The Tangled Web We Weave

by Crawlspace

 

~ Day 1 * Part 2 ~

~ Saturday Evening ~

 

            Usagi yawned hugely and stretched her arms high up over her head.  She was getting sleepy like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, she didn’t want to go to bed yet.  Her arms came down and wrapped around Mamoru’s, slowing their already meandering pace through the garden even more.  He smiled at her as she hugged his arm tightly.

 

            Several seconds passed with more silence, then Usagi said suddenly, “It’s not fair.”

 

            “What’s not?” asked Mamoru.

 

            “That I have to sleep with Chibi-usa when everyone else gets to sleep with who they want to.”

 

            “That isn’t exactly true,” he answered, thinking of Ami’s mother.  Then he grinned at her pout because she wasn’t looking up at him.  “If she’s that much of a bother to you, send her to my room.  She can sleep with me.”

 

            Usagi stopped dead and crossed her arms over her chest while giving him a hard frown.  “Oh, no!  If I can’t sleep with you, neither can she.”  Then her eyes narrowed and her head tilted to the side.  “You knew I would say that, didn’t you?  You’re teasing me.  How mean.”

 

            Mamoru laughed quietly at the indignation Usagi was trying very hard to throw at him.

 

            “That’s not very nice, either, Mamo-chan,” she pointed out.

 

            Reaching forward, he pulled her against him and draped his arms around her.  It only took a few seconds for her to stop caring about his teasing.  Usagi rested her head against his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist.

 

            “I’m glad you came home,” she said softly, the phrase still sincere after two months and innumerable recitations.

 

            Mamoru pulled back and cradled her face in his hands.  Gently, he tilted Usagi’s gaze up to his.  “So am I,” he answered, his sincerity matching hers.  Slowly, he leaned down and touched his lips to hers.

 

            Usagi sighed inwardly, her toes curling as warmth spread through her.  She was never, ever going to let him leave again.

 

*            *            *

 

            Seiji lay on his sleeping bag and rolled his eyes as Kara asked the same question for the fourth time.

 

            “So then Ami is Miki’s daddy?” repeated Kara, coming once again full circle in her questions as her mother pulled her nightshirt over her head.

 

            Shouko sighed.  “No, she isn’t.”

 

            “Why?” questioned the little girl, still not satisfied with any of the answers she’d been given.

 

            “Because Ami is a girl,” said Shouko, hoping it would be good enough this time.  “Daddies are boys, like your daddy and grandfather.”

 

            “Hotaru’s daddy is a girl,” pointed out Kara.

 

            “That’s different.”

 

            “Why?”

 

            “Because… because I said it is.”  Shouko put a finger to Kara’s lips to stop any more questions.  “No more, Kara.  It’s time to sleep now.”  She picked the child up and deposited her on the sleeping bag beside Seiji.  She kissed Kara’s forehead, then Seiji’s, taking his Gameboy from him as she stood.  “Sleep.  Both of you.”

 

            Kara frowned, but followed her brother’s lead of silent obedience.

 

            A few minutes later, Seijuurou walked into the room with two glasses water.  “Kitchen water, as ordered,” he announced, setting one on the table closest to the children and the other on Shouko’s nightstand.

 

            His wife frowned at him for his extended absence.  The kitchen wasn’t that far away, the coward.  “Next time, I’m sending her after you, no matter where you run to.”

 

            “It couldn’t have been that bad,” answered Seijuurou as he sat on the bed and stretched his arms over his head, hoping to just brush it off and escape another argument.

 

            Shouko started to answer, but stopped herself.  Instead, she grabbed his arm and pulled him from the bed into the bathroom.  Her voice a harsh whisper behind the closed door, she said, “Your sister has lost her mind!  And no one seems to have noticed!”

 

            Seijuurou tensed.  “This is just Kaya’s way.  It always has been, whether it makes sense or not.  But she knows what she’s doing.  Trust me.”

