Newborn Fuyumi Ootori hiccups after a thorough feeding of bottled formula and spits up all over the violet uniform that adorns her personal nanny. The woman scowls in distaste and Fuyumi howls in a screeching wail that is most unbefitting of a lady.
On year old, bouncing, bright and brunette-cherub sits in frilly pink dress laced with white and a matching set of booties and a bonnet. Her smile is one of delight at the completely ridiculous puppet that the camera man holds in his free hand, and she laughs in unhampered joy. Yoshio Ootori stands off to the left, his cell phone glued to his ear and eyes permanently attached to the piece of paper he's reading statistics off of. Hitori Ootori squats closer to Fuyumi's eye level, cooing to her darling daughter with an adoring smile.
"Sweet, sweet Fuyumi-chan," she calls to her daughter, who continues to smile and alternates looks between her photographer and mother. "Darling, smile!"
The girl starts to babble and rock on the tiny chair that is her perch before reaching down to the ground between her legs and pushing her small, rounded body upwards until she's standing in a wobbly, upright position. She's flat on her white-covered feet, precariously balanced on two chubby legs and giggling like a maniac. Her mother makes an 'ooooh' face and flutters her hands almost violently, pointing to her youngest in surprised pride.
"Yoshio, look!" Hitori exclaims as Fuyumi places one wobbly foot in front of the other. "She's walking!" And camera like flashes brightly and the Ootori patriarch looks over at the scene, still distracted from his heated financial discussion, in time to see his youngest child throw caution to the winds and launch herself forward, landing flat on her face.
His expression sours as Hitori rushes forward to coddle the child before she cries. "She's not walking. She's falling."
Two years old, the youngest Ootori—and the only girl of three children—jumps excitedly on the grassy knoll, the front of her dress completely covered in dark, rich and crumbling earth. She's smiling like she hasn't got a care in the world and after she's done dancing around on her feet, Fuyumi makes to run across the back lawn of the Ootori estate, directly to her oldest brother who sits alone on the back terrace, and old copy of Japanese literature open on his lap and eyes transfixed on the page.
She screeches, "Rei-san! Rei-san!" in a high pitched tone and trumps up the stairs to the porch, dislodging more dirt with each step. "Rei-san!"
The oldest Ootori son looks his little sister up and down with no trace of a fond or even remotely eight-year old smile playing around his mouth. "What have you been doing?"
Fuyumi doesn't listen. She runs at Rei, opening her arms in an attempt to hug her older brother, only to be held at bay by two hands on her small shoulders and a subtlety obvious expression of disgust for her sullying her new cloths around the oldest Ootori child's mouth. Still, she talks. "Rei-san, what's this?" Fuyumi asks, holding up her clenched palm to reveal the twitching ends of an earth worm protruding from past the fingers.
The boy gives her a look. "Earthworms are also called megadriles (or big worms), as opposed to the microdriles (or small worms) in the families Tubificidae, Lumbriculidae, and Enchytraeidae, among others. The megadriles are characterized by having a multilayered clitellum (which is much more obvious than the single-layered one of the microdriles), a vascular system with true capillaries, and male pores behind the female pores. It's been found the most humane way of drawing them up to the surface is to sprinkle saltwater on the ground, causing their menbranes to itch with discomfort. Why all the questions, Fuyumi-chan?"
She shrugs and giggles. "I don't know!" The brunette girl exclaims proudly, stepping back from her brother and staring at the small version of the Tubifividae-whatever in her hand. "Rei-san, why do they taste like the chicken in nabe?"
Fuyumi Ootori is three years old when her mother has the first epilepsy attack she could remember. It is something she can't forget, really, more of just remember—walking into the kitchen to see the maid holding her mother's head in a vice-like grip and the butler forcing a wooden spoon into her mouth so that she wouldn't bite her own tongue. The girl stops in her tracks, dropping the plate that had held the snack of strawberry pocky so that the china shatters upon contact with the floor. It's almost as if the sound goes unnoticed, and the sick, gurgling moans and gasps that Hitori makes as she writhes under the weight of two bodies forces Fuyumi to run from the room with her hands tightly clasped over both ears. She's crying by the time she reaches her father's study, hot and wet tears flowing freely down her cheeks and causing tiny wisps of hair to cling to her face. Her own voice is choked as she pushes inside the door, letting out a howl that reeks of distress and horror and pain.
