The Tangled Web We Weave

by Crawlspace

 

~ Day 1 * Part 1 ~

~ Saturday Morning ~

 

            For as much time that had passed since she’d last driven through here, nothing had changed.  After three and a half hours on the road, Kaya spotted the trees and wooden fence that marked the beginning of her parents’ property.  Real civilization had been left behind quite awhile ago, around the same time they’d all stopped to stretch their legs and tend to the baby.  And in about five minutes, they’d be pulling into the dirt road that would put them at the front gates of the estate.

 

            Kaya’s hands clenched even tighter in her lap.  At the time she’d made the decisions on how to handle this trip, they’d seemed like perfectly good decisions.  If nothing else, they were what would be best and easiest for her.  Except, right at this moment, she was seriously beginning to reconsider the wisdom in how she’d gone about this.  With her nails digging into her palms, Kaya closed her eyes and blurted out, “I didn’t tell them.”

 

            She could tell by the way Miki’s cooing changed that the girls had moved their attention from him to her.  When she opened her eyes, she saw the confused frown on Ken’s face and the crease over his brow that meant he was about to ask for a further explanation.

 

             “What does that mean, exactly?” questioned Ken carefully, just as she’d predicted.

 

            Kaya took a deep breath, wishing for all she was that this wasn’t a conversation she was about to have in front of Ami.  “I didn’t tell my parents I was bringing you with me.”

 

            Ken’s foot slammed down on the break pedal, bringing the SUV to a sudden, screeching halt and causing a chain reaction of the same in the cars behind them.  The jolt sent Miki into a crying fit, and Makoto looked like she wanted to do the same for lack of being able to remove herself from the middle of this.  Her hands reached for the baby to calm him, and Ami reflexively did the same while still paying attention to what was going on up front.

 

            Ken opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind mid-syllable.  In the rearview mirror, he could see not only the girls in the back seat, but also those who had stopped behind them and were no doubt wondering what was going on.  With measured movements, he lifted his foot from the breaks and eased the car to the side of the road.  Then he turned around to face the girls.  “Would you please go tell the others that everything is all right, and we’ll get going again in just a few minutes.  And take the baby with you.”

 

            Ami looked to her mother for confirmation that this was what she was supposed to do.  An even nod was her answer, and Ami relented, getting out on her side as Makoto took Miki and did the same.  Walking slowly back to the others, they stopped in front of Haruka.

 

            “What happened?” asked the blonde as Usagi and Rei came up behind her.

 

            Ami and Makoto exchanged a hesitant glance, then Ami answered, “Nothing.  There’s just a few things that need to be clarified between them before we get there.”

 

            Makoto didn’t say a word, instead shaking her head at the dubious look on Haruka’s face to stop her from asking anything else.

 

            Inside the car, Ken scrubbed his hand over his face.  “Okay,” he started calmly.  “In the simplest terms possible, please explain to me why you forgot to mention that I was coming with you to the people whose home I’m going to be staying in for the next week.”  

 

            Kaya sat up straighter and crossed her arms over her chest.  “I didn’t forget.  I just didn’t tell them.  By the time I got through explaining about every one of  the girls and Mamoru, it felt like trying to explain you would be too much.  And my mother never would have let me go without a lengthy explanation.”

 

            “And all the times you’ve spoken to her since?”

 

            “It never came up.”  Kaya’s expression changed to one of slight sheepishness at the incredulous laugh that escaped from Ken as he shook his head in bewilderment.  “You’re mad, aren’t you?”

 

            Pinching the bridge of his nose, Ken answered, “I’m a lot of things right now, Kaya.”  Then he looked over to her and asked, “What were you hoping would happen?  That we’d pull into their driveway with this circus we’ve got following after us, and somehow they wouldn’t notice I was there?”

 

            “That isn’t it,” answered Kaya, though the red that suddenly tinted her cheeks gave a different impression.

 

            “Then what exactly is ‘it?’”