 

            “It’s not you I’m worried about,” replied Shouko, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

            He couldn’t win this one, and he knew it.  Shouko wanted a better answer than ‘trust Kaya.’  Problem was, he didn’t have one.  So, instead, he opened the bathroom door and turned off the light.  “We don’t really want to get into this tonight, do we?  Let’s just go to bed.”

 

            Shouko didn’t say anymore.  Moving around him, she walked back into the bedroom and climbed into bed, turning the table lamp off without waiting for him.

 

 

*            *            *

 

            She’d taken two steps into the dark bedroom when her foot landed on something it shouldn’t have.  Haruka paused as Michiru turned on the light, then lifted her foot from the white envelope she’d heard crinkle under her foot.  “Huh?  Where’d this come from?” she asked as she stooped to pick it up.

 

            Michiru watched in curiosity as Haruka tore the gold sticker sealing the envelope.  The blonde took out the small note folded inside, opened it, and began to read.  After a few seconds, one corner of her mouth turned up in amusement, and she handed the note to Michiru.  “It’s for you.”

 

            A touch of surprise showed in Michiru’s eyes.  She looked at the note, then grinned and began to read out loud while Haruka flopped on the bed and stretched out.

 

            ‘When I asked my uncle, he said we should never let important chances pass us by.  Especially when they’re chances we didn’t think we’d ever get.  So, this is my chance.  I know about you and her, but I wanted to tell you that I really, really like you.  I have for a long time.

            ‘A year and a half ago was the first time I saw you.  My Uncle Kyo took me to see you, and I got your autograph and you spoke to me.  I bet you don’t remember, but that’s okay.  There were a lot of people who wanted to talk to you then.  I saw you again after that when my Mom made me go to an art show.  I didn’t get to talk to you there, because you were with that other person, and everyone wanted to talk to both of you because you were together.  Mom wouldn’t let me because she said it would be impolite to interrupt the adults.  And she thinks you’re a bad role model for Kara, but I don’t care about that.

            ‘Then, last summer when you were in Kyoto, my music professor took a bunch of us to see you perform.  He didn’t tell us it was going to be you, and it was a really great surprise.  I thought you were the absolute best ever, and I hope someday I can play as well as you do.  And that maybe you’ll let me play for you.

            ‘So, even though you’re with her, I hope you can like me just a little, too.’

                                                                       

                                                                                                Ishida Seiji

 

            Haruka chuckled as Michiru finished reading the note.  “The kid should know better.”

 

            “He’s just boy, Haruka,” chided Michiru lightly as she moved over to the bed and sat on its edge.

 

            Haruka grinned up at her.  “Precisely.”

 

            Michiru giggled softly and shook her head.  She tucked the note into the pocket on her blouse, noting the amount of nonchalant attention Haruka paid to her as she did, then stood and went into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

 

*            *            *

 

            Setsuna stood with her arms crossed and listened patiently while Hotaru and Chibi-usa explained in great detail why Chibi-usa needed to sleep in here with them rather than across the hall with Usagi.

 

            “Usagi wants to sleep by herself, anyway,” continued Hotaru.

 

            Chibi-usa nodded in agreement.  “Besides that, she snores really loudly, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all.  And,” said Chibi-usa holding her arms out as far as they would go, “she sprawls.  She’s a total bed hog.”

 

            Setsuna refused to let herself smile at that and refrained from telling the small lady in front of her that she did the exact same thing.

 

            “Please, Setsuna-mama,” begged Hotaru, turning on those watery, puppy-dog eyes.

 

            Setsuna took a deep breath.  She was not going to give in.  She was going to get a full, peaceful night’s sleep…

 

            “Please, Puu,” added Chibi-usa in a tiny, pitiful voice as her eyes went wide and hopeful.

 

            She was going to be strong.  She was not going to give in…

 

            “Please,” both girls chorused, drawing out the word in perfect harmony.

 

            She was going to give in. 

