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Closing the door to the washing machine with his foot, Kamio lowered the now empty clothes basket to the floor and spun the dials to the correct setting before starting the machine. It took a few seconds for it to power up, before the sound of rushing water let Kamio know that he could leave it to its own devices. Going through his mental chore checklist, he realized the washing was the last easy thing on his 'to do' list. Now came the hard part.
He made his way through the kitchen and to the living room, where Sachiko and Michiko were curled on the sofa in their pajama's watching cartoons. Moving over to the television he switched it off, to an audience of groans, and turned to them both. "Right, homework time. What have we got this week?"
"Can't we finish our show first?" Michiko pleaded.
Kamio shook his head, giving her a wry look. "Kiddo, you've seen that episode before. Hundreds of times. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can recite the lines along with it. Homework guys, 'fess up."
Sachiko rolled her eyes, but nodded at the small stack of books on the coffee table. "Math and English for me. And recorder practice. I have a test on Tuesday."
Kamio nodded. "If you get your written stuff done first, I can mark it while you strangle cats-I mean, practice the recorder." He ducked the pillow she threw at him, and tuned to Michiko. "What about you?"
Michiko's giggling stopped when she realized she was going to have to admit her homework. "We have to make a replica of Tokyo Tower." She said with a smile. "The best one wins a prize!"
Sachiko turned her attention from the maths book she had been flicking through and frowned indignantly. "That's not fair; she gets to play with the craft stuff!"
"Oh, no." Kamio ignored Sachiko's protests as he stared at Michiko in horror. "You are not to be trusted with the craft materials. Neither of you. Not after last time."
Michiko's grin only grew wider. "Nuh-uh," she said, shaking her head. "You said next time we had to be under superstition."
"Supervision," Kamio corrected automatically. "Did I say that?"
Sachiko nodded evilly, setting her books aside. "Yes, you did. And I want to help."
"You have your own homework to do."
"It won't take me that long," she countered swiftly. "And if she needs to hand it in by tomorrow, she'll need help."
Kamio stood perfectly still for a few seconds, trying desperately to think up an excuse to prevent what he knew was going to happen. He found none.
"I want to beat Kari." Michiko said, in a dejected voice. When Kamio turned to her, he fought an eye-roll at the pout she was giving him. "She always wins these things because she gets her parents to help her and her mum's an art teacher."
"That's proof I should help her." Sachiko said instantly, her textbooks already forgotten. "I'm good at gluing things."
"I…okay-" The words had barely left Kamio's lips when he was nearly knocked backwards by two blurs who gave him a quick hug before hurrying off to the cupboard that held the craft materials. By the time Kamio had followed them, felt scraps, glue, sequins and other assorted articles already littered the floor.
"We don't have enough sequins." Michiko pouted.
"You're building the Tokyo Tower," Kamio pointed, a bit confused. "Why do you need sequins?"
"I have to make it pretty," she told him in a tone that clearly implied he was in idiot for not knowing as much. "Where are the markers?"
Sachiko held up a well-battered plastic bucket. "Got 'em," she chirped.
As Michiko went through a checklist of things, Sachiko brought them out of the cupboard and confirmed their presence. Kamio silently watched them work for a bit, rubbing at his temples. Until…
"Glitter glue?" Michiko asked. Kamio's ears perked up.
"Here!" Sachiko waved a pack of glittery tubes.
"Wait a second. Sequins, okay, but Tokyo Tower is not glittery. We don't need those…do we?" Kamio asked, it unfortunately came out a bit more desperately than he had intended.
Michiko glared at him. "Pretty," she reminded him.
Kamio's heart sank into his shoes. "...fine."
Sachiko spread the materials out on the table. "Popsicle sticks?"
"We still have a package left over from last time," Kamio said shuddering. One would think making a log cabin would have been a simple, enjoyable task for a family to do together. Why was he being punished again? He made a mental note to ask Michiko's teacher what she had against him and the other parents. "At the back of the cupboard, Miki."
Michiko reached right to the back and grinned as she produced what would become the structural frame of the tower. "I think we're ready to go!" She announced happily, grabbing a few things and relocating to the kitchen table. Sachiko went after her, with the rest of their materials. Kamio followed them, groaning at the trail of sequins and glitter from Michiko's bundle that had been tread into the carpet by her sister.