 

            Moving her eyes away from his, Kaya stared out the windshield and answered, for the most part honestly, “I don’t know.”

 

            Ken sighed.  “All right.  What’s done is done, and we can’t change it.  We’ll just have to deal with it when we get there.  Do you want a few more minutes?”

 

            Kaya shook her head.  “No.  I’m afraid if I wait, I really will find a way to get out of this and go back home.”

 

            “Okay.”  He reached over and took one of her hands, giving it a firm squeeze, and when Kaya looked back at him, he smiled.

 

            Feeling a touch better, and yet much guiltier, Kaya smiled back at him.  A moment later, they waved the girls back, and after suffering through several seconds of awkward silence between all of them, resumed their path to the gates.

 

 

*            *            *

 

            Random notes rang out as Kyo picked at the keys of the piano in the family room.  Kara sat beside him, her feet swinging back and forth above the floor, and occasionally offered assistance in deciding which key to hit next.  When her uncle once again paused for an extended period, Kara reached forward with both hands and brought them down on the keyboard HARD.

 

            Kyo’s random melody was abruptly shattered by something horribly discordant.  From down on the floor, Seiji straightened his glasses and looked up from his Gameboy long enough to scowl at his giggling little sister.  To her four-year-old self, the noise she was making was music.  To him, it was just another Kara-created annoyance.

 

            Hana paused in her stitch work and cringed at the sounds her great-granddaughter was forcing from the piano.  “Kyo,” she said imploringly, “if you’re going to keep letting her do that, at least teach her a proper song to play.  It will save what sanity we all have left.”

 

            “Yes, Gram,” answered Kyo.  Then he grinned and winked down at Kara.

 

            The little girl smiled broadly, her uncle’s mischievousness reflected in her blue eyes.  Her hands lifted high over the keys one more time…

 

            “Gram!” shouted Seiji.

 

            “Kyo!” said Hana sternly at the same time.

 

            “Freeze.”  The quiet command came from Kara’s father and had the desired affect.  Kara frowned in disappointment and brought her hands down slowly away from the keys as her father walked into the room.  “Good girl.  Bad Kyo,” quipped Seijuurou.  Then, offering an arm to his grandmother to help her up, he said, “Time to go.  Kaya and her troop just pulled into the gates.”

 

            The smile reappeared on Kara’s face, and she hopped down from the piano bench.  Running for the door, she announced, “I want to see the baby first!”

 

            Her mother caught her in the doorway and brought her up short.  “Hold on, Kara,” said Shouko.  “You don’t know any of these people.  It would be impolite to just go running up to them before you’ve been properly introduced.  You and Seiji can stay with me for right now, so you aren’t underfoot and in the way before everyone’s had a chance to get settled.”

 

            Ignoring the angry look his sister-in-law shot him for doing it, Kyo scooped Kara up and put her on his shoulders.  “She’s not in anybody’s way.  Right, Munchkin?” he said as he walked away.  Kara nodded happily, and Kyo added, “Hurry up, slow pokes, or Kaya will find a way to escape.”

 

            Seijuurou shook his head at his little brother, knowing he would likely hear it from Shouko later, but chuckled softly nonetheless.

 

            “Where are Rin and Midori?” asked Hana as she took Seijuurou’s arm.

 

            “Father’s still up in his office,” answered Seijuurou as Hana slowly stood.  “Mother went up to get him.  They’ll meet us outside.”

 

*            *            *

 

            The cars all pulled to a stop on the side of the large, circular driveway outside the front of the house.  As she opened the car door and climbed out, a whispered ‘wow’ passed from Usagi’s lips.  The exterior of the three story mansion was done in warm tones and dark wood, offset by accents of dark iron that matched the gates they’d driven through.  A small, bright flowerbed decorated the center of the stone driveway, and matched those she could see off to the sides and along the distant corners of the house.  She had seen the edge of a small lake on the drive in along the dirt road, though it had been mostly hidden by the trees.  Passed that, she had glimpsed a large expanse of open field.  From here, though, none of that was visible.

