Cooking is a form of meditation for Riou. It’s a symbol of comfort and peace. With food, people are less volatile, less irrational. It’s a melody for the senses and a temporary balm for inner turmoil. He enjoys cooking, and judging by how his food always manages to taste good, he figures cooking enjoys being done by him. The lack of noise, other than the therapeutic sounds of ingredients being prepared, is a welcome change compared to the bustle of the world outside the kitchen; the city that never seems to be able to shut up. Which honestly, explains enough about Riou to himself.
He’s quieter than most people. It doesn’t bother him. He just doesn’t feel the need to voice his opinion on things as much as others might. He considers it a virtue, mostly. There is value in silence, in the ability to listen and look at people and weigh the value of your opinion in the measurements of how much tact, moral and benefit it contains before casting it into existence with well-selected words. He tries to make whatever he says count.
He thinks that cooking and him go well together because neither of them make noise without meaning. It’s an unconventional way of thinking about food and silence but it makes sense to him.
That’s why he doesn’t really bother to respond when Samatoki bursts into the apartment, muttering angrily to himself about how his sister has started going out with some little brat a year older than her as he tosses his keys onto the coffee table and stalks over to his room, slamming the door.
It’s probably something minor, Riou thinks, as he methodically slices some hand-picked potatoes to save for later. He’s just being overprotective, as brothers are.
The faint smell of cigarette smoke, ever present in the house, is slightly stronger now, and it makes Riou consider turning on the fan, but he decides against it and chooses to continue cooking. There’s no point anyway; his teammates are constantly smoking.
He doesn’t react either to Jyuto returning from his day job about an hour later, sighing “I’m back,” as he takes his shoes off and sets his jacket and suitcase on the sofa, settling in front of the television and lighting a cigarette. Riou doesn’t see it, with his back turned to the kitchen entrance, but he hears Jyuto surfing through the channels until he settles on some show about interior design. Riou barely even turns to look when Samatoki finally comes out of his room and opens the refrigerator to grab a beer. It’s only when he is spoken to directly that he decides to talk.
“What are you cooking?” Samatoki peers over Riou’s shoulder, eyes narrowed in suspicion as he pops open the bottle of beer.
Riou glances at him. “Pot roast. Good after a long day.”
Samatoki doesn’t look any less concerned. “What kind of pot roast?”
“Pheasant.” Riou had caught it in the morning, in a handmade trap he’d made with a string, some cheese and a very big rock. It's easy enough for him to cook, and he’s rather pleased with himself about catching something as good as a pheasant. He’d also caught some harvest mice which would make for some good kebabs, but he decides that having too much meat for dinner might be a bit difficult to digest. He already skinned them and placed them inside the freezer for the next day.
Samatoki grunts and walks off to the living room. “Sounds good.”
Riou smiles inwardly. He’s glad that they enjoy his cooking. It reminds him of the men he had worked with back in the navy, of sitting under starry skies and watching the ocean waves crashing against the hull of the ship.
As he’s setting the dining table, he hears the other two starting to bicker over the television. They’re arguing about which channel to watch, Riou realizes. Their voices are rising over each other and just as Riou starts to pour some glasses of water, he hears a loud thump. A moment later he hears a Samatoki-esque screech and Juto-ish yelp. Something shatters, loud, and Riou decides that maybe he should take a look and make sure no one’s dead.
The living room is intact, mostly. Riou looks at Juto and Samatoki who are lying in a tangled heap on the floor still glaring and growling at each other like a couple of feral dogs, the remote control for the television a few feet away. The ash tray that normally sits on their coffee table is missing, and coincidentally so is a fairly large part of the living room window.
“Dinner’s ready,” Riou says after a moment of careful consideration. They’re both uninjured, and nothing can be done about the window at the moment. It’s not a big deal, he thinks. Everyone tends to get a little snippy when they’re hungry. “It’s not much, but I can make kebabs with the harvest mice I caught if we’re still hungry after this.”
“It’s okay, Riou,” Jyuto says quickly, rushing to his feet.
“We’re not that hungry, just tired, is all,” Samatoki adds, brushing dust off his pants and straightening up.
They settle down at the dining table in the kitchen and dig into the pot roast.