"Right, are we quite settled now?" Kamio asked, trying to inject a little enthusiasm for the project into his voice. He failed, but fortunately the girls had more than enough for him too.
"Yep!" Michiko announced, kneeling on one of the kitchen chairs and drawing a few sticks towards her. She played with them for a few seconds, before frowning. "How do I start it?"
Sachiko had already begun, and was busy applying glue to a Popsicle stick end. "Just…glue?" She suggested, taking another stick and affixing it to the one in her hand.
"Whoa, hold up!" Kamio snatched the glue away. "First we plan this thing out. The way you're going, we're going to have sticks glued to the kitchen table again. By the time we found the one on the floor last time, it was already dried. I am not ripping up the linoleum again. Michiko, get a piece of paper and a pencil and let's figure out what to do before we do it."
Michiko, though clearly in favor of her sisters approach, nodded and went off to find some paper and a pencil. Sighing in relief, Kamio eyed Sachiko as she held the glued stick. "We won't do that again." She promised, as the second stick glued to the one in her hand fell onto the kitchen table with a faint 'splat!' "Oops." She said, as her eyes widened. Kamio had a horrible feeling that would be the word of the day.
He rolled his eyes and went to get paper towels and cleaner. It would probably best to make a preemptive strike and have them already at hand to combat the craft supplies.
Michiko returned, and Kamio, aided by a picture in Miki's book, sketched out a rough illustration of the Tokyo Tower. "If we stand the sticks upright, we don't need so many. Actually, this shouldn't take long at all."
Michiko shook her head. "I wanna do a big one," she said firmly. "Kari's mom uses paper mushy."
"Paper mache," Kamio corrected automatically, adding a memo on to his mental notes to 'accidentally' hit Kari's mom with a tennis ball somehow. "And if you wanna do it length-wise - making a square base and building it up like we did the log cabin, we're gonna need a lot more Popsicle sticks."
"Okay." Michiko nodded and continued to look at him, as if to say 'well, go get them then'.
"No way am I leaving the two of you alone with this stuff while I go out and buy supplies." Kamio laughed humorlessly and shook his head.
"Kari will win." Michiko realized, her smile slipping and the beginnings of a pout underway. Even the two red pigtails she'd tied her hair into seemed to visibly droop.
"Urgh…look, give me five minutes?" He pleaded, a plan forming in his mind. "Do not touch anything. Do not look at anything. Do not move until I come back. Okay?" Kamio asked, fixing them both with a stern look. The girls snapped a mock-salute, showing off a Popsicle stick that had attached itself to Sachiko's arm. Kamio shook his head and set off for the phone.
Kamio quickly dialed Kirihara's cell phone number. The other boy was supposed to come over and hang out - Sunday was the one time they both kept free for that exact purpose - but if he got a hold of Akaya in time, he could get him to stop at the store on the way over. The line rang three times before it finally picked up. "Akaya?"
"Yo, Kamio." Kirihara's voice sounded staticky, and their were lots of voices in the background. "What's up?"
"Where are you?" Kamio asked him, straining his ears. "I can barely hear you."
"I'm just picking up some stuff at the store," he replied. "Mom left a list and her debit card on the table for me. Dude, she must have left at like six o'clock this morning. Who the hell works at six o'clock on a Sunday morning?"
"Apparently your mother," Kamio said, straight-faced. On the other end, he could practically hear Akaya rolling his eyes. "Listen, I need a small favor."
"You'll owe me your life eventually. What's up?"
"Can you pick something up for me? Michiko has a…project, that we're working on and we're going to need more Popsicle sticks." He said, closing his eyes and waiting for the laughter.
He didn't have to wait long. "You're seriously going through with this? Do you not remember the log cabin? I do, and I wasn't even there for it."
"Shut up. Will you get them or not?" Kamio asked irritably, sparing a glance to worryingly silent kitchen. "If they don't get them soon I don't want to think about what they'll try to use for alternatives."
"Alright, alright! I'll get 'em. Just the sticks?" Kirihara asked.
"As far as I know. But don't be surprised if I call you back. Kami only knows what those two will demand."
Kirihara snickered. "I'll get a couple of packages," he offered. "I can just picture them running out near the end and using all your chopsticks."