 

            With Makoto and the baby next to her, Ami stepped up beside Usagi.  A bit shyly, she said in response to the blonde’s awe, “It’s really not as big as it looks.”

 

            Makoto laughed.  “Yes, it is.  Tell her about the mini movie theater and the indoor golf course.”

 

            Ami blushed and returned with, “Uncle Kyo is something of a movie buff.  It’s how he unwinds.  And the putting green is very small.  Uncle Seijuurou had it put in off the rec room several years ago for Grandfather’s birthday, since he enjoys the game a great deal, but can’t ever seem to find enough time to go and play.”

 

            “Ami,” piped up Chibi-usa as she and Hotaru climbed out of the car behind Usagi.  “The big letter on the gate.  What does it stand for?”

 

            “Ishida,” answered Ami.  “My mother’s maiden name.”

 

            Makoto nudged Ami then, and tilted her head toward the front entrance.

 

            Ami’s grin widened, and she raised a hand to wave at her uncle.  Kyo waved back, just before he stopped and glanced up at the little girl on his shoulders as she tried to lean down and whisper to him.  He nodded at what she said and took Kara off his shoulders to set her on the ground.  Holding onto her hand, he walked toward the growing group of teenagers, still not seeing his sister anywhere among them.

 

            When he got up to them, he let go of a suddenly shy Kara and pulled Ami into a hug.  “It’s good to finally see you again, Squirt.”

 

            Ami hugged him back and answered, “It’s good to finally be back.”

 

            Kyo released her, then looked down at Kara.  He cleared his throat, then in a mock formal tone said, “Mizuno Ami, allow me to introduce you to your cousin, Ishida Kara.  Kara, this is your cousin, Ami, and all of her people, minus your Aunt Kaya, who I would very much like to find.”

 

            “She hasn’t gotten out of the car yet.  She’s just a bit nervous,” answered Ami after a slight pause.  Then she turned her attention to the little girl with curly, brown pigtails who was standing beside Kyo’s legs.  “It’s very nice to see you again, Kara.  You weren’t much bigger than Miki the last time we met.”

 

            Kara’s hands played with the hem of her shirt as she replied, “It’s very nice to meet you.”  She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, then said, “My mama said I had to be introduced to you properly before I could see the baby.  Can I see him now?”

 

            Ami nodded and gathered the baby from Makoto for the former baby-in-the-family to see.  Kneeling down to Kara’s height, she continued the introductions.  “Kara, this is your cousin Miki.  I hope you two will get along very well.”

 

            Kyo left his nieces and strolled over to the passenger side of the SUV.  He wrapped his knuckles lightly against the window, then took a step back.

 

            Kaya, displaying an enormous amount of reluctance in the action, opened the car door and stepped out.  She sighed, sounding somehow defeated, and looked up at her baby brother.

 

            Kyo laughed at her and enveloped her in a huge hug, lifting her off her feet as he did.  When her feet touched the ground again, Kaya was wearing a small grin.  Admit it or not, the familiarity of her brother was a warm and comforting thing, and his laugh left her feeling better than she had through the entire ride up.

 

            As he let her go, Kaya brushed her fingers along the dark hair that hung along Kyo’s collar.  “You still need a haircut.”

 

            “If I did that, what would Dad have to complain at me about?”

 

            “Would you like me to write you a list?” laughed Kaya.  “You haven’t changed at all, Kyo.”

 

            “Neither have you,” shot back her brother.  “But I’m still glad to see you.”

 

            A light cough off to their side got their attention.  Brother and sister both turned to look at the man now standing there awkwardly beside them. 

 

            Kyo’s eyebrows rose in a gesture part question and part disbelief as he took in the newcomer.  Neatly trimmed and graying hair, clean shaven, polo shirt and khakis, definitely not a teenager and way too old to be engaged to one of them.  Then he turned his gaze back to Kaya.  “You didn’t,” he said in astonishment.