They’re all fairly quiet as they eat, and it’s almost relaxing, until Samatoki opens his phone to take a short look at his messages and lets out a derisive snarl at whoever it was who had just texted him. Riou decides that it would be good to let Samatoki talk about what he has been so aggravated about today. Fine, he thinks. I’ll bite.
“Samatoki?” he prompts.
It’s all he needs for Samatoki to scowl and toss his phone on to the table, barely missing his half-finished glass of water, and launch into rant mode.
“The guy my sister is dating. He’s…” Samatoki pauses, taking a deep breath. Riou notices, with amusement, the vein throbbing in his forehead and wonders how much of a risk Samatoki is at of popping a blood vessel. “It’s Yamada’s brother. The littlest pig.”
“Saburo?” Jyuto lets out a small laugh. “Really?” The slight undertone to his voice tells Riou that there are a million little roasts resting on the tip of Jyuto’s tongue, just waiting to be spawned into the world like the vices in Pandora’s Box and cause mayhem.
Riou considers warning Jyuto against it, but he doesn’t need to. Samatoki growls, a threat thinly veiled. He’s not happy. A joke at this moment is a bad idea. “If I ever see him, I’m going to rip his heart out of his throat.”
“If he finds out you’re her brother he might hurt hers first,” Jyuto says, too casually. “He’s a bitch for his older brothers. If Ichiro told him to dump her, he would.”
It’s not necessarily true, because the Yamada brothers are childish and petty but they’re not cruel, but it doesn’t matter. Jyuto’s goading Samatoki. All of the men sitting at the table know this (including Samatoki), but of course, they (still including Samatoki) also know he’s going to rise to the bait like the one-track mind (idiot, Riou’s mind helpfully supplies) that he is.
Samatoki looks like he’s about to stab his own eyes out with the fork he’s gripping with his right hand. “I’m gonna kill them. Nobody gets to fucking come near my sister, especially not those fuckers.”
Riou considers telling him to calm down and just call his sister with his phone, but aborts the idea when he realizes that his words would not be acknowledged. Samatoki is out the door before Riou or Jyuto can decide what to do. Oh well. At least he finished most of his meal.
He looks at Jyuto, a silent question clear in the air.
Jyuto shrugs. “Sometimes people need to experience hardship to mature. He may be an adult, but he acts like an adolescent.”
Riou only raises an eyebrow as he finishes off his meal. “The remote control?”
He means it as a reminder that Jyuto, though older, isn’t exactly the best person to say that, because he did get into a fight with Samatoki over a remote control just a few minutes ago.
Jyuto misses the point and says, “That’s what I mean. He still gets into fights over stupid things.”
Riou decides that this is one of the things he’s just not going to bother talking about. It’s a useless way to waste silence, and Jyuto’s right. People need hardship to mature, and Jyuto’s ignorance of the consequences of his own actions will eventually lead to hardship, which will eventually cause him to become more mature.
He waits for Jyuto to finish his food. They both clean the dishes.
Samatoki comes back at 2am in the morning, and he’s crying.
The only reason Riou even knows this is because he stayed up to wait for Samatoki. The poor fool had left his keys on the coffee table and had forgotten to take them before going after the Yamada brothers.
Riou is sitting on the sofa in almost total darkness, watching a late night comedy which is doing absolutely nothing for him, when he hears the doorknob jiggling. He listens to Samatoki struggle with the lock (picking it, Riou realizes with a quiet laugh) for about 5 and a half minutes before he hears a low thud and a muffled sob from the other side of the door. He measures the pros and cons of leaving Samatoki out there until the morning to save what little pride he has, versus sacrificing it by letting himself see Samatoki cry in order to let him in and sleep.
He opens the door.
Samatoki falls back-first into the house. He crashes to the floor, spewing out a curse in shock and pain.
“What the fu- why are you even awake?” The confusion in his voice and expression is almost adorable.
“I was waiting for you.”
Riou looks down at him. Samatoki’s eyes are puffy and red, fresh tear tracks on his cheeks, hair disheveled. He tries to fight off a smile of amusement but fails when Samatoki’s eyes momentarily meet his, the latter immediately getting flustered, and chooses to turn and close the door to spare his friend’s dignity as Samatoki scrambles to his feet and turns away. He scrubs at his face in embarrassment and walks briskly to the kitchen sink to wash his face.
