Author's Notes: This one has been in the back of my head forever so I'm making an attempt to write it. The story is set eleven years after the end of Quaratine and Kite is roughly 25 years old and BlackRose around 27. Lots of drama, fluff, and adventure, and please keep an open mind as I will be taking liberties with certain characters considering they are now much older. Could be considered an alternate universe although I'm going to incorporate canon as much as I can. It might also take some time for me to finish it, since I'm taking horrid summer school. Kite/BlackRose coming at ya so be prepared!
Wonderland of My Own Making
She really hated cleaning. The dust would rise up in great puffs of smoky clouds causing her eyes to water and sneezes to rock her forward on her toes. There was always the occasional spider, too, lurking in an old cardboard box or just waiting to dangle down from the ceiling and scare her to death. That was part of the reason she always kept a fly swatter handy, just in case any of the sneaky things decided to pay her visit. Of course, if Kenji had been home, she would have just told him to clean the closet and squish all the spiders, but since he was not and her nesting instincts wouldn't let her rest until the closet was spotless, Akira found herself on her knees in front of the wardrobe in their spare room, glaring at the darkened and cobwebbed corners.
The closet was mostly empty except for some boxes they had never unpacked after their move into the house. A couple had been labeled with the mysterious "etc" in bold black ink, and one had "old stuff" scribbled on the side in what she knew was her own handwriting. Why hadn't she thought to label them more carefully? Now she would have to look through them all just to see if there was anything worth keeping and who knew how many spiders she would find.
Growling under her breath, she leaned forward slightly, very conscious of the fact that her center of balance had changed, and pulled one of the higher boxes down, making sure it wasn't too big for her. The doctor had admonished her not to lift anything heavy and as that was a rule she would most gladly follow, she had milked that excuse from the very beginning, smiling sweetly at her husband as she asked him to pick up the spoon she had dropped on the floor at breakfast.
Akira grinned fondly in remembrance. True, this being pregnant business was not the easiest thing in the world, but Kenji had been great about it, taking her mood swings in stride, his patience like a deep well that never ran out when she had a craving for lobster at three o'clock in the morning. She knew he was excited about having the baby, and she was too, if perhaps a great deal more nervous about it then he was. After all, it wasn't he who would have to deliver something very much like an eight pound ham in the midst of much screaming and painful contractions, which was probably why he jumped at the chance to help her with small things.
"Coward," she muttered affectionately, thinking of her husband. Kenji was brave in a great many situations, but after the first childbirth video he had turned as white as a sheet and suddenly remembered he had papers to grade. She hadn't been far behind either but, as she didn't have much choice in the matter, she had forced herself to watch the whole thing, making mental notes to tell Kenji that if he wanted any more children he could carry the next one.
Realizing she was just putting off the inevitable, she cut the boxing tape with a knife and peeled back the cardboard folds, blinking as she took in the scattered contents inside the box. The side of the box had been marked as "office" and she figured it would be full of stuff that Kenji hadn't needed either at his school, or in his private study. Instead, a tower of old PC games greeted her, a bundle of used floppy disks, a dusty broken monitor, a keyboard missing a few letters, and—
— a broken in set of neuro-goggles.
Memories hit her suddenly and she reached over the rim of the box to take out the headset, her fingers brushing away stray particles of dust. She had never seen Kenji's old computer stuff. He must have packed the box himself before they left Japan because she hadn't even known he had kept any of it. Those times before, it wasn't something they really talked about. Mostly because by the time they had gotten the courage to meet face to face for the first time, their characters had long since been deleted.
"Kite," she whispered out loud, tilting her head as she realized she no longer associated that name with her husband. Indeed, it had been years since she had even thought it. Of course, that game had been a major part of their lives, the driving force behind their real life encounter, but as all kids do, they had grown up and gotten jobs and gotten married. By that time neither of them had had a spare moment for computers except to type papers and send emails.
She wondered suddenly why they never reminisced about their time spent in The World. It wasn't a taboo subject exactly, it's just that neither of them spoke of it, whether by mutual agreement or unconscious action. She and Kite had saved The World and then they had left it for the adventures of real life, relinquishing it to the whim of the users.
…salvation or destruction at the whim of the user…
Akira shook her head and set the goggles on the floor. That had all been a long time ago and she had changed and so had Kenji. A sharp kick to her spleen emphasized the point and she laid a hand over the rounded bulge of her stomach with a smile. Six months old and already a fighter.
"Well," she said to herself, rolling up her sleeves, "Let's do this."
Hours later, Kenji Takamoto opened the door to his house with a sigh of relief, his head echoing with the chattering voices of his students. Dumping a pile of papers on the kitchen table, he threw his keys on the tabletop and reached up to loosen his tie, exhaling tiredly. The end of the semester was always a whirlwind and with the baby coming he had not been as prepared for it has as he usually was. Paperwork was piling up and the article he was trying to get published still needed another revision, not to mention he would be expected to attend graduation in two weeks.
