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Nah, it's really not her place to stare.

It's not her place to stare, but her eyes can't help but flicker to the two of them. She decided it would be a great idea to tag along with them, but spoiler alert, it's not.  It's awkward on her side and absolutely non-conversational on their side; they're more of a duo— Kaoruko, Sakon, and his almost-boyfriend— than a trio when Zenkichi is involved. Hell, it's more of a team when Ukon's there, and Zenkichi doesn't make it much better. So, there's nothing she can do but watch. 
 
"Lovebirds," Ukon whispers into Sakon's ear, and the boy looks back at the puppet, an eyebrow raised as he stares, the back of his head in Kaoruko's way. Turning back around to her, he musters a smile, but a sigh quickly comes after, and he steps forward, gesturing in a mock courtesy to the endless abyss of rippling water beneath them. 

"I just find the scene too beautiful not to be happy," Sakon replies cheerfully, finding an excuse for his simpering. It's one Ukon sees through. The scene being... Well, Zenkichi, and not the beautiful flowers around them. 

"That'd work, like, if you'd actually sight-see and not stare at your boyfriend." Ukon pinches his nose bridge and his voice becomes a little more exasperated, "Didn't you two pay for this? What a waste."

"We didn't," Sakon smiles. Yeah, Kaoruko did out of courtesy, and now she really regrets it. Actually, though, not really— Sakon deserves a break, and she's more than happy to give him one. 

"Besides, I'm enjoying several kinds of beauty." He says, teasingly. That's the kind of thing he says when he has Ukon there, bold and brash, and Zenkichi noticeably dies. 

(He blushes, stutters, and well, dies.)
 
There's many versions of him: Sakon,  the nervous, anxiety-ridden one with eyes skirting away from Zenkichi's inquisitive gaze, one that begs to know what's wrong but won't ask 'till he looks up with a familiar, comfortable look in his eye; then there's Sakon, the confident, strong boy with more confidence then she ever imagines the real one with. The one Sakon is when he's with Zenkichi and Ukon has to be a mix between the two, bold enough to act as himself with Ukon but shy enough to be himself alone.

Kaoruko watches the scene, then her eyes dart back to her book, the words somehow drawing her away from the scene playing out in front of her, the eyes away from each other and now gazing at the blossoms, the petals blooming away from each other on beautiful, yet somehow depressing cherry trees. Once the cold comes, those flowers will be whisked away by the wind and die. Kaoruko hopes the scene playing out in front of her isn't like that. If it does, she hopes Sakon enjoys it while he can. Love like that is rare and should be cherished... And oh, okay, the book does a bit of a job... Kaoruko simply can't not be nosy. Besides, they're more obvious then neon pink in a pickled jar. 

 

Then, there's Zenkichi. One simply can't look away from his atrocious fashion choices, let alone the guy himself— a lumbering, muscular man with a sloppy, somehow sweet smile and a camera with a name too long to memorize. He's a sweet guy, not necessarily Prince Charming, but definitely the rugged, tough side protagonist. But, he's definitely the deutragonist with his simpering over Sakon, constantly doing research at the simplest of questions.  

Zenkichi's a familiar face now. Kaoruko knows what he likes, what he doesn't — and his passion, photography. 

She's made the mistake of asking about the cameras, what they do, and how they work. Zenkichi rambled on and hand about the contents and space and resolution and all the finite things she wouldn't care to remember. But it's that man who makes Sakon happy.

When he leans in to listen to Sakon speak despite knowing not a thing about that subject, she realizes she has to listen as well. He's a crate full of supporting comments, caring caresses, and nothing more than pure care and concern for her nephew, so she takes care to remember the little things. Well, her mind's already cluttered with case files and mysteries, so she forgets some, but the jist makes it in. 

The man — Zenkichi — is all starstruck smiles, scratching at his neck, eyes on Sakon as he protects him without the both of them realizing. It would be cute if he weren't a man romancing Sakon, but it almost is regardless.

Men together, romancing each other as if they were an average couple, for her mind, isn't her definition of ideal. The ideal is a girl like Shiho, a girl brave enough to engage Sakon head-on and keep speed with him, enough to keep Ukon in check and to whip the puppet into shape. Zenkichi does that well, too, though. 

Whatever they have isn't quite ideal, as imagining two men makes her stomach squirm with a discomfort she can't quite name. Still, Sakon and Zenkichi aren't strangers she can think of so objectively. Along with that discomfort, comes a fondness. She's spent more times questioning that fondness than she has questioning the morality of their choices. But she knows them, and she has to be realistic about the two of them, even if it isn't her choice to make at the end of the day. It isn't her choice to make, but it's her knowledge to keep. 


Realistically, Sakon is more than compatible with a loud-mouthed, boisterous photographer of a man. Sakon is evident with his intentions and emotions even if he doesn't mean to be, and Zenkichi is all the same. 


When Sakon gives him a nervous, shy smile and snaps back a comment with Ukon, his innate nervousness fleeing and interest peaking at their small talk and banter, she can't help but wish they were even closer. Sakon should feel the same fondness she questioned. 