 

            Kaya ran a hand nervously through her hair.  “Ken, this is my youngest brother, Kyo.  Kyo, this is Saatchi Ken.  He’s a… friend of mine.”

 

            “You really haven’t changed at all.”  Kyo looked over at Ken, then back to the house, where the rest of the family was just starting to show up.  “I’m gonna help you out this time, sis.  Just because you’re making things interesting.  Ami!”

 

            Ami looked over at her uncle as he waved to her and started walking toward the house.

 

            “Get everyone together and bring them up the front so Gram doesn’t have to walk so far,” called Kyo as he hurried to intercept everyone else.  He managed to stop them close to the steps and bypassed his brother’s questioning look while carefully hustling his grandmother and parents backward.  Moving Hana toward the stone bench that decorated the entrance, he said, “Sit, Gram.  Ami will come to you.”

 

            Hana sat, but frowned up at him.  “I may not be as young as I once was, but I’m certainly not decrepit.  I’m perfectly capable of walking a few meters to greet my grandchildren.”

 

            “No need for it, Gram,” drew out Kyo, stalling minimally and mentally willing Ami to move a little faster.

 

            As Ami and the others began to move in closer, Hana smiled.  Miki had been returned to his mother, so Ami was free to hug her great-grandmother when the woman opened her arms to her.  Her Gram’s grip was somewhat looser than she remembered, but the feel of her was the same, and the light, familiar smell of lilac was just as soothing now as it had been in her childhood.

 

            Kyo used the distraction Ami caused and pulled closer to Seijuurou.  Whispering just loudly enough to be heard, he said, “Hey, Juurou, guess what.  Kaya brought a man with her.”

 

            Seijuurou’s eye’s widened in surprise, then closed as he pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses.  “Dear lord, not again.  Are they married?”

 

            Kyo shrugged.  “Beats me, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

 

            Seijuurou stepped away closer to his mother and discreetly pulled her aside, leaving Kyo to temporarily keep their father at bay.

 

            With Hana wrapped up in Ami and her cavalcade of friends, her grandsons’ actions went unnoticed.  “It’s good to have you home again,” she said to Ami as their hug ended.  “We’ve missed you and your mother.  Notes and phone calls aren’t the same as having you here for me to see.”

 

            Ami pulled back and smiled happily.  “I’m glad Mom decided to come.  I’ve missed all of this.”  She looked back at Makoto, letting her know what she wanted.  “Gram, I’ve got some very important people I want you to meet.  First, this is Makoto.”

 

            Hana smiled softly at the young woman holding her baby.  “You’re the girl Ami lives with, yes?”

 

            “Yes ma’am,” answered Makoto with a quick nod.

 

            Miki burbled and squirmed, appearing to realize people other than him were getting attention.

 

            Ami reached over, and he grabbed her finger in a tight grip.  “We didn’t forget you.  I just needed you to wait your turn.”  She looked back to her grandmother, and with obvious pride in her voice, said, “And this is my son, Miki.”

 

            Hana startled, her reaction throwing Ami and Makoto off and instantly altering the mood.  Her eyes narrowed, and she scrutinized Ami closely as she asked, “Your son?  When did you have a baby?  And why am I just hearing about this now?”

 

            Makoto tensed, standing a bit straighter and holding the baby closer to her.  Ami looked lost, not having any idea why her great-grandmother wouldn’t know.

 

            “Mother,” broke in Rin from where he stood beside her, “we did tell you.  Several months ago, when Ami moved in with her friend.”

 

            Hana frowned at her son.  “No, you told me Ami was moving in with her friend who was going to have a baby.  But she very clearly just said that this child was hers.  Why would she tell me that if the boy belonged to her friend?”