Resisting the urge to simply collapse in exhaustion, he grabbed a bottled water from the fridge and looked around at the suspiciously quiet house.
"Kira?" he called doubtfully, moving towards the living room. The television was off and the room was surprisingly neat. Usually, Akira had no qualms about leaving juice glasses scattered about, or clothes and magazines for that matter, but lately she had had the urge to clean everything in sight, going so far as to snap at him for forgetting to leave his shoes at the door last night. He smiled slightly to himself. He really was become more Americanized every day.
He started for their bedroom, feeling a slight sense of anxiety when she didn't answer him right away. He knew ever since they had learned that she was pregnant that he had been seriously overprotective and smothering, but he couldn't help himself. He was going to be a father. A father. The thought unnerved him as well as excited him, but it made him worry about her ten times more than normal. Under regular circumstances, Akira was more than capable of taking care of herself, but now it was her and their son. Somehow, that small distinction made all the difference.
A flash of worry crossed his face at the continued silence. "Akir— "
His wife appeared from their small guestroom, dust bunnies in her hair, a hand reaching out to balance herself against the doorway. She smiled at the relief on his face.
"Just clearing out the closet." She sneezed abruptly and he went to her side. "Good day at work?"
"Yeah," he said absently, one hand resting on her extended abdomen. "You weren't lifting anything were you?"
She swatted his arm. "No, I left all that for you," she said sweetly and he laughed.
"How has he been?"
She made a face. "Rowdy. He's quieted down now that you're here."
"Your mother called."
He blinked. "Really?"
Akira nodded. "She wanted to know how the baby was."
Something must have been showing in his face because she reached up to touch his cheek lightly, her dark eyes glinting with understanding. His mother had not been very happy with their decision to move to America in order for Kenji to get a high paying job at a top university and even less enthusiastic when she learned his wife would be having their baby at an American hospital. He didn't really understand what she was so upset about, although he had a vague idea that she might think having a baby meant he would never come back to Japan. That was a decision that was far in the future, and though it was demanding, he loved his job and Akira had finally settled into their close neighborhood, making friends easily with her jubilant, and sometimes forceful, nature. Japan would always be his home but for now, his place was with his wife and son.
It still hurt though, that she had called when she knew he wouldn't be home.
"Are you worrying again?" Akira tilted her head, one eyebrow arched in that intimidating way of hers. "Because if you are, I've got plenty of manual labor to take your mind off it."
His lips twitched. "Spiders?"
She sniffed disdainfully and he laughed and pressed a kissed into her forehead. If nothing else, Akira was always Akira, and somehow she always managed to make him forget his troubles.
At least for a little while.
Until he received the email.
It was hours later, as Akira lay resting in their bed, that he thought to check their joint email account. He rarely had time for the computer and Akira was usually the one who kept up correspondence with their friends and family, but with the chaos in their lives recently he was pretty sure the emails had been piling up for days.
Settling himself down at the desk in his small study, he double clicked the email icon and waited for the screen to appear, his eyebrows arching at the "You have 55 new messages" sign waiting for him. With a sigh, he scrolled through 50 spam emails, some of them causing a blush to rise in his cheeks, before getting to two emails from his mother, both of them forwards of open teaching positions at the local university where she lived. He left them untouched and moved on to a letter from Akira's parents and another from her brother, Kazu, both of them recounting how well the family was doing and how much they missed him and Akira.
Kenji smiled as he saved those emails for later, Akira would want to see them, before his eyes fell on the sender of the last email and his cobalt eyes widened in surprise.
Subject: The World
A shiver of dread worked it's way up Kenji's spine and he sat forward, suddenly apprehensive. He hadn't talked to Yasuhiko since he had left Japan almost two years ago, waving goodbye to his high school friend from an airplane platform. He wasn't quite sure why they hadn't kept more in touch, he supposed life had just taken them in different directions, but it was the subject of Yasu's email that disturbed him more than the sender.
He had not thought about the online game, The World, in a long time. Though he hesitated to use the word, it had been a phase of his life that had passed as all phases do. It had been a defining event in his life, of course, and he still had dreams of it sometimes, but he had long ago laid Kite to rest, the well deserved sleep of a hero.
But now, with this email…
Determined, Kenji clicked on the subject line and began reading immediately, his heart rate rising as he did so. When he had finished, he printed out a hard copy, his fingers tightening on the paper as he pulled it from the printer and headed into the bedroom, stopping in the doorway to catch his wife's attention.
Akira looked up from the book of baby names she had been leafing through, pushing a long strand of dark hair from her eyes as she frowned at his solemn expression.
He took a deep breath and raised the email.
"They want us back."
To Be Continued…