"Don't give them ideas!" Kamio gave another quick look at the kitchen. The silence was unnerving. "I gotta go and make sure they're not plotting world domination. See you later." Hanging up the phone, he headed back to the kitchen. "Okay so…" Kamio blinked. The room was silent, and everything was laid out exactly as he had left it. Minus two girls. "Sachi? Michi?"
A single head popped up from under the table. "Hehe…we dropped the sequins." Sachiko explained, with a wide grin.
"Don't worry; we've almost got them all!" Michiko called from under the table. Sachiko nodded and disappeared again.
"I thought I told you not to move," Kamio began, rubbing at his head again. A few seconds later the girls were back and the pot of sequins (lid firmly closed) sat between them.
"See? All better." Sachiko beamed at him. "You worry too much, Akira-nii."
"You give me good reason," he retorted. "Okay, Akaya's gonna bring some more Popsicle sticks, but we can get this started by laying out the base."
"I get to glue!" Michiko grabbed the big bottle of Elmer's glue, twisting the lid.
Kamio tried to stop her. "Miki, Sachi already opened it-"
The nozzle fell off the upturned bottle, riding a cascade of thick white glue. Kamio watched the glue coat his little sister with a rising sense of dread. Sachiko began laughing, and Michiko's face twisted into the precursor of a crying tantrum.
"It's okay, we'll clean it off." Kamio quickly assured her, pulling the glue bottle upright and setting it on the table. Thankfully the glue was restricted to Michiko's hands and clothes, so he grabbed a wad of tissues and scooped up the worst, before grabbing Michiko's hand. "Sachi, don't touch anything. We'll be right back. If the doorbell rings-"
"Look through the window to make sure who it is, and don't answer it if I don't know them." Sachiko recited.
"Right. Come on, kiddo, let's get this cleaned up." Kamio led Michiko out of the kitchen and up the stairs to get washed and changed.
Clean up in the bathroom only took a few minutes, and then Kamio sent Michi to change her t-shirt while he went back downstairs. Miraculously, Sachiko had waited for his return without touching anything else. Or so it would seem. He eyed her warily. "What did you do?"
"Nothing," she assured him, looking amused. "Can I start making the base?"
"Yeah, but be careful." He grabbed the glue bottle, twisted the nozzle back on and closed it before heading to the sink. After rinsing it off thoroughly, he handed it back to Sachiko. "I said-"
"-Be careful, yes, I know." Sachiko went back to the table.
Kamio followed her with a damp cloth to clean the table. Just as he finished mopping up the mess, Michiko appeared in the doorway.
"Ready?" Kamio asked his sister, who nodded and scrambled back onto her chair. "Good. Now…no, Sachi, use the diagram." Kamio pleaded, noticing that his sister was using too many sticks for the base. At the rate she was going, their replica tower would end up being as tall as the real thing.
"But if we make it bigger, we can add more detail." Sachi protested, and Michiko nodded at her logic.
"If we make it really big, I can put some of my dolls in as tourists." Miki pointed out excitedly.
The smallest doll Miki had was a Western-style Barbie doll knock-off that had been made in China, which meant the doorway would have to be at least twelve centimeters tall. "We can make paper doll tourists," he said, thinking quickly. "Smaller tourists. Now stick to the plan, or else this will not be ready by tomorrow."
Much pouting ensued, but Kamio was well-experienced in ignoring it. Thankfully for the next half an hour there were no more mishaps. There were arguments over the positioning of sticks, but no one ended up covered in glue. They were half way through the infrastructure when the doorbell rang.
All three siblings looked up at each other; all of them had glue coated fingers. Kamio gave them both a stern look as he wiped his hands clean. "Don't-"
"Touch anything." The two girls chorused.
"Right." Kamio made his way to the door just as the bell rang again. Still slightly sticky he tried his best not to contaminate the handle as he opened it, not surprised to find his boyfriend on the doorstep. "Hey, thanks for doing this."
"I live to serve," Kirihara said, lifting one shoulder in a half-shrug. He made as if to hand the bag over and then paused, taking in the translucent, gummy-looking substance on Kamio's fingers. He smirked slyly. "Akira, really. You shouldn't have started without me."