 

            Rin realized immediately where he’d made his mistake in all of this.  Clearing his throat, and obviously uncomfortable with the large audience watching him during this particular discussion, he answered, “Because of their relationship, Ami’s acting as a second mother to him.”

 

            Hana just looked at him, waiting for further, more adequate explanation.

 

            Kyo couldn’t take it anymore.  “They’re lovers, Gram,” he blurted out, and yelped as he was immediately hit upside the head by his father.

 

            “Watch your language around your grandmother, boy,” admonished Rin as Kyo played wounded and rubbed at the back of his head.

 

            Looking back at Ami, Hana asked, “Is that true?”

 

            Ami nodded.  “Yes, ma’am.”

 

            Hana nodded, mimicking her, then slowly smiled.  “For heaven’s sake, why didn’t someone just tell me that to begin with.  I’m too old for such obfuscation.  The way everyone was acting, here I was all worried, thinking something had happened between you and your mother, and that was why you had moved out.”  Everyone standing relaxed and released a collective sigh of relief as Hana motioned for Makoto to come closer.  “Come here again, young woman, so I can get a better look at you.”

 

            Makoto did as asked and sat beside her on the bench.  The older woman’s smile was gentle and soft, thought Makoto, and the white hair she had pulled into a knot at the back of her head only added to her grandmotherly appearance.  Hana nudged her glasses up a bit, then reached for Makoto’s cheek and patted it lightly.  Her hand shook just a bit as it came to rest beneath Makoto’s chin, tilting her head down so Hana could look into her eyes.

 

            A shiver touched Makoto as deep blue eyes looked into her own.  There was familiarity there, and a sense of this person looking passed the surface and trying to see her.  ‘Ami,’ she realized abruptly.  ‘This would be Ami someday if…’

 

            A corner of Hana’s mouth quirked, a multitude of smile lines pulling with it.  She nodded in approval and once again patted Makoto’s cheek.  “You’re a good girl, and I’ve heard Kaya speaks very highly of you.  I expect you to take good care of our Ami.”

 

            “I will.  I promise,” answered Makoto firmly.

 

            “Good.  Now, let me see this boy,” said Hana, her attention turning to the baby cradled in Makoto’s arms.  Carefully, she smoothed down the spiky tuft of hair on Miki’s head, then ran the back of a finger over his cheek.  The baby smiled and giggled, producing a similar reaction in Hana.  “I wish Rin had been clearer about all of this.  I would have had Midori bring me out to visit as soon as he was born.  You know, I think I’ve lost count of the number of greats in front of me at this point, but you are a very good birthday surprise, young man,” she cooed at him as she held one of his tiny fists in her fingers.  Then she looked up at Ami.  “Where’s your mother, dear?  I’d like to see her, also, before we take everyone to get settled.”

 

            Ami bit her bottom lip nervously before answering, “She’s down at the car with Grandmother.”

 

            Rin, just a touch of suspicion in his voice, asked, “What are they doing out there?”

 

            “Nothing important,” answered Seijuurou as he came up behind everyone.  “Though, Father, there is a certain matter Mother would like to see you about up in her office.  She asked that Shouko and I take every one in and get them arranged in their rooms.”

 

            Rin looked at his son with growing suspicion.  “What sort of matter?”

 

            Seijuurou shrugged.  “I’m just the message boy.  She and Kaya will explain.”  He hefted the bags he’d carried up from the cars and announced, “Everyone grab some bags!” before turning completely from his father’s scrutiny and moving into the house.

 

            Everyone did as commanded and moved to lift their bags.  Seiji, without making eye contact with either of them, quickly grabbed Michiru’s bag from Haruka’s feet and struggled ahead with it.  Haruka shot an annoyed look at the boy’s back and ignored the soft giggle that came from Michiru.

 

            Hana held onto Rin’s arm and walked off with him after telling Ami to bring the others down to the family room after they’d unpacked.  Ami promised, and led the rest of the group inside.