 

            “All right,” ceded Setsuna.  Her head fell as a sigh escaped her lips.

 

            If the girls noticed her defeated posture, they didn’t show it.  A gleeful cheer sounded from them as they hurried over and scrambled into bed.

 

            “Hurry and put your nightgown on, Setsuna-mama,” said Hotaru happily as she arranged the covers around her.  She patted the slim space between herself and Chibi-usa.  “We’ll save space for you in the middle.”

 

            Chibi-usa smiled at her, and Setsuna briefly contemplated the hardwood floor as a better alternative.  Her common sense quickly overruled that idea, regardless of the plush throw rug in the middle of the floor.  Instead, she had Hotaru scoot over to the middle, and, after changing into her nightclothes, claimed the left side of the bed.  Perhaps, she reasoned to herself, Hotaru’s tendency to cling while she slept would help cancel out Chibi-usa’s tendency to push everyone out of her way.  Then they could all get a decent night’s sleep.

 

*            *            *

 

            Tiny, soft hitches of breath were the only sounds left in the room, and Makoto was grateful for that.  After all the noise they’d made in here tonight, she was surprised Ami’s family hadn’t thrown them out.  She looked at Ami, hesitant about her next move, then turned her eyes back to the baby in her arms.  Bug’s cheeks were red from the effort he’d put into the last hour of high pitched wailing he’d done.  Now, he was down to those little, hiccup-like noises he was prone to before he’d settle himself completely.

 

            Over on the bed, Ami sat quietly, looking helpless to it all.  So Makoto made the decision.  It was now or never.

 

            Moving slowly so she wouldn’t jostle him more awake, Makoto walked over to the crib and very carefully laid the baby on his back.  She cringed as his face screwed up in a pre-cry, then let out a small sigh of relief as he changed his mind and his features relaxed.  His eyes stayed closed as he curled his fists and toes several times, getting comfortable in his new bed.  Makoto reached into the crib and gently stroked a hand over his hair before whispering, “Have good dreams, Little Bug.  And let us get some sleep while you’re at it.”

 

            She stood for a moment more and watched as his breathing evened out.  Then she took a tentative step backwards, and then another.  When the crying didn’t start again, she turned to Ami with a relieved grin and nodded.

 

            Ami released a long, slow sigh and fell back on the bed with her legs hanging over the edge.  She let the capped, unused bottle she still held roll from her hand onto the floor.  He hadn’t wanted to nurse again, and that meant the odds of a bottle working plummeted even further than usual.  It had seemed at least worth a try, though, when nothing else was helping.

 

            The bed let out a creak as Makoto collapsed onto it, and they both grimaced, braced for the beginning of another crying fit.  But Miki stayed silent, and after several minutes, Ami turned to her side and propped her head on her hand so she was looking down at Makoto.

 

            Makoto, sensing Ami’s gaze, opened one eye.  When Ami grinned at her, she opened the other and smirked.  “How many times today did you tell people he’s a good baby?”

 

            “He is.  Usually.”  Then, wanting to get back to where they were before Miki decided to prove to everyone in the house how wrong she was, Ami asked, “What was it you were saying about my mother?”

 

            “Hmm?” responded Makoto, a moment of confusion hitting her before she remembered what they had been talking about.  “Oh, right, that.  You know how we were wondering why your mom hadn’t just said something about bringing Saatchi-san with us?  Well, I was gonna say I think I kind of understand how your mom felt, having to tell her parents about him.  Because when I saw her with Gram,” and here she paused and smiled at the warmth she felt for being allowed this term of affection.  Then she raised her arms up and stretched before folding them under her head and continuing.  “When I saw her with Gram, I thought ‘that’s us’.  And believe me, I will never forget how hard it was, sitting at the dinner table that night with your mom and waiting for that bomb to drop.  I suppose things like that don’t really get easier, no matter how old you are.”