Kamio smacked his arm with the palm of his hand. "Don't say that with my sisters nearby!" he hissed. Then he leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss 'hello'. "Come on in. We finished the base and we're working on the tower." He grinned. "You came at a good time - we're down to the last few sticks. I really don't feel like defending the chopstick stash."
"Whoa, whoa! The deal was for delivery of Popsicle sticks. Nobody said anything about recruiting me into this mess." Kirihara said, holding his hands up.
Kamio turned and shot him a pleading look, to which Kirihara smirked. At that, Kamio's look turned calculating. "You can do it with good grace, or I can insert one of these in an uncomfortable place. Your choice."
"Lead the way." Kirihara replied quickly, following the red head into the kitchen. The few remaining Popsicle sticks littered the table. Between the two girls sat a half-finished mini Tokyo Tower. "I'm impressed," Akaya admitted, studying the structure and the surrounding area. "You managed to contain the destructive forces of evil." As he said that, he reached out and pointedly ruffled two carrot-topped heads.
Sachiko pushed his hand away. "We don't always make a mess," she said in protest. Then she smiled innocently. "Besides, we're not done yet."
Michiko grabbed Akaya's hand and tugged him into the seat next to hers, making him face Kamio across the table. With the four of them surrounding the Tower, they looked ready to mount some kind of assault, which, Kamio decided, was eerily accurate.
"So, what's next?" Kirihara was almost afraid to ask.
"We finish with the Popsicle sticks," Sachiko began, as she opened one of the new packets Kirihara had set on the table, "and then we start with the sequins."
Kirihara blinked. "Sequins?"
Michiko sighed dramatically. "Sequins! To make Tokyo Tower pretty." She explained, clearly unimpressed with both boys inability to deduce the significance of the sequins.
"It's okay," Kamio told Akaya. "They're making allowances for the fact that we're boys and don't know these things."
Kirihara frowned. "Akira, we're gay tennis players, and in our world, with our particular peers, that makes us pretty darn close to flaming - and for all that, I still don't understand why Tokyo Tower needs sequins."
"Boys," Michiko muttered in disgust, not necessarily understanding all he'd said, but definitely comprehending the tone.
"Just you wait, one day you'll be fighting them off with a stick." Kirihara leaned back in his chair. "So, am I done?"
"Nope. Gotta color it." Sachiko handed out the glitter glue pens. "We can do each side a different color while Miki puts the sequins along the ledges."
"Want to switch?" Kamio asked in an exasperated tone, holding up the bright pink pen he'd been given. Kirihara glanced up and didn't bother to hide his grin.
"Pink is nice." He countered. "What color did you think Tokyo Tower was? Of course it needs pink glitter glue!" Kirihara grinned, uncapping his own blue glitter glue.
"Exactly." Michiko agreed, missing the sarcasm.
Kamio gave a defeated sigh and unscrewed the lid from the pink pen. "Fine, fine."
Coloring the tower went relatively smoothly. Sachiko dropped her pen twice, resulting in glitter glue on the table (again), and Michiko got as many sequins glued to herself as she did the tower, but that was par for the course as far as Kamio was concerned. Kirihara was finishing off his side when he pushed a little too hard on on the top sticks forming the apex of the Tower. he stopped it from falling but wound up with blue sparkles all over his fingers. "Damn it."
"Language," Kamio reminded him. "And come on, I was expecting us both to be coated by now."
Kirihara growled and worked to rub it off while it was still wet. Michiko seemed to have heard this, though, and at the same time noticed how sequin-covered she was. Since she didn't have her own glitter pen, she took the pink from Kamio's hand. Before he could realize what she was going to do with it, he had a glittery streak across his cheek.
"There. Now you're messy like me." She grinned proudly.
"Akaya-nii wiped his off." Sachiko realized, frowning at the curly haired boy and raising her purple glitter pen menacingly.
"Don't you da-" Akaya was cut off by Sachiko's quick swipe. He ducked back out of range, and the glitter pen left a sparkly trail across the sleeve of his t-shirt and down his arm. He glowered at her. "You little brat."
"Akaya..." Kamio shot him a quick look. "She's just playing, and it washes off, remember?"
"Good to know." Kirihara abruptly stood up, walked around the table and head for the sink. Just before he reached it though, he whirled around and drew a line, lightning quick, down Kamio's arm in neon blue. "Then you won't mind this!"