 

            They stopped in the second floor hallway, and Seijuurou set down the bags.  “All right, because of unforeseen circumstances, we’re doing some quick rearranging.  Kyo’s sleeping in his office over the garage, so we’re putting Chiba-san in his room in the family wing.  Ami, we’re moving you and Makoto into Kaya’s room, since she’s now going to be sleeping on the couch in Gram’s sitting room.  Mother said that should clear up the room we need for her unexpected guest.  We just have to move the crib.”

 

            As Ami’s uncle spoke, handing out the room assignments and sending various people hither and yon, a quick series of calculations was tumbling through Minako’s brain.  There was a very definite pattern forming, and she wasn’t about to get stuck on the wrong end of it.  Grasping Rei’s left wrist, she held their hands up next to each other and announced, “We’re married.”

 

            Everything screeched to a sudden halt as they all stared at her in surprise, that statement coming from out of nowhere.  Rei brought her free hand up to cover her eyes in embarrassment as a giggle broke free from Usagi, and Kyo smiled broadly in amusement.  A similar grin worked its way onto Haruka, and she cleared her throat to claim some of the attention before draping an arm around Michiru’s shoulders.  Michiru’s smile was relaxed and easy, and she aimed some of that at the boy who was staring at them wide-eyed.  Seiji dropped his eyes from the two older girls and scooted back behind his father, his cheeks turning pink at being caught.

 

            Shouko let out a breath that wasn’t quiet a sigh and turned a tight smile onto Minako.  “How nice for you,” she answered evenly, then turned to Ami.  “I’m sure you can take care of everyone from here.  The rooms have all been made up, you just need to point them in the right directions while we get the crib moved.”

 

            Ami nodded.  “All right.”

 

            Seijuurou looked down at his son.  “Okay, Seiji, drop the bag and come help me.”

 

            Seiji’s cheeks turned a brighter pink as he realized he was still holding tightly to the bag he’d carried up.  Moving quickly, he deposited it into the pile of luggage that had formed and scurried into the bedroom ahead of his father.

 

*            *            *

 

            Ken stood very still in front of the chair he’d been directed to.  Somehow, he could tell this was the best thing to do, and that giving in to the thick tension in the room and fidgeting the way he wanted would be a very bad thing.  Instead, he stayed quiet and watched the silent drama that was playing out between Kaya and her father.

 

            A hasty introduction to Kaya’s mother had led to an equally hasty retreat into this room.  The initial atmosphere in here had been misleading considering what he was about to get hit with.  Very organized, bright and sunny with the curtains drawn back to allow in the afternoon light, the office had felt very warm and inviting.  Kaya had pointed him to the chair he was now at, and for the few minutes they had waited, Ken had glanced around at the knick-knacks and family photos that decorated the shelves along with a large collection of well worn detective novels.

 

            That initial feeling of wellbeing had quickly faded as the door to the office opened and Kaya’s parents walked in.  He and Kaya stood, Kaya’s rigid posture adding to his tension and making him stand just a bit straighter.  He watched Kaya’s father without getting so much as a glance in return.  Not much taller than Kaya, the man had a robust build.  Gray hair and wire framed glasses added a distinguished air to an already commanding presence.  Things stopped for this man when he walked into a room, a trait he’d passed on to his daughter.

 

            Rin had walked slowly to the opposite side of the desk, taking his time sitting and adjusting to a seat that was obviously not his.  When he’d settled, he crossed his arms over his chest and fixed them with a cold stare.  And Kaya had matched that stare without hesitation.

 

            They had been standing like this for at least five minutes without a word being said, neither one of them willing to give so much as a millimeter.  Then, suddenly, Rin’s gaze broke from Kaya and landed on Ken.  Ken swallowed nervously as the feel of that stare changed from one of challenge to one of speculation and scrutiny.

 

            Rin’s eyes narrowed just a bit as he leaned back in the chair.  His voice low and deep, he said, “We haven’t been introduced yet.”

