at a passing bug, tugging at the leasy currently being held by Fuuka, who could barely brace the impact and nearly toppled over into Mitsuru.
“Where are we even going?” Ken finally asks.
“Well, we all could use a break. I thought we could have some fun at the park at the shrine,” Minako responds.
Ken grumbles. “I don’t play. ”
“I promise it’ll be fun. I even brought water guns!” Minako gestured to her backpack, currently looking as if it might burst with the volume of items within. Even Ken smiles at that. On the way, they run into Ryoji, who tagged along after brief small talk. Once they arrive at the shrine’s playground, Fuuka unclips Koromaru’s leash, who goes racing towards the playground, darting around the structure.
“Race you to the top?” Akihiko asks Shinjiro, nodding toward the jungle gym. The two hesitate for a moment, then take off, childishly competitive in their haste to scramble up to the top of the jungle gym. Mitsuru chuckles, watching Akihiko reaches out a hand to try to push away Shinjiro in an attempt to hinder his progress. In the end, Shinjiro’s height gives him an advantage, as he swings a long leg over the top of the structure, pulling himself up before Akihiko can.
“No fair,” the other boy complains, pouting as if he truly were a child, although he bursts into laughter a moment later, clapping Shinjiro on the back as they hop onto the ground again. “Just like we were kids again, huh?” Shinjiro hums in agreement, and they drift towards the seesaw. They talk there, rocking on it leisurely, laughing like old friends - which truly, they are .
The rest of S.E.E.S had stopped to observe the pair, and after they settled on the seesaw, the rest drifted into the playground too. Spare for Fuuka, who sat with Koromaru on the ground, ruffling his fur softly, leisurely. The dog leaned into the touch, panting happily, tail wagging, and flopped into the timid girl’s lap.
Ryoji lingers for a moment, unsure who to join; the team had separated into smaller groups, with Aigis pushing both twins on the swings dutifully, hanging with those two was out of the question. “Where do the water guns come in?” he finally asks Minako, calling across the playground.
“I dunno!” she calls back.
So much for that, he thinks, wandering over the Ken, who is also pointedly choosing not to play along with the older members, sitting with Mitsuru, who simply watches everything unfold warmly. She doesn’t even step in when Junpei starts being… well, himself. This earns him a hard swat on the arm from Yukari - Mitsuru just smirks.
“So,” Ryoji begins, glancing at Ken, “why aren’t you out there with them?” Ken just shrugs.
Eventually, Minako’s bag is opened, and Yukari and Junpei begin to chase each other around, attempting to shoot the other with the water guns. “Why don’t you join them?” Ryoji asks the young boy, and Mitsuru nods approvingly.
“They seem to be role-playing Featherman, if their shouts are telling me anything,” the redhead adds.
Ken raises his eyebrows dubiously. “I’m not gonna play pretend,” he responds, skeptical. He glances again at Yukari and Junpei, clothing soaked, Yukari’s bangs plastered to her forehead and dripping with water.
“Come join us, dude!” Junpei shouts, noticing Ryoji watching. “You too, Ken!”
Ryoji glances at Ken. “I know I’m not one of you guys, so it’s not really my place, but I think you should come play. I will, too.”
“They’re just trying to make me act like a kid, aren’t they?”
Mitsuru shakes her head. “Like everyone has previously said, it’s perfectly acceptable to have moments like this.”
Ken reluctantly follows Ryoji into the fray, who swipes up a water gun for both of them. Yukari yelps, giggling as Junpei sends a blast of water her way. Ryoji sneaks up behind Junpei, pulling the water gun’s trigger. “...Go Featherman?” His exclamation trails of into more of a question, his lack of knowledge incredibly clear.
Junpei freezes, turning around incredulously.
“Dude. Do you not know Featherman?!” Ryoji shakes his head, and Yukari gasps in mock-offense.
“When we get back to the dorm, stay the night! We’ll marathon it!” Junpei exclaims. Ken nods sagely in agreement.
They return to their game, their shrieks and laughter causing Aigis to glance over. “Is that truly necessary?” she inquires, to which the twins laugh. She continues to hold both hands out to the side so she could catch Minato and Minako, gently nudging her companions to push them forward on the swing.
Mitsuru finally notices Fuuka, still accompanying Koromaru. “Why don’t you join them?” she asks. Fuuka hesitates.
“I don’t know,” she mumbles.
“I think it’d be good for you. You can get closer with everyone, have a bit of fun, maybe come out of your shell a little more.”
Fuuka timidly stands up, patting Koromaru’s head one last time, before also taking a water gun. She plays along for a good couple minutes, her presence a refreshing burst of joy to everyone involved as she begins to shed her inhibitions. That is, until she tires out, wandering back to Koromaru contentedly.
“You seemed to be having fun,” Mitsuru notes. Fuuka nods, a small smile on her face.
Eventually, everyone else tires too, and returns to the dorm. True to Junpei’s promise, a Featherman marathon is held in the dorm lounge, with piles of blankets and pillows brought from various rooms - it’d be a pain to clean up in the morning, but for now it was fun. Ken falls asleep a few episodes in, and a hush falls over everyone, who whisper and mumble, stifling their laughter desperately as they chat happily, for fear of waking him up. Aigis regards Ryoji suspiciously, Minako asleep in her lap and Minato curled against Ryoji but still awake. She opens her mouth to say something, but turns away. Now isn’t the time. The rest slowly follow suit and fall asleep one by one, some squeezed into the pillow fort, others piled onto the couch, the cramped space making it a tangled mess of limbs; someone was certainly going to get hit in the face. They’d be sore in the morning, certainly; but for now, no one cared.
The television remained turned on through the night, Featherman episodes still playing softly.