Kamio remembered just in time that his sisters were listening, otherwise Kirihara would have been on the receiving end of a colorful string of curses. "Okay, this is war." He promised, grabbing a silver glitter pen from the pack and pulling the cap off with his teeth, eyes narrowed at his boyfriend.
"That can't have been nice." Kirihara said, shaking his head.
"It wasn't." Kamio confirmed, wondering why he hadn't just unscrewed it normally. The two circled each other for a few moments, eyes locked as they gradually moved closer and closer to the two girls watching them. Suddenly Kamio paused. "Wait a minute. Isn't this how the 'Log Cabin Disaster' started?"
"If I say yes, will you put down the glitter glue?" Kirihara asked, not taking his eyes off the other boy.
"Truce," Kamio decided. Kirihara waited until Kamio lowered the glitter glue before relaxing and turning back to the table. And immediately freezing. Sachiko was watching them with a big smile. Michiko had managed to knock over a leftover cup of juice that had been on the table since breakfast time. It had flowed silently across the table, soaking their 'blueprints' and was pooling around the base of their Tower.
Both Kamio and Kirihara leaped for the table, and ended up knocking into one another in their rush and toppling to the floor. The girls finally noticed what had happened and Sachiko began scrambling for tissues while Michiko rescued Tokyo Tower from the flood.
"Why does everything always attack Tokyo Tower?" She mused, as her sister helped her dab the base dry with a tissue.
"Get off me." Kamio growled, as he tried to detangle himself from his boyfriend. He glanced up and sighed in relief to see that they weren't going to have to spend another few hours of their lives making a new model. Kirihara managed to extricate himself, pushing up and going for the towel draped over the double sink divider. He tossed it to Kamio who began cleaning the worst of the mess, directing Sachiko to get the drips that had fallen to the floor.
"Gonna have to mop that," Akaya commented. "It's gonna get sticky."
"I hate arts and crafts," Kamio groaned.
"I don't." Michiko replied innocently, as she placed Tokyo Tower onto drier ground.
Sachiko appeared from under the table and rinsed the cloth she had been using for the floor under the tap. "It's okay, the worst is over now." She reminded him.
"No, the worst is cleaning it all up." He waved a hand at the mess littering the sticky table. "Or rather getting you two to concentrate on cleaning up."
"I have math homework." Sachiko pointed out quickly.
Kamio shot her a dry look. "Nice try."
Michiko began digging through her bucket of markers. "Come on, it's not finished!"
Akaya survyed the Tower critically. "Looks done to me."
The littlest redhead made a face. "We have to make people," she explained. She shot a pointed look at Kamio. "'Kira-nii wouldn't let us make it bigger."
"She wanted to use Barbie as a tourist," Akira said, shrugging. "I was not about to spend six hours building Tokyo Tower big enough to let Barbie walk in without hunching over."
"Good call." Kirihara complimented, as marker pens were handed out to everyone.
"Lots of people, and they should be smiling!" Michiko instructed.
"Not everyone smiles, you know. Some people get scared going up so high." Sachiko pointed out, purposely drawing an unhappy face first.
"This is her project, Sachi, if she wants happy people, lets draw some smiling faces too, okay?" Kamio tried, attempting to keep the peace.
"Whatever," Sachiko said, sounding miffed. She dug through the different markers in the bucket. "Ooh, stamp markers!" She pulled out one and stamped her paper experimentally. A tiny yellow happy face smiled back at her. "I'm gonna use these on their clothes."
"Me too," Michiko cried, reaching for the stamp markers. She pulled the lid off a red one, and then frowned as she noticed the pointed tip. "This isn't a stamp marker."
"No, it's a scented one," Kamio said patiently. "Smell it."
Miki sniffed the marker, and her face lit up. "Strawberries!"
"Do you always tell kids to sniff markers?" Kirihara asked, grinning. "Don't you know they can be considered gateway drugs? How very irresponsible of you."
"Oh, shut up." Kamio said, lightly whacking his boyfriend on the arm. The girls seemed to be happy designing tourists (in Sachiko's case with a variety of facial expressions), so Kamio sat down at the kitchen table and began picking at little blobs of glue that had dried to the surface.