 

            Ken bowed politely and swallowed his nervousness before answering, “Dr. Saatchi Ken, sir.  I’m honored to meet you finally.”

 

            Rin inclined his at Ken in return.  “Dr. Ishida Rin.  And my wife,” he added, motioning toward the woman who stood beside him, “Dr. Ishida Midori.  We hadn’t been informed you would be joining us.  Under the circumstances, I trust you’ll forgive the lack of a proper welcome.”

 

            “Of course,” said Ken.  “I apologize for the inconvenience my presence is no doubt causing.”

 

            The set of Rin’s shoulder’s relaxed marginally as he leaned forward onto the desk.  “Don’t concern yourself overly with the matter.  Now, sit.  You said you’re a doctor.  I assume you work with Kaya in some way?”

 

            Midori let out a silent breath of relief as Ken smiled and answered Rin’s questions.  Kaya was still tense as a board, and she would likely stay that way for a good while.  That was all right, though, and perhaps the most fitting punishment she could get for putting them through this.  But, from her point of view at least, it seemed like things might work themselves out fairly well regardless.

 

*            *            *

 

            They had all gathered in the family room after room assignments had been handed out, and introductions were slowly being made.  Makoto had found herself on the opposite side of the room from Ami, caught in a discussion with Haruka, Michiru, and Kyo, but her attention kept drifting over to Ami.  Every few minutes, as Usagi chattered on to a seated Hana, Ami would look up at the clock, bite her lip, then go back to listening to Usagi.

 

            “Excuse me,” interrupted Makoto suddenly, “but I need to go check on something.”  Moving away from one group, she sidled up to another, slipping in between Mamoru and Ami.  Leaning in closer to Ami so she could whisper, she asked, “What’s wrong?”

 

            Ami looked surprised for a second, then bit her lip again.  Answering softly, she said, “Mom and my grandparents have been gone for an awfully long time.”

 

            Makoto smiled reassuringly at her.  “They haven’t seen each other for a long time, and they’ve got a lot to talk about, that’s all.  Don’t worry so much.  I’m sure everything’s okay.  We’d have heard by now if it wasn’t.”

 

            Ami smiled back and nodded.

 

            A small flash of light caught their attention, and they looked over to see Hotaru snapping a picture of Kara as she held happily onto Luna.  The black cat was being a good sport about it, while Artemis got somewhat gentler treatment from Shouko.  Ami’s aunt was looking almost relaxed for the first time since they’d arrived, thought Makoto, as the woman sat with Artemis in her lap.

 

            Standing mostly behind the high backed chair, looking almost like he was trying to hide, was Ami’s cousin.  Makoto grinned as she looked at the little boy.  There was a resemblance that ran through everyone in Ami’s family, but so far Seiji reminded her the most of Ami.  They had the same face, the same eyes, even the same glasses.  Though where Ami’s glasses made her cute, Seiji’s tended to make him seem more like a geek.

 

            Feeling just a touch guilty for that thought, Makoto looked down at her own son.  She tried to picture him in ten years, and added glasses just for the fun of it.  What she saw almost made her laugh, and she added mentally, ‘But I’m going to feed you more, so you won’t be as skinny a beanpole as your cousin Seiji.’

 

            Miki blinked up at her, then giggled as she waved a finger in front of him.  He spent several seconds trying hard to capture it, and when he did, pulled it into his mouth and chewed happily.

 

            Makoto would have complained about the baby drool dribbling from her finger onto his shirt, but Ami’s sudden startle distracted her.  She looked up to see Kaya standing beside Ami with a hand on the girl’s shoulder.  Makoto took a second to marvel at the woman’s ability to sneak up on them so silently, then noted that she now seemed almost as tense as Ami’s Aunt Shouko.

 

            “Kaya, dear!” exclaimed Hana when she saw her granddaughter.  She motioned for Kaya to come to her, and as they embraced, she chided, “It wasn’t good of you to disappear without seeing me first.”

