Mai HiME and all its characters belong to Sunrise. No profit made, no copyright infringement intended.
The below fic may be cavity-inducing. I, however, accept no responsibility for any dentistry bills. Keep those to yourself.
Show and Tell
There was a flicker of static before what seemed to be a comfortably appointed living room came into view; seen from the top of a low table.
"It's on now," the deep, pleasant voice continued.
"How do you know?" The question was asked in a noticeably higher voice; excited though still subdued - as if a secret was being discussed.
"Can you see this red lamp right here?" The view of the room shifted slightly. "That means it's recording."
"Oh." The camera was picked up, and soon focused on a padded chair that really seemed far too large for the young girl sitting in it. She appeared to be no older than six, and was wearing a pair of mildly scuffed jeans and a green t-shirt that just about matched the color of her eyes, with sleek, dark hair that had been cut in somewhat short levels that settled around her head like an inky helmet.
"So you're filming me now?" she asked curiously.
"Yes," the man behind the lens replied. "Do you remember what we practiced?"
The girl's face crinkled into a grin, and her eager nod made the slightly longer hair on top of her head fall into her eyes. "Yup!"
"Go ahead, then."
"Right." The young face sobered almost comically, and the girl frowned in thought; bending her neck briefly before looking up with a smile.
"Hi, Yori-kun!" she greeted cheerfully, lifting one hand in a quick wave. "Ojisan – that's your Otou-san – asked me to help make this video for you for when you get bigger. Right now, you're still little." She held her hands out to show the approximate meaning of 'little'. "You're so tiny you can't even sit up yet unless I hold your hands, and then your head just kinda falls back and you stare at the ceiling a lot. Obasan – that's your Okaa-san – says that's normal and you'll grow out of it, so don't worry."
"Very good," the cameraman told her with an audible smile in his voice. "Now, why is Yori-kun's Okaa-san your Obasan?"
"Because Yori-kun is my cousin," the girl dutifully explained. "Well, not really. We're not really family, but Yori-kun's parents and my parents have known each other since they went to school, and that was a loooong time ago."
"Not quite that long," was the amused reply. "And why are we making this video for Yori-kun?"
"Um..." Dark eyebrows lowered thoughtfully as the girl drew her bare feet onto the seat and wrapped her arms around her knees. "Because Yori-kun's still too little to really know who we are. Me and my family, I mean. So I promised Ojisan that I'd film us all getting ready for the baptism tomorrow. Then Yori-kun can watch the video when he gets bigger and learn a little more about us that way."
"Aimi?" A muffled call in a gently melodic voice reached the camera's microphone, and the girl turned her head to the side and peered at something off-screen. "Come put your shoes on. We're heading home."
"Yes, Mama!" she called back, and gave the camera a grin. "That was my Mama," she explained in a much lower voice. "She doesn't know that Ojisan's gonna let me take the camera home with me, so shh!"
The girl put a finger to her lips in a shushing motion, and the playful twinkle in her emerald eyes was the last thing the camera caught before the screen faded to black.
A clear shade of blue filled the screen for an instant before being replaced with an upwards view of a very focused set of clear, green eyes. The same eyes narrowed slightly, and then the camera zoomed out enough that Aimi came into view from the shoulders up. A pillow crease ran the length of one pale cheek, and her hair stuck up in random directions all over her head.
The world tilted, and the screen was now filled by the edge of a seat and the girl's legs from the knee down – clad in dark blue, cotton pajama pants and a pair of bright red slippers that didn't quite reach the floor below. The limbs cast a crooked shade onto the wood flooring – caused by the lone lamp that was the sole source of real light.
The picture jostled as the child jumped to the floor almost silently, and swerved once again as the camera was set onto the chair. It was aimed carefully in the low light - towards a wide doorway with framed photographs mounted on either side, and zoomed in slightly on the closed, wooden door that lay in the hallway beyond. Given the short distance between the chair and door and the low position of the camera, it only caught the surface from midway down.
"Okay." The girl's voice was a whisper, and the camera's view was briefly blocked by a soft, dark top before Aimi crouched down and peered into the lens.
"Today is Yori-kun's baptism," she said softly. "And we have to get up really early to get ready for it." She reached a hand out, and the scene briefly shifted to a uncovered window, beyond which the dim light of dawn was visible. "See?"
The screen moved back to her. "I don't know why grownups always plan big things for early in the morning," she noted with a shake of her head, and covered her mouth as she yawned. "Maybe they just want more time to spend talking to each other, even if its all about boring stuff. Mama says I'll figure it out when I get older, but 'Kaa-san says she hasn't figured it out yet, so..." A shrug. "I dunno."
She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder. "That's Mama's and 'Kaa-san's bedroom," she explained. "They're still sleeping, I think. I didn't hear anything when I listened before. But they should wake up soon."
"Mama gets up first most of the time," she related quietly, and turned her head to peer at the door behind her. "But when we have to go somewhere, 'Kaa-san wakes up first. Then she makes breakfast with me while we wait for Mama, and when Mama gets up, 'Kaa-san starts running around the house." A pause. "She mutters a lot, and Mama calls her a headless chicken. And then 'Kaa-san always says that if she's a headless something, it sure as hell isn't a-- oh, oops." The girl scratched her cheek. "I wasn't supposed to tell anyone that word. 'Kaa-san says she'll get in trouble with Mama if I do, so you didn't hear that."
"Aimi?" A huskier and decidedly less awake voice broke in over the soft snick of a door closing, and the girl turned towards the lean, boxer-clad legs behind her. "Who are you talking to?"