Riou follows patiently.
He notices that Samatoki doesn’t shut himself inside the bathroom. It’s a positive thing because -in addition to Samatoki not instantly picking a fight with him the moment he opened the door- it means that he trusts Riou enough to let him see him in this state. If it was Jyuto who’d answered the door they’d probably be beating each other’s faces in by now.
Samatoki doesn’t turn to face him. His voice is mostly even, but the slight waver betrays his facade. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? You’re not my mom, why’d you stay up?”
It’s a little strange to see Samatoki like this. It’s a weak response; an obvious reflection of his emotional state.
“You forgot your keys.” He can’t resist poking fun at Samatoki for a bit, despite his friend’s distress. “Were you attempting to pick the lock for five and a half minutes?”
Samatoki’s ears turn red when he blushes, Riou notices. It’s apparent even with his back turned to Riou. “Fuck off.”
Samatoki heads for his room, but Riou blocks the way.
He’s honestly not sure what to say to him, but Riou figures at this point, Samatoki should know well enough what Riou expects from him. Samatoki glares at him, trying to intimidate him into moving, but it’s never worked before and it doesn’t work now. Riou returns his glare with an even gaze.
“My sister said she hates me.” He sounds so defeated. He sits at the table and buries his head in his hands. “She doesn’t want me to contact her anymore.” So he went to see his sister instead of the Yamada brothers. It makes sense. Samatoki cares more about his sister than his hatred for Ichiro.
Riou walks to the kitchen counter to prepare drinks. A chamomile tea with lavender should work to calm him down. He sets the kettle on the stove and turns to Samatoki, leaning against the counter.
“And?” It shouldn’t be a problem worth crying about. Siblings fight all the time; something as simple as that is not going to make a grown man break down the way Samatoki is right now.
“And she’s my fucking sister, Riou, I can’t fucking abandon her. What the fuck do you expect me to do?”
“What did you do for her to react that way?”
Samatoki at least has enough self-awareness to know when he screws up. It’s a redeeming quality, Riou thinks. Samatoki doesn’t meet Riou’s eyes. “I said some stuff a-about Saburo and…”
“And I told her that her taste was as bad as Mom’s.”
They're tears of guilt, Riou realizes. Samatoki doesn’t even have to look at Riou to know he has his Disappointed Mom Look™ on. “I told her I was sorry! Then she told me to go fuck myself and she left.”
Riou barely manages to conceal a smile. For all his arrogance and talk, Samatoki really isn’t much of a match for his sister.
She’s not being entirely unreasonable. From what Jyuto has told him about Samatoki, he knows that his mother had killed his violent and abusive father, and then herself afterwards. The women of the Aohitsugi family must be tougher than nails, if one of them had killed a man for hurting her children and the other is capable of making a fully-fledged yakuza member cry outside his own house at 2am. But what Samatoki had said to his sister was a carelessly thrown insult which would cut anyone else as deeply.
Samatoki could stand to benefit from learning the value of silence and thinking before he spoke.
Riou still thinks it would be bad if they cut off ties just because of this one argument, though. They’re siblings, and without their parents, they only have each other left. Riou knows what being alone feels like, and he doesn’t think it’s an experience he wants Samatoki to share with him. In fact, Samatoki and Jyuto are the closest thing he has to a family in Japan; they’re like brothers to him. He doesn’t think he would like it if they stopped talking over something like this.
“You should go to her house and apologize to her in the morning.”
Samatoki nods, sniffling, but he doesn’t raise his head.
“Be more careful with your words next time.” Riou takes a kitchen towelette and hands it to Samatoki, who presses it to his face and takes a deep breath, trying to stop any more tears. Another short nod.
Riou places a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You’re an idiot.”
Samatoki groans. “Fuck off, I know.”
Riou turns the kettle off and makes tea for the both of them. They stay in the kitchen until the sun rises, and neither of them bring it up again.
Samatoki and his sister make up, eventually, and Riou thinks inviting her over for dinner sometime soon would be a good idea.