 

            Ami nodded, remembering herself how anxious she’d been.  “That was a rather tense evening, wasn’t it?  I’m not used to thinking of Mom as the child in anything, so I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective.”

 

            “Yeah.  And tense is an understatement.  But at least she took it well.  And Gram seemed to be liking Saatchi-san pretty well.  Your grandmother seemed okay with everything, too.  Your grandfather, though…” trailed off Makoto.  “I swear I couldn’t tell if I should try and talk to him or stay as far away from him as I could.”

 

            Ami shook her head at the concerned look that appeared on Makoto’s face.  “Grandfather can appear harsh at times, but he really isn’t.  If he ever does become displeased, though, you’ll know.  A good rule is, if you can’t tell and have to ask about his mood, then you’re safe.”

 

            “What about your Aunt Shouko?  I got the feeling she didn’t like me very much.”  Makoto waited for some kind of response.  When all she got was silence and Ami chewing on her lip, she said sarcastically, “You’re supposed to disagree with me.”

 

            Ami blew air through her lips as she searched for the best response.  Finally, she answered, “I’m not certain.  She’s always been kind to me, if a bit distant.  I don’t think it was just you, though.  Perhaps, in a few days after she’s had time to get used to everyone, she’ll be a bit less aloof.”

 

            Feeling bad for the sudden worry she could see in Ami’s eyes, Makoto reached up and stroked the backs of her fingers against Ami’s cheeks.  An easy grin appeared on her lips, and she said, “You’re right.  I guess it does take people a little time to get used to us sometimes.  Hey, you know what?”

 

            “What?” asked Ami, her smile coming to reflect Makoto’s.

 

            “If your hair was the same brown as your mom’s, you and Seiji would look like twins.”  Then her grin went lopsided.  “Well, he’d be your shorter, really skinny twin.  I think you two even wear the same kind of glasses.”

 

            Ami couldn’t help a small chuckle.  “The poor boy.”

 

            Makoto’s smile widened, and she ran her fingertips lightly over Ami’s cheek down to her smiling lips.  Slowly, she traced them with one finger, then let her hand slide back behind Ami’s neck so she could pull those lips to her own.

 

            It was a light, gentle kiss at first, gradually easing from reconnecting to wanting.  As the kiss deepened and became more demanding, Ami settled more fully against Makoto’s side, pressing as closely as she could at their awkward angle.  Then they froze, both going stiff as boards and holding their breath as the same thought passed between them.  Maybe, if they just stayed still and quiet enough…

 

            But it was a futile effort.

 

            The cranky mewling from the other side of the room quickly escalated to a torturous sounding cry.

 

            They both let out hugely frustrated sighs.  Ami rolled off of Makoto and stood.  “I’ll get him this time.”

 

            Makoto only nodded.  This was definitely NOT how she’d planned on spending their first night of vacation.

 

*            *            *

 

            She rose from the couch and tiptoed across the small sitting room attached to her grandmother’s bedroom as soon as she heard the first soft snores.  The bedroom door opened soundlessly into a quiet hallway, and Kaya breathed a sigh of relief.  Relief that was short lived as the baby’s crying picked up again.  In a sudden panic, she closed the door too quickly, cringing as it hit loudly in the jamb.  She stood frozen for several seconds, waiting for some other sound than Miki’s cries.  When it didn’t come, she inched away from the door and headed for the wing of guest bedrooms, stopping just briefly in front of the girls’ room.  They’d already said she couldn’t help, though, and she felt no guilt, under that circumstance, in attempting to get away from it.

 

            As she continued to tiptoe down the hallway, Kaya couldn’t help feeling somewhat like an errant teenager for sneaking out to her boyfriend’s room in the middle of the night.  She shook her head, trying to rid it of that foolish thought.  She was not a child, she reminded herself, and she had no intention of spending her entire vacation sleeping on her grandmother’s couch, no matter who had put her there.

 

            Standing at the door to Ken’s room, she knocked lightly before easing it open.  “Ken?  Are you awake?” she asked as she closed the door and leaned back against it.