Sakon does deserve more than a lackluster, ditzy photographer. But that average photographer is Zenkichi, a constant in his life that brings confidence and a wave of strange in his personality she can't say she knows. Zenkichi is a man. The disgust boils in her stomach, but he's a man of work and bringing, the callouses on his hands only proof of that—and it seems he's the only person, man or woman, that her nephew is willing to have. 

Kaoruko sighs. They have so much — acceptance, love even if unsaid, and trust. It's beautiful. Maybe she's simply a hopeless romantic.


Kaoruko shakes her head, the making of a smile twitching across her cheeks. Her eyes are supposed to be on a book; instead, it's on their backs, watching as comforting hand squeezed at her nephew's shoulder. 


A sigh leaving her nephew's lips tells her she isn't supposed to look, but she watches as he leans into the touch. Then, his eyes widen, and he nearly jumps as he startles himself from his trance— and the smile on her face grows. She isn't disgusted. The warming in her heart tells her it's something else.

She isn't jealous of him either, only wanting him to savor the love of somebody who loved him that much. If somebody had that heart-eyed look for her, that constantly and that persistently, with nothing but care for her— she would love them just as much as they loved her, if not more. 

(Somebody did.)

Kaoruko shakes the imprints and words she doesn't wish to remember away. Maybe she is jealous, a smidgen she'll deny or conquer.

Kaoruko snaps out of the thoughts as she watches Sakon lean away from the touch, eyes casted anywhere but Zenkichi's gaze, but a hand comes to his cheek to bring it up. Then, he's looking him in the eye, a look she saw on her father's face when he saw his mother doing something silly. She remembers the same look on Naoto's face.

(Once more, Kaoruko wipes the memories away with a grimace.)

Ew and yay, how classically romantic. It's a silly look to anyone but the two of them. Sakon's eyes rest only on him, the both of them staring at each other with a look she wished somebody had for her. The longing to stay there, to hold each other's hands and caress them with such a tender, simple happiness, and with such 

Ukon squirms at their affection, and she bites her tongue, holding her breathe to keep her laugh to herself. It's not like she can get caught staring, now can she?

Sakon whispers something to Ukon, and makes him quiet, and the world becomes dead silent once more.

They don't exchange meaningless nothings, nor did they profess their love out loud for the world to see. Kaoruko respects that. Thankfully, they're not going too fast. (Naoto and the sttange memories come once more.) She isn't entirely sure of what they're doing, but the smile on their faces tell her that they enjoyed each other and the view— each other a lot more.

Kaoruko internally groans over the lost money and her minimal wages. It's not as if she could waste money like it was nothing, and when words were about to slip from her tongue, her eyes darted back up and she saw his smile again. Smiling, lips twitching, happy as ever. 

"Zenkichi-san, the flowers are so beautiful," Sakon gestures to the flowers, mouth parted in awe at the flurry of pink. 

"They're pretty," Zenkichi turns to Kaoruko,  and his grin widens as he gestures to the falling sakura, "Kaoruko-san! Don't you agree?"

Kaoruko watches them and feels her heart grow even warmer. Aw, it's like marrying off her baby brother, except he isn't her brother.

"Yeah, it's pretty, isn't it?" Kaoruko replies.

She keeps it to herself. What's it gonna be like being around those lovebirds all the time?

Her mind darts away, then she frowns at the images that come into her mind; she would rather not know. But to see Sakon that happy in another's company, to see him thriving and simply enjoying a being without qualms— she could do with that anytime.

It's a hell of a sight. 

Her memories of him are flooded with sights she would rather not see again. A knife against his neck, the thin trail of blood and the remanence of a puffy scar, his eyes somehow tranquil and accepting of his position, but calculating a way out. (She felt herself remembering the things she never said, then the lessons and things he had never learned.) He's just over sixteen and under eighteen, if she's remembeing correctly, and he's far too young to be experiencing trauma— like a knife to his neck and the tales of the Byakko sharp against his chest. 

And yet, he experienced it regardless. It wasn't traumatic to him, but her time as a detective tells her that it will grow into a festering, horrible memories. Still, Sakon attracts the experiences nonetheless. He's sweet and kind, and a part of her heart burns to see him torn down by the world. Whether it be of monsters in the guise of men and genuinely despicable people, it happened and happens.

 But family is there; she is there, and Zenkichi is there, lifting him up and extending a hand. He can't quell the flames, but he's there for him.

 It's far and few that he simply enjoys somebody like this, let alone gets close enough to go on a romantic ride with them, but then again, this is as romantic as it they'll get for sure with the both of them trying to keep it on lock. It seems they're trying to keep it low and away, but her keen eyes capture the details that not many can't, the eyes that Ukon always doubted. Or they're that obvious. Really, they are.

(She is a detective in her own right, even if Ukon mocks and teases her the way he does. Her keen detective eye still sees the special moments between them. They aren't meant for anyone but the two of them, but her eyes are constantly over Sakon, and it's not her fault that she caught those points. She's a bit protective.)

But they're caught up in their little world, being as obvious as possible and in sappy love with each other. All they know that the book she's reading is interesting, absorbing her attention and time, and she's happy for it to stay that way. She hears the pop of somebody's lips, and looks up in time to see their lips meeting, a kiss stolen in fields of pink and glory. She smiles to herself and looks down into her book.


That's none of her business, and it's a secret she'll keep.