"She's dying!! Mother's dying!!" She shrieks, stopping in the middle of the floor to let out the anguished cry. "She's—she's—HELP HER!!"
Yoshio spares her a glance before dialing on his desk phone and demanding a doctor. He hangs up and tells his daughter simply, "Your mother will be fine," before pushing his glasses up his nose and extracting a file from a stack of manila envelopes.
Fuyumi isn't quite certain what she should do now, nor is she believes her father when he says this, but also figures she has no choice and sniffles, trying to stem the tears before exiting the office to go find her mother, hold her hand and make sure everything was fine. She turns to go, small shoes playing 'tap-tap' on the hard wood before she swears she hears words that she doesn't understand, "Thank god none of them were genetically predisposed."
The Ootori girl is four the first time she is caught doing anything bad and even then it's a minor thing. A fresh batch of cookies sits upon a cooling rack in the extensive kitchen of the estate, and they await the moment when they are to be served to the Ootori children after dinner. However, one of the three is unwilling to wait and somehow manages to sneak past her parents, tutors and house staff, into the kitchen and to the cookies.
Fuyumi takes two, the insides still warm and full of gooey chocoate-ness, and she sits with her back against the cabinet door, tiny legs crossed in front of her as one of the treats is slowly eaten without mishap; no one notices that she's there and no one comes looking for her after noticing she's not somewhere she should be. Rei and Akito have obviously not told. However, as the heiress starts in on the second chocolate chip cookie, the family cook—Kyon Tendo—rounds the corner and stops dead in his tracks, staring at the child who's been caught—red/chocolate handed—and who stares back at him with a minor air of superiority.
"I thought I told all three of you that you weren't allowed cookies before dinner," he accuses sharply but quietly, unwilling to draw attention to himself while chewing out one of his employer's children. "Well? What have you to say for yourself, Ootori-san?"
She stands, still holding the cookie, and poises akimbo, with both wrists pressed to her hips, arms bowed outward, and imitating the stand-offish and snobby manner she's seen other girls adopt. "My father said I could," is Fuyumi's response, stressing the emphasis on the 'father' and resisting the urge to stick out her tongue. "When you said I couldn't, I asked him and he said I could. So there."
Admittedly, the brunette did know how to speak. She did not stutter or restart or slur her sentences like other children, but this lack of flaws also made her sound spoiled, a brat. Kyon stared down his long nose at her, scowling. "You father left for Egypt two days a go," he tells her. Fuyumi looks indifferent, so the cook continues. "He couldn't have given you permission unless you phoned him, and I highly doubt that, Ootori-san. You lied to me, Ootori-san. Do you know what that means?"
Fuyumi is shaking her head, and ignores the question as if it didn't matter in the slightest. "I didn't lie," she tells the man, taking a bite of the cookie triumphantly and speaking with her mouth full—who's this man to care about manners at the moment, anyway?—"I was being ma-nipple-u-tive." She sounds out the word.
Kyon raises an eyebrow. "What's that difference mean to you, Ootori-can?"
And at this, Fuyumi beams. "Father's ma-nipple-u-tive, and it's what makes him successful. People say so." And she skips past the man to lick the chocolate off her fingers and destroy all the evidence of her crime.
Fuyumi's five the first time someone gives her a life lesson. It's one from her mother, who lies in her overly large bed, recovering from another spell and looking sickly. Her eyes are closed and Fuyumi thinks she is sleeping, at least until Hitori shifts and beckons her daughter to her side, giving a weak smile that, for once, doesn't illuminate her features. No, if anything, the expression makes her whole face sink and look gaunt and foreboding.
The brunette child takes her mother's cold hand gingerly and holds it to her warm face, pressing it there in a semi-comforting manner. "Mother, what's wrong?"
Hitori sighs, and smiles sadly at her youngest. "Oh, Fuyumi-chan...I was just thinking. You know how you can get when you're thinking—everything else just fades into the background. People, furniture...problems." She threads her fingers through the perfectly parted hair her youngest has.
"Mother, why doesn't Father, Rei-san or Akita-san ever come to visit you when you're thinking in here? You look lonely." She sniffled for minor emphasis to this face, pouting.
Hitori hand stays itself and she rolls onto her back, moving so as to make room for Fuyumi on the mattress. The five-year-old, ever eager to spend extra time with her mother, clambers up and wraps both arms around one of Hitori's, burying her face