 

            Ken sat up in bed slowly, then reached over to turn on the light.  Squinting against the sudden brightness, he rubbed at his eyes and said, “I was wondering if I’d get to see you at all tonight.”

 

            Kaya pushed off the door and meandered over to the bed.  She climbed in beside him and settled the covers around her legs before pulling her knees to her chest and resting her chin on them.  “I’m a grown woman.  I’m not going to let my parents dictate where I can and can not sleep.”

 

            An amused grin appeared on Ken’s face.  “So why didn’t you just tell them we could share a room?”

 

            “They’re my parents.  I can’t tell them we’re sleeping together,” she answered, the tone of her voice making it sound like a completely obvious and logical thing.  Then she let out a quiet sigh and looked over at him.  “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that this morning, but I’m glad you came.”

 

            “I’m glad I’m here, too.  But no more surprises like that.”

 

            Kaya nodded in promise.  Then she grinned at him and leaned forward, capturing him in a slow, easy kiss.  Ken’s arms moved to encircle her waist, and he pulled her closer to him.  When the kiss ended, Kaya smiled widely as she stared into the warm brown of his sleepy eyes.  Reaching across him, she turned off the light, then pushed him back until he was lying comfortably against the pillows.  She settled herself against his side, with her head on his chest and listened to him breath.  With his arm around her, and his warmth beside her, she felt at ease for the first time since they’d arrived.

 

*            *            *

 

            Wakefulness came to her slowly.  Minako took a long, deep breath, then blinked away the sleepy haze that hung over her.  Reaching over in bed, she expected to encounter Rei.  Instead, her hand landed on the still warm sheet where Rei had been.

 

            Sitting up, Minako held the blanket against her to keep the airconditioned chill off her skin.  One fist rubbed at her half-closed eyes for several seconds before she was able to see Rei in the darkness of the room.

 

            In front of the window, her form framed in soft moonlight, Rei stood silently looking out.  Minako smiled lazily as she admired that perfect form, its curves not quite hidden by dark hair that flowed like a shimmering wave down Rei’s bare back.

 

            “Rei,” called Minako softly after a few quiet moments had passed.  When Rei turned to her, Minako’s smile widened.  Whatcha looking at?”

 

            Rei smiled back at her.  “Nothing.  It’s quiet out here.  Peaceful.”  Her attention was drawn back to the window for a moment, her hand coming up to rest on the cool glass.  Then her concentration abruptly shifted, and she walked back over to the bed.  Climbing in, she sat beside Minako.  “I thought I felt something passing over when I woke up.  But I think it was just your knee in my back,” she added with a smirk.  “I swear, sometimes you’re as bad as Usagi when you sleep.”

 

            “But I’m much more fun when I wake you up,” answered Minako teasingly.  She scooted around so she was sitting in front of Rei and pushed the miko gently backward until she was sitting against the pillows.  Situating herself in Rei’s lap, her fingers played with a long lock of hair as she asked, “What exactly do you mean ‘passing over?’  Like a ghost or something?  Do you think the house is haunted?”

 

            Rei grinned at the childish enthusiasm in Minako’s voice at the possibility of staying in a haunted house.  She almost hated to disappoint her.  “No, there aren’t any spirits here.  At least, none that I’ve noticed.  It wasn’t anything.  If it was, it didn’t find us interesting enough to stay.”

 

            A pretty little frown appeared on Minako’s lips, and her fingers moved to drawing circles around Rei’s collarbone.  “Darn.  I was hoping I’d get to tell Colleen all about staying in a haunted mansion on my vacation.  Oh, well.  She’ll be jealous enough as it is when I tell her about this place.”  She giggled quietly, but then her mood turned serious.  Her eyes held Rei’s and she asked, “It really is okay?  You looked very focused when you were standing over there.”