The happy smile on the child's face was only briefly visible before Aimi shot to her feet and wrapped herself around the woman's waist. The shot captured the little girl from the shoulders down, while only the lower half of the woman could be seen.
The enthusiastic hug drew an indulgent chuckle from the taller of the two, and a slender hand came down to rub the girl's back before it was captured by two smaller ones.
"This is 'Kaa-san," Aimi said as she crouched in front of the camera once more, and gave the hand she was holding a few, pointed tugs.
The woman that obligingly settled on her knees at the prompting looked to be in her late twenties, and was wearing a pair of dark silk boxers and a form-fitting – if slightly rumpled – white tank top. She had a fit and slender build with a pale complexion; long, dark hair that was currently in mild disarray, and startlingly clear green eyes which she turned curiously towards the lens as the girl spoke to it.
"Well... she's my 'Kaa-san," the girl went on after a contemplative pause. "To Yori-kun, she's Natsuki-obasan." She turned to the woman. "Right?"
"Right." The husky voice now had a slightly amused note to it. "But it'll be a while yet before he can actually say that. Let's wait for him to make his father's head swell by getting past 'Baba' first."
Aimi giggled. "Is Mama up?" she then wondered.
"Not yet," Natsuki noted with a shake of her head. "Why don't you go and see if you can wake her? Then we'll all make breakfast together, ne?"
A smile. "Really. But..." One hand came up to ruffle the already mussed hair affectionately, then smoothed it down somewhat. "No jumping onto the bed, okay? You know you gotta be careful with Mama right now."
"Right." The girl nodded and pushed herself to her feet, then took off towards the door at a run.
Natsuki kept her head turned to watch her until the child slipped through the door and into the dark room beyond, then yawned and ran a hand through her hair, which settled the sleek strands somewhat.
A lamp was turned on in the bedroom, and the sound of Aimi's voice could just barely be heard.
Natsuki sent the bedroom doorway another glance, then turned back around and peered into the lens while one eyebrow slowly climbed higher and higher on her forehead.
Then she smirked, and the screen caught the motion of her rising before the view jostled abruptly again. When it steadied, the open door was quite a bit closer and coming closer still. Bare feet plodded quietly against the wooden floor, and the microphone also picked up a low snicker once the interior of the next room came fully into view.
In the center of the room – set against one wall – was a large, plush bed that currently had two occupants. One was a woman with long chestnut hair who was laying on her side facing away from the door and – judging by the light tension visible in the slender shoulders below the lavender fabric of a night robe - was doing her level best to remain asleep.
But not quite succeeding.
"Mama." Aimi adjusted her kneeling position on the bed in front of the woman, and prodded her shoulder again. "Mama, you have to wake up," she informed her 'sleeping' parent in a loud whisper. "You gotta come make breakfast with me and 'Kaa-san."
"Heh heh heh..." The soft chortle was almost inaudible as the camcorder zoomed in just enough to fit only the bed into the frame of the viewscreen.
"Good morning, sunshine," Natsuki called cheerfully, prompting the slightly mussed, chestnut head to turn.
"Na-tsu-ki..." The woman in the bed eased onto her back, and the way the white sheets fell over her body revealed a noticeable swell in her abdomen. "Are you honestly pointing a video camera at your very tired, very pregnant wife first thing in the morning?"
"Well..." The sugary sweet tone in which the question had been asked was probably the cause of the nervous chuckle coming from behind the camera. "Aimi was about to do that anyway, so..."
"Reito-ojisan said that Yori-kun would like a video like this," the little girl piped up, lying down next to her mother and resting her head on the woman's shoulder. "It'll help him get to know us better when he gets older."
The child nodded solemnly. "Really, Mama."
"Yeah, really, Shizuru-mama." The husky voice had a distinct, teasing lilt to it now, and the microphone picked up the sound of muffled footsteps as Natsuki moved closer to the bed. "See what the little trick-feud between you and Reito-ojisan has escalated to?"
"Ara." The crimson eyes closed, and Shizuru's lips curved in a slight smile as she brushed a few strands of hair away from her face. "Perhaps I'd better have a chat with Reito-han after the reception."
Aimi lifted herself up on one elbow. "Is Ojisan gonna sleep on the couch tonight?" she wondered curiously. "That's what 'Kaa-san does when you have a chat with her."
A strange cross between a choke and a snort came from behind the camera.
Shizuru cracked one eye open and peered amusedly into the lens. "That decision is up to Mai-han," she explained calmly, and stroked one hand through her daughter's messy hair. "But your 'Kaa-san may end up on the couch again if she doesn't turn that accursed thing off and helps me with getting her now very awake children to settle down."
A chuckle. "Right. Just a sec."
The camera swiveled, and ended with a close-up view of Natsuki's face.
"Reito, I hope you enjoy your son's baptism. It might just be the last thing you get to see." A pause, and a slight twitch of her lips. "Mai, I regret that your husband has but one life to give for his country, and that my wife's probably gonna snuff it out once she gets him out of the view of witnesses."
"Mama!" The child's indignant voice made the green eyes draw away from the lens, and the emerald gaze softened noticeably. "Katsuo just kicked me in the cheek!"
"No, darling, that was Manami. Katsuo is on the other side, remember?"
"Oh." A pause. "But why do they always kick me?"
"Because Aimi is their Onee-chan. They want to play with you, and until they're born, that's the only way they can do that."
"That's why they kick 'Kaa-san, too?"
"That's why they kick your 'Kaa-san, yes." A beat. "Natsuki, come over here so your children can kick some sense into you for a change."
A low laugh, and the camera was turned off.