Kirihara followed him and sat next to him. "You know, this isn't quite how I had planned today when I woke up this morning. My vision was a lot less sparkly." He began lightly rubbing at Kamio's cheek where the pink glitter glue was still stuck.
"I can't say I had this in mind either," Kamio admitted, blushing under the gentle touch. "but it's not so bad, is it?"
"Nah," Akaya said, and leaned forward, pressing his lips to Akira's. Gentle as a sea breeze, he coaxed Kamio's mouth open and reveled the feeling of pure pleasure that sparked inside him. He could have stayed like that for hours, had a high-pitched giggle not gone off next to him. Reluctantly pulling away from Kamio, Kirihara turned to the source of the giggles, and rolled his eyes to find the girls watching them with identical grins. "What, bratlings?" Kirihara demanded, though he didn't look particularly annoyed with the interruption. Kamio figured he was just banking on having to continue later when the girls were sat in front of the television.
Tokyo Tower was held up for their inspection, and Michiko pointed to the middle section of the pink side. They were by no means masterpieces, but it was quite clear that the four figures staring back at them were supposed to be Kamio and Kirihara (holding hands, Kamio realized with a light blush), and Sachiko and Michiko. All of them were smiling.
It was cute. More than that, it was touching. Kamio looked from the inked-on smiles to the real ones on the faces of his younger sisters, and saw how much they truly cared and love him, them. They didn't care that their brother was involved with another boy. They never had. He hoped they never would. A quick glance at Kirihara saw a similar stunned look on his face, and he figured the other boy was probably thinking along the same lines. Swallowing hard, Kamio cleared his throat. "It looks great," he told them truthfully. "Really, really great."
"Yeah." Kirihara said, his voice rough with badly concealed emotion. "Pretty good. Considering how glittery it is."
The two girls beamed, and Michiko took the finished piece from her sister and placed it on the kitchen table to finish drying completely. "It'll definitely win first place!"
"It doesn't matter, I just had fun doing it." Sachiko said, turning the tower round so that she could see it from different angles. "What do you get if you win?"
"A set of plasticine." Michiko explained, and Kamio visibly paled.
"What?" he croaked, envisioning bits of clay ground into the floor, and in the rugs. He hadn't thought it possible to be afraid of anything more than glitter glue. "When you say 'set', how many are we talking?"
Michi positively beamed. "It's a big set," she assured him. "Over fifty different colors in their own canisters. And little molds you can push them through! And there's even a plain kind you can bake in the oven until it's hard and then paint it!" She wrinkled her nose, thinking hard. "I think paints come with the set."
Sachiko looked enthusiastic. "Wow. Think of the stuff we can do with that!"
"Er…I think your brother's trying hard not to." Kirihara laughed, an arm around Kamio's shoulders to stop the boy from falling should he faint.
"Plasticine…paint…" Kamio protested.
"Yeah, I know, it'll be great!" Michiko said, starry eyed. "I really hope I win!"
Noticing her brothers current predicament, Sachiko grabbed her sisters arm and began towards the door. "We'll just go finish watching some cartoons, okay 'Kira-nii?" She asked sweetly.
"Uh-huh." Kamio said, not really listening. The girls grinned and hurried off to turn the television back on.
Helping his boyfriend sit upright, Kirihara smirked. "Plasticine. Like Sachi said, just think of the possibilities."
"I'm calling you before we even open the packet. If I have to suffer, you're going down with me." Kamio countered, glancing forlornly at the remnants of their craft session. "I should finish cleaning up." He said monotonously, making no effort to move.
"Why? We got most of the glue up, everything else can wait. The demons are occupied," this was confirmed by a wave of giggles drifting through from the living room, "so…"
"So?" Kamio prompted.
"Where were we?" Kirihara asked, smirking wickedly and leaning forward to capture Kamio's lips again. He drew back quickly and frowned, wiping glitter from the tip of Kamio's nose. "We're going to be finding this crap for months, aren't we?"
"Yeah." Kamio agreed, wiping Kirihara's cheek clean.
"Throw them away." Kirihara demanded. "Burn them. Destroy them. Never again."
Kamio laughed and rested his head on Kirihara's chest, sighing as the taller boy wrapped his arms around his waist. "Consider it done."
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