Jinpei winced as he heard his sister cursing to herself behind the bar.
"Dammit," she muttered, "Why does this always happen right before we open?"
Jun was unsuccessfully trying to fix the leaky faucet behind the bar as water began pooling up on the floor. She stood up, bumped her head on the counter, and then ran to grab a bucket from the closet to catch the spurting water from the broken pipes.
After she placed the bucket, she quickly picked up the phone and dialed the plumber.
"Yes, I'll wait." She sighed, as the person on the other end put her on hold.
She tapped her fingers nervously on the counter as she waited. Then, she turned and noticed her little brother standing quietly on the other side of the room, observing it all.
Her eyebrows knit as she grumbled at him. "Jinpei! You've been watching all this time and didn't even offer to lend me a hand?"
Jinpei shuffled his feet and backed himself slowly toward the door. This was no time to be hanging around with his sister. "Well, I...uh..."
Luckily, the plumber interrupted him.
Jun responded to the man on the other end of the phone. "Yes, I have an emergency..."
Jinpei took this as his cue to leave. He dashed out the door, knocking an innocent bystander over as he ran.
He stood up and brushed himself off. "Sorry, I didn't see you there..."
The other person stood up and looked him in the eyes. "Jinpei, how many times have I told you to watch where you are running?"
"Bro?" Jinpei replied. "If you're here to see Sis, you might as well turn around and go back where you came from...she's in a really bad mood. The pipes are leaking again, and there's water all over the floor."
"I didn't come here to see Jun." Ken said. "I came to see you."
Jinpei's eyes widened. "Really?"
Ken nodded. "Yeah, I came to see if you wanted to take a walk in the park. They're having a festival out there today."
"You bet I'll come with you! Anything to get away from Sis right now. If I go back in there, she'll put me to work!"
Jinpei gave a little excited jump as he walked next to Ken. He was a bit surprised that Ken came to spend time with him.
Not that it was so unusual; Ken used to take Jinpei for long walks in the park and play catch with him just to give Jun a break. In the past year, though, since Ken and Jun had begun dating, it was rare for Ken to want to spend time with the Swallow without the Swan around.
Ken and Jinpei walked through the park together, listening to music, playing games, riding rides and stopping to have their caricatures done together. Ken bought the picture from the artist and gave it to Jinpei as a souvenir.
Later on, Ken had an idea. "Hey, Jinpei, it's past noon and I'm getting hungry. Let's go over to the coffee shop and get something to eat."
"I'm always down for food!" Jinpei exclaimed, rubbing his tummy.
The coffee shop was a small establishment on the edge of the park that was known for its delicious hot dogs.
Ken ordered two hot dogs for each of them, a coke for Jinpei and a cup of coffee for himself.
After lunch, they sat around talking and laughing about old times.
During a quiet moment, Ken peered across at his companion. Now that the war was over, Jinpei seemed older...more mature. Ken found himself actually enjoying the Swallow's company...no longer feeling as though he was babysitting.
He took a deep breath and pulled something out of his pocket.
"Jinpei, I brought you here to talk to you about something...man-to-man."
"Man-to-man? Sounds serious. What is it, bro?"
"Well, Jun and I have been dating for a long time, and..."
Jinpei's mouth gaped. Was Ken going to say what he thought he was going to say?
"Well, normally I would be having this conversation with her father..." Ken held out a small burgundy box.
"WHOA!" Jinpei gasped. "Is that what I think it is?"
Ken nodded and smiled. "Yeah, it is." He opened the box, revealing a small, but beautiful, sparkling diamond ring.
"Since you're her brother, I thought it might be appropriate to ask your permission to marry your sister." Ken beamed.
Jinpei grinned widely and crossed his arms over his chest haughtily.
"Well, you know, I have a few qualifications for whoever marries Sis."
"Jinpei..." Ken interrupted, with a jovial tone.
The Swallow held up one finger. "First...you have to let me live with you."
"I already assumed that."
He held up another finger. "Next, I expect you to clean up after yourself. I'm not gonna be your servant, too."
"Third, you had better not hurt Sis...or you'll have to deal with me!"
"Ok...yes, Great Swallow..." Ken chuckled.
"And finally..." Jinpei scratched his head. "Well...uh...just make me and Sis happy for the rest of our lives, alright?"
"Got it, Jinpei." Ken smirked. He closed the box, placed it carefully back into his pocket and stood up. Jinpei followed him as he walked to the door.
"You know, you'll need to give Jun and I some space, too..." Ken said, as he pushed the door open and stepped out into the park again.
"I know, I know..." Jinpei muttered. "Don't I do that already?"
"More space..." Ken shoved his hands in his pockets. "We'll be newlyweds, you know."
"Yuck! Spare me the details, will ya?"
Both Ken and Jinpei began to laugh.
"You know, Ken..." Jinpei began. "I hope we'll have more man-to-man conversations like this. I had fun with you today."
Ken's eyebrows rose as he noted the use of his real name in the place of the ever-present "bro" that Jinpei used.
"Me, too, Jinpei." Ken placed a hand on the Swallow's shoulder as they continued walking down the street. "There'll be plenty more man-to-man talks in the future. After all, it'll be official. You and I will be brothers."
"I like the sound of that, big brother." Jinpei grinned. "And I like it even better that you're gonna put Sis in a good mood!"