Yohji and Omi, in the shop on a particularly hot August afternoon.
"Yohji, stop eating the cherry tomatoes!"
"But they'll go bad if they aren't picked..."
"Nobody will buy a tomato plant that doesn't have any tomatoes on it, and you know it. At least leave the ones that aren't totally ripe." Omi rolled his eyes and went back to spritzing the trays of seedlings by the register. "And if you're so hungry, for goodness' sake go buy some lunch. I can handle this for five minutes."
"Okay, okay... you want anything?"
"Sure, some melon ice cream would be good."
"Be back in a sec."
Omi watched as Yohji strolled off, taking his time in the midday heat. In summer he was always intensely thankful that their day job required copious amounts of air conditioning and water; on days like this even standing too near the open front of the shop made him feel lethargic. The heat was good for business-- customers hurried in off the sidewalk, attracted by the cool air rolling out from the back rooms and the relative dimness of the shop's interior. Nobody was out much today, though; in their little neighborhood the unusually high temperatures this week had discouraged all but the most desperate of errand-runners, and people were opting for taxi rides rather than biking to the train station.
It was going to be doubly hard to get their usual after-school crowd to disperse. The students would not relish the idea of going back out into the heat in their uniforms one second sooner than absolutely necessary. Aya had threatened to spray some of them with the hose on Tuesday. "Yes please, that would feel wonderful!" "Oh yes, it's so hot, could you just spray our arms or something?" Omi had never seen that expression of near-panic on Aya's face before, and he'd wished he hadn't left his cell phone behind the register. It would have been a great photo.
The watering accomplished, Omi retired to the stool behind the register. Their street was empty, filled only with bright sunlight and damp boiling heat. Far away, he could hear the faint rush of traffic. A dog barked in a nearby garden; a sliding door opened and shut. Omi closed his eyes and breathed in the smell of cold wet soil, and leaned back against the wall. This was summer, this feeling of utter listlessness that left even his mind incapable of moving quickly. He really didn't know how people could function on days like this, when even the thought of leaving the shop for more than a few minutes made his head hurt. Ken teased him a little sometimes, saying he belonged in Hokkaido or someplace, and it was a good thing their cover wasn't construction work. Even Yohji didn't seem as bothered by the heat, but that was probably because Yohji was just good at conserving energy anyway. Omi propped one foot on the shelving beneath the counter, and fanned himself halfheartedly before giving in to total motionlessness.
Windchimes clinked softly on the balcony across the street, the breeze too light to have any cooling effect. Somehow, that made the heat even more oppressive. He found himself hoping no customers walked in; the prospect of standing up and speaking politely was rather unappealing.
Ten minutes or an hour later, he heard Yohji's footsteps. His eyelids were too heavy to bother with looking up. In a few moments, his head was filled with the more immediate sounds of Yohji inside the shop. They penetrated his awareness like individual fingers prodding a thick ball of cotton.
"Okay, here we are: Iced coffee, sandwich, and melon ice cream for the Boy Wonder." Standing across the counter from him, Yohji radiated heat from outside. He smelled faintly of cigarette smoke and the inside of a convenience store. Omi stood, motioning for him to take the stool, and leaned once more against the wall to eat his ice cream.
"You stay up too late last night or something? Too hot to sleep?" He felt rather than clearly saw Yohji's concerned sideways glance. The ice cream cooled him from the inside out, restored responsiveness.
"Maybe. I had the air conditioner running, but it didn't seem to keep things very cool."
"Ken's right, you're just not cut out for this heat." Yohji shook his head and huffed a little in amusement. "Leave you alone for two minutes and you get all listless and fuzzy-headed."
"Mmn." He concentrated on finishing the ice cream before it melted completely.
"Leave you alone-- you know, you're just a lot less with it when I leave you by yourself, in this weather. You're not so out of it, when I'm around." Omi could hear the wheels turning in Yohji's head, he'd swear it. It made him want to change the subject. Maybe the heat was making him irritable.
"That's because I have to keep an eye on you, lazy bum."
"Oh, fine. I should get Ken to drop ice cubes down your shorts."
"Remind me to do that to you, next time you're late for your shift. Although, I bet I'd need the whole tray."
"Ha, ha. Why don't we just put ice cubes down Ken's shorts instead? I'd try for Aya too, but the last thing he needs is something cold dropped in his pants."
Omi tried not to spit out his last mouthful of ice cream, as a grin stretched across his face. "Deal."
The afternoon inched by as they plotted against Ken, their low voices melting into the empty street.