 

            Rei carefully brushed the bangs across Minako’s forehead and nodded.  “It’s okay.  I think I want to take a walk out there, just us, at least once before we leave.  It’s been a long time since we were someplace this calm.”

 

            Minako’s playful smile reappeared.  “That’ll be nice.”  She leaned in slowly until she was within kissing distance.  “No school.  No work.  No insane-to-keep-up-with schedules.  We can sleep in!”

 

            A burst of laughter escaped from Rei, making Minako’s smile even wider.  “You are such a bad influence,” said Rei just before she closed the distance between them and captured Minako’s lips in long, languid kiss.

 

*            *            *

 

            It had been a long, tense day, even by Rin’s high standards, and sleep wasn’t coming easily.  Not wanting to disturb his wife unnecessarily, he’d come to his office and started reading over the material for the proposal he would be presenting to the hospital board next week.

 

            He had lost track of time in the solitude of the room, when a light knock sounded at the door.  He called for the person to enter, and the door eased open.  Midori stepped into the room, her eyes taking a moment to adjust to the dimness of the desk lamp after the brightness of the hallway.  She walked up to her husband’s desk and stood, looking down at him, her hands resting casually in the pockets of her robe.

 

            Rin leaned back in his chair, the leather stretching audibly as he did.  His blue eyes locked onto the soft gray of hers, and for several long moments, they stood in silence.  Then Rin let out a sigh and said in quiet exasperation, “Your daughter…”

 

            Midori’s mouth turned up in a grin, and she walked around behind the desk so she was beside Rin.  Placing a hand on his shoulder, she finished the sentence for him, though her words weren’t the ones he was thinking of.  “…Has come home for a visit with her daughter and grandson.  She also happened to bring along a very polite, well educated, and well spoken guest who seems to care a great deal for her as she must for him, since she went to the effort of bringing him home.”  She smiled more fully at him.  “You should take the boys out to the green tomorrow.  Invite Chiba-san and Saatchi-san, as well.  I heard Chiba-san spent last year in America studying.  You’d enjoy a conversation with him, I think, and it would give you a more open forum to learn more about Kaya’s friend.”

 

            Rin made a noncommittal noise, then let out another long sigh.  Slowly, he stood and took Midori’s hand.  He gave it a squeeze, the tight line of his mouth softening without becoming a smile.  “It is rather late to be in here with all of this, isn’t it, Dori?”

 

            “Yes, it is,” she answered back, her grip on his hand tightening.

 

            Rin nodded, then moved toward the door, releasing his wife’s hand when they stepped out into the hallway.  After taking several steps, Rin stopped and listened.  When Midori looked at him in question, he said, “It’s quiet.”

 

            “They took him for a walk, I think,” she answered.  “The bedroom door was open when I walked by.”

 

            A low, deep sound that was almost a chuckle escaped from Rin.  “Devine retribution,” he said.

 

            “Rin,” scolded Midori, even as she smiled.  “That’s not very nice.”

 

            “Neither were all the nights we had to walk the halls with her.”

 

            “It was only because she missed her mother,” said Midori as they continued the walk back to the bedroom.  “She was an angel when Kaya was with her.”

 

            Mmm,” replied Rin.  A thoughtful look appeared on his face, and when they reached their room, he said, “Impress upon your daughter that she needs to take the baby for a night, to let the children get some rest.”

 

            “You want me to guilt her into it, don’t you?”

 

            Rin didn’t answer.  Instead, he kissed her cheek before removing his robe and climbing into bed.  Midori was still standing there with her arms crossed and an unhappy stare aimed at her husband when he pulled the covers up around him and called out, “Good night, Dori.”

 

            Throwing her hands up in vexed defeat, Midori followed her husband’s lead and crawled into bed.

 

*            *            *

 

            Ami had forgotten how quiet the nights could be out here.  As she and Makoto walked a restless Miki through the garden, she wondered if any of the others had found it difficult to sleep without the usual sounds of traffic and city.

