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The Exception to the Rule

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If there was one thing the family did well, it was birthdays. Specialty cakes ordered weeks in advance. Public comments on social media for the obviously connected, private well-wishes where any connection was being kept discreet. Tickets bought for birthday lives as much as possible. Sharing meals when all else failed. For some of the more high profile members – Gackt, Yoshiki, Hyde – the birthday celebrations could go on for a week or more. No one, not one member of the eclectic found family, was allowed to feel forgotten. Someone, somehow, would always come through with at least a cake and dinner, no matter how tenuous the recipient felt their connection was to the core family unit. Family was precious, after all, and Hyde in particular believed that no one should feel like less than royalty on his or her own birthday.

Of course, like any other rule, there was an exception. One birthday that passed in silence, that more and more members of the family, at least in their public spaces, pretended not to notice. One birthday where no party was planned, no invitations sent, no rotating list of guests coming out to the house. Just quiet.

This year, it fell on a Friday, that birthday. So when Ryuutarou insisted he couldn't stay late, Tadashi didn't give him any trouble about it, for once. But even knowing the unspoken rules, he was surprised to pull into the drive and see that the house was nearly dark.

“... tadaima?” he called out, slipping out of his shoes. No pattering of little feet coming for him and for a second, panic gripped Ryuutarou's heart. Yet when he turned back around from hanging up his coat and scarf, there was Isshi, silent as the ghost the public world thought him to be.

“Tousan! You scared me,” he sighed, pressing a hand to his chest for a moment. “The twins?”

“Hideto-kun just went upstairs to check on all three of them,” the family patriarch said with a small smile. “We're about to sit down to dinner.”

“... Tousan, I told you, I was going to be home in time to make dinner,” Ryuutarou grumbled. He'd had a plan, too, something special he had wanted to make.

“You haven't had to listen to Hideto's stomach grumbled for the last hour,” Isshi countered, though the ancient youkai relented enough to step down and give Ryuutarou a soothing hug. “It's really not that important, kitten.”

“Of course it's important! Just because San-kun's been out all da–,” he started, stopping at the press of a finger to his lips.

“Kitten, it's a day I plucked from the air. Do you really think, after all this time, I could still remember the exact date of my own birth? And place it on a calendar that wasn't even conceived until I was already an ancient?”

“But ... it's your birthday,” Ryuutarou stubbornly mumbled, arms crossing over his chest even as his shoulders hunched inwards. Defying Isshi, even in such a small way, was so very hard, even after so many years.

“It's the birthday of Isshi of Kagrra, someone who is seven and a half years dead from this world, kitten.”

“Not true,” he pouted, hunching even more in on himself. “As long as we remember, as long as we keep loving your words, Kagrra will never die, you said so yourself.”

“Kitten....”

“He's not wrong, Dad,” Hyde said from the foot of the stairs.

“You, too?” Isshi sighed, shaking his head a little.

“What is the one main rule in this fucked up family of ours?” Hyde asked, leaning against the wall beside him. “That everyone is important, whether they think so or not. Everybody else gets a birthday party, why should you be the exception? Last I checked, erotica author Shinohara Hitoshi is still publishing and doing quite well at it. And he's legitimately old enough to be father to most of the family, even. And today is his birthday, too.”

“Already had my birthday call from Kuipup, told Shinji-kun to stay home and rest, and Yuuko-chan is working on San's event, which covers the three children,” Isshi said, crossing his arms over his chest. “What happened with the grandchildren?

“Passed the fuck out in a kitten pile,” Hyde said with an unrepentant grin. “They skipped nap earlier. Not much point in waking them if you're going to keep insisting today is nothing special.”

Hyde's shrug may have been casual almost to the point of careless, but there was a sharp glint in his eyes. It was a bit late for the kids to be napping, even with a skipped nap earlier, but Ryuutarou wasn't going to argue with Hyde on it. Especially when he could tell what the other bakeneko was trying to do. Unfortunately, so could Isshi.

“Hideto....”

Someone knocked on the door and Ryuutarou quickly turned back around to answer it. And had to bite back a laugh at seeing a disgruntled Tora and a bundled Aiji at the door with their two kids.

“Take it you didn't feel like obeying orders?” Ryuutarou mumbled, trying hard not to laugh.

“He did it,” Tora said, jerking a thumb at his husband, though he, too, was fighting back laughter.

“What is it you keep telling me?” Aiji said, nudging Astor ahead of him. “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind? Well. Family.”

“Jiichan!” Astor shouted as he finally caught sight of Isshi, rushing forward as fast as little toddler legs could take him. “Happi-ba, Jiichan!”

It was too cute, the way little arms flung themselves around Isshi's legs. And just like that, the entire preceding argument became moot. Isshi didn't quite sigh, but Ryuutarou could almost scent the shift in the youkai's mood as he crouched down to help Astor out of his coat.

“Are you staying the night?” Ryuutarou asked softly, accepting the napping Asumi from Tora so the man could get out of his coat and scarf without disturbing her.

“Probably,” Aiji said with a little nod. “I don't like driving these country roads at night. I didn't like it coming out, but going back is always worse.”

“Mm, not like we can't find beds for everyone,” Ryuutarou replied with a little chuckle. “He's gonna lecture you later though, you know.”

“Let him,” Tora said with a shrug, taking Aiji's coat. “Astor-kun's been asking when he can give Grandpa a birthday gift for months. Like I was going to tell him Grandpa doesn't do birthdays.”

“Well, your timing is both perfect and terrible,” he said with a soft chuckle. “I just got in myself, but give me a few to see what's been done and I'll let you know how soon to dinner?” he added, handing Asumi over to Aiji.

“We can keep Dad distracted, I'm sure,” Tora replied, tucking an arm around Aiji as the couple took themselves and their sleepy daughter into the lounge. It was perhaps sacrilegious, but it was ... nice to know there were some things where even the mighty Isshi had to bow to another.