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A Week of Gifts

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On Monday, there were flowers neatly placed on Natsume's doorstep. Tuesday found a dozen acorns on a large leaf. Wednesday saw five tall mushrooms, lined like soldiers in a row. Thursday had a wooden statue, carefully if inexpertly carved, with a flower in its hand.

On Friday, it rained, and Tanuma had to shout a warning before Natsume trampled the little grass-woven basket of berries.

"What's this?" Tanuma asked, toeing the basket, their umbrella tilting a bit and splashing cold rain on his neck.

Natsume shrugged sheepishly. "They sometimes leave me stuff. I'm not really sure why."

"Maybe they just like you," Tanuma suggested, and his heart twinged at the awkward way Natsume frowned and looked at his shoes. He shifted a bit to the side, and Tanuma shifted with him so they'd still both be covered by the umbrella. "Or maybe they just think you should eat more," he added lightly, and Natsume made a face.

"I guess I can't blame them for assuming that Sensei eats my food," Natsume said, and Tanuma laughed.

"Then you'd better eat them now, before he knows you have them," Tanuma said, and Natsume obligingly tucked his satchel under an arm and picked up the basket. He hesitantly chose a berry and tossed it in his mouth, eyes widening as he bit down.

"Good?" Tanuma asked, and Natsume nodded.

"Want one?" Natsume asked, and Tanuma said "yes" before his mind caught up to his tongue.

Tanuma looked helplessly at his hands--the right held his umbrella, the left his books, and there were puddles all around. He thought, maybe, a normal person would go inside the house, but as far as he knew, Natsume had never invited anyone inside. "Umm..."

Natsume lifted a berry and, with a roiling feeling in his stomach that was a little like dread, Tanuma obediently opened his mouth. Natsume popped the berry in with little fanfare, his thumb accidentally bumping Tanuma's lower lip; Tanuma bit down, more out of surprise than anything else.

"It's good," Tanuma said, and Natsume beamed.

"Want another?" Natsume offered, and Tanuma--

When they first started out, Tanuma had been planning on asking Natsume what he had done with his umbrella. Natsume had had one when he entered the school gates, and he had looked slightly wet and very tired when he actually made it to class an hour later, but.

But Natsume was smiling now, and he was close enough that Tanuma could feel the heat of his arm through his shirt, and the sound of the rain drowned out the rest of the world, and.

And Tanuma didn't want to ruin this.

"No thanks," Tanuma said, shaking his head. "I should probably get going."

See you, take care, and the door closed behind Natsume, and Tanuma remained on the doorstep.

Tanuma looked out through the rain. He thought, maybe, there was a shadow near the bushes where one probably shouldn't be.

"Thanks," he called out, feelingly only slightly silly. "For looking after Natsume." He paused, and added, "And don't let him give away his umbrella again, okay? He still needs things like that, even if he doesn't think so."

That said, he turned and walked away, following the path that would lead him past the store, to his home.

Saturday found an apple, shiny and fresh, on Natsume's doorstep. Next to it was a store-bought umbrella with a note attached, reading simply, "Keep this one."

And though he couldn't see who left it, there was a fresh daisy chain hanging from Tanuma's gate.