 

            Makoto’s sluggish pace slowed even more as she yawned and shifted the baby to her other shoulder.  A high-pitched, cranky cry was her reward for moving him.  She rubbed his back and cooed at him, trying to calm him down.  “Come on, Bug, quiet down,” she practically begged.  “It’s almost two.  You’re tired.  Go to sleep.  You know you want to.”

 

            The baby began to cry even harder and squirmed in her arms.

 

            “Want me to take him for awhile?” asked Ami when Makoto stopped to adjust her hold on the baby.

 

            Makoto shook her head.  “No, it’s still my mile.  Once more around the pool, and then you can have him back again.”

 

            Ami nodded, but as they turned back in the direction of the poolhouse, movement on the back porch caught her eye.  It took a moment for her to figure out who it was in the dark, but when she did, she put a hand to Makoto’s arm to stop her.  “Hold on a moment, please.  Uncle Kyo’s back, finally.  I’d like to speak with him for a few minutes.”

 

            “Okay,” answered Makoto.  She tilted her head in the direction of the pool.  “We’re going to head over there.  If you don’t meet up with us, we’ll come back this way to you.”

 

            Leaving Makoto, Ami approached her uncle slowly, the dim light on the porch making his usually easy-going expression seem thoughtful and faraway as he stared up into the clear sky.  “Uncle Kyo?” she said softly.

 

            Kyo’s mouth turned up into a smile.  “Heya, Squirt.  Sounds like that boy of yours is keeping you up late.”

 

            Moving so she stood beside him, Ami answered, “We were all getting a bit stir crazy walking around the room in circles.  Coming out here seemed like it would be a good idea and less of a disturbance for everyone than walking the halls with him, since we’re furthest from the bedrooms on this side of the house.”

 

            “Smart girl,” said Kyo as he reached over and ruffled her hair.  Then his smile widened, and he pulled her against him so her back was to his chest.  He gave her a tight squeeze, and said, “I really am glad you drug your family up here for all of us to meet.  I’m just sorry I wasn’t around to spend more time getting to know all of them today.  But I’ll make up for it, I promise.  You know, now that you have that baby and Gram understands why, she’s going to make you come up here more often.  With or without your mother.”

 

            “I figured as much,” answered Ami.  “It would feel strange coming without Mom, though.”

 

            “Then you’ll just have to force her to take some time off and come with you,” laughed Kyo.  “She really needs to relax more.”

 

            Ami grinned, and for several minutes, the two of them stood in comfortable silence.  Then Kyo reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag of M&M’s.  He popped a piece of candy into Ami’s mouth before tossing back several himself.  Ami chewed and swallowed, then moved from her uncle’s loose embrace so she could face him.

 

            “May I ask you something,” she asked.  When Kyo nodded, she went on, “This morning, when you told him about Mom, I heard Uncle Seijuurou say, ‘not again.’  What does that mean?”

 

            Kyo swallowed his chocolate and rested his hands casually in the pockets of his jeans.  “You weren’t supposed to hear that.  Anyway, I suppose Kaya’s never told you about how we met your father?”

 

            Ami shook her head.  “She very rarely tells me anything about Papa.”

 

            “That does fit Kaya’s personality,” said Kyo, not terribly surprised.  “Let’s see, it was Kaya’s last year of med school I think, and she was coming home for winter break.  We hadn’t seen her at all that summer, so Mom made sure Juurou would be here, also.  Well, your mom came home just like she was supposed to, only she didn’t come alone.”

 

            “She brought Papa,” guessed Ami.  “And she didn’t tell anyone she was going to.”

 

            “Nope.  We hadn’t heard a word about him,” confirmed Kyo.  “Mind you, I was just a kid, so I wasn’t privy to most of what went on after Mom hustled everyone up to Dad’s office.  But before that door closed…”  Kyo let out a long whistle at the memory of the silent explosion that had happened when his sister and father clashed.  “In one breath Kaya introduced Suoh to us, and in the next she was telling us they were getting married.  Father’s face turned so red I thought he was going to explode on the spot.  And the silence that followed it was horrible.  Suoh couldn’t take it.  He wound up leaving a few hours later.  Kaya, on the other hand, never backed down. 