 

            “I’m sorry, Gram,” answered Kaya.  “But I needed to speak with mother and father first.”

 

            Kaya stood from the hug, and that was when Hana got her first glimpse of Ken.  Her eyebrows rose in question, and after a beat of uneasy silence, she adjusted her glasses and said, “Well now.  What have we here?”

 

            Ken bowed in deference and was about to speak when a high pitched beep interrupted them.  Six pagers were immediately pulled out and checked on reflex.

 

            “Looks like I’m the lucky winner,” declared Kyo, his voice sounding anything but lucky.  He clipped his pager to his pocket, then walked over to Kaya.  He gave her a quick kiss on her cheek, then said, “Sorry, Sis, you know how it is.”

 

            Kaya nodded.  “We’ll still be here when you get back.”

 

            Kyo grinned at her, then ruffled Ami’s hair before promising to be back as soon as he could.

 

            Mamoru took in all the activity around him as pagers were returned to pockets and belt clips.  He also took in Usagi as she surreptitiously tucked away her communicator and hoped he was the only one who had noticed her pull it out when the beeping started.  “Ami,” he asked.  “I remember you mentioning your grandfather was a doctor, but I didn’t realize it ran so deeply in your family.”

 

            “Yes, we do all seem to have a certain penchant for it,” answered Ami with a grin.  “Aunt Shouko has her MD as well, though she hasn’t practiced since Seiji was born.  And Grandmother stopped practicing earlier this year to teach at the medical college.”

 

            “It was supposed to be a sort of semi-retirement,” added Midori with a rueful chuckle.  “Except I think I’m busier now than when I was in practice.”

 

            “I tried to talk her into coming to the hospital part time,” broke in Rin.  “The clinic could have used her.”

 

            Midori patted his shoulder.  “You only wanted me there to replace Kyo after you lost him to Children’s.”

 

            “When did that happen?” asked a surprised Kaya.

 

            “A little over a year ago,” answered Midori.  “He didn’t tell you?”

 

            Kaya shook her head, surprised with herself for being surprised at anything her little brother did.

 

            Rin let out a gruff sounding harrumph.  Hishimura has one of the best pediatric programs in the country.  The boy was just being obstinate because I told him he should stay put and settle down.”

 

            Hana cleared her throat loudly, getting their attention and reminding them she was still there waiting for an introduction.  “Enough about Kyo for right now.  You, young man, now that you know what everyone else here does for a living, tell me what you do to support yourself.”

 

            Ken almost laughed when she addressed him as ‘young man’.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been called ‘young’ anything.  “I’m an OB/GYN at the medical arts building attached to Kaya’s hospital.”

 

            “A doctor?” said Hana, pleasantly surprised.  “And you’re Kaya’s young man?”

 

            “Yes, ma’am.”

 

            Hana smiled up at him.  “Pull a chair over and come talk to me for a bit.  Kaya, you, too.  I’m old and don’t have any more time for distractions, so the three of us will talk while everyone else gets to know each other.”

 

            Ken and Kaya did as asked, and the others around them moved away to give them some sense of privacy.  There was a light blush on Kaya’s cheeks, Makoto noticed as she looked back over her shoulder, and she looked just a touch uncomfortable as the first round of questions were being asked.  “Wonder if she feels like I did?” she mumbled out loud.

 

            “What was that?” asked Ami as the small circle they all stood in stopped and stared.

 

            Her cheeks growing warm, Makoto answered, “Nothing, sorry, just thinking out loud.  Sorry.”

 

            Haruka chuckled at her embarrassment, then went back to the story she’d been telling.

 

            Ami leaned into Makoto and asked softly, “Is it really nothing?”

 

            “I’ll tell you later,” whispered back Makoto.  Then she smiled widely and carefully handed Miki to Ami.  “Here.  Get back to showing off your son.  I know he’s dying for some more attention now that he knows where to get it.”