 

            “You’ve never seen Kaya and Dad truly fight with each other, but let me tell you, it is a wondrous thing when it happens,” went on Kyo, his eyes drifting back up to the stars.  “They didn’t say a word to each other, they didn’t have to, and the rest of us were too afraid to even try.  Even Granddad kept quiet.  We spent days avoiding them, tiptoeing around the house, only eating together because we had to, while watching Dad and Kaya stare each other down.  And I swear I don’t think three words were spoken in those three days by anyone.  Deafening silence, I think is the term.”

 

            “What happened?”

 

            Kyo shrugged.  “Dad blinked.  And I lost 3000 yen to Juurou as a result.  I’ve never seen your mom so happy, though, so it was worth it.”

 

            “Why, though?” asked Ami, trying to comprehend her mother a bit better.  “Why do things that way?  I understand the difficulty in bringing Papa home to Grandfather, but I would think it would have been better to tell them first.”

 

            “Beats me, Squirt,” replied Kyo with another shrug.  “I’ve spent the entirety of my 32 years trying to figure Kaya out, and I haven’t managed to yet.”

 

            A serious, thoughtful frown appeared on Ami’s face, and Kyo wasn’t going to let it stay there.  So he decided to touch on a subject he’d wanted to ask about before being pulled away to the hospital.  Deciding to take the long way around to it, he started with, “How have your little girls been getting along with Seiji and Kara?”

 

            Ami hesitated at the sudden change in subject.  Then she answered, “Well, they seem to like Kara well enough, and she them.  Seiji, though, seemed to be avoiding us as much as he could.”

 

            “Don’t worry about him,” replied Kyo with a dismissive wave.  “He’s just a bit shy.  He’ll warm up to you in a day or two.  Now, just so I don’t embarrass myself at breakfast, remind me who belongs to who.  Chibi-usa is?”

 

            “Usagi’s cousin,” answered Ami, repeating the little white lie they’d all become familiar with.

 

            “And Hotaru?”

 

            “Setsuna, Michiru, and Haruka.”

 

            “That’s the part I’m trying to figure out,” said Kyo, bringing his finger up and tapping it against his lips.  “Tenoh and Kaioh are the couple, right?  How, exactly, does Meioh fit into that?”

 

            “Um, well…” stuttered out Ami, understanding what her uncle was asking and searching for the most appropriate answer.  She touched briefly on ‘I don’t know’ and ‘It’s none of my business,’ before finally settling on, “She’s their family.”

 

            Kyo nodded at that somewhat ambiguous answer.  “Okay.  Is she Hotaru’s biological mother?  The other two don’t seem old enough.”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Oh, it’s like that.  We weren’t sure, and Juurou was trying to guess with me.”  Then he asked, “And Meioh is what, 24 or 25?  Somewhere around in there?”

 

            “I really don’t know,” answered Ami, her brow wrinkling in confusion at these odd questions.

 

            “Is she seeing anyone?”

 

            Ami opened her mouth to answer, but quickly shut it.  Hesitantly, she asked, “Why?”

 

            Kyo laughed.  “Because she’s a drop-dead gorgeous woman.  She’s also the only adult, possibly heterosexual female in this house that I’m not related to.  I have to at least try.”

 

            Ami’s jaw fell open and she stared at him in disbelief.

 

            Kyo laughed harder and tapped her on the nose.  “You look just like Kaya when you make that face at me.  You should go find your ‘friend,’ Squirt, or else she’ll get mad at you for leaving her with a disagreeable infant.”  With that, he turned and headed into the house.

 

            Slowly, Ami’s mouth closed and she stared in the direction her uncle had gone.  She couldn’t stop the small, pitiful whimper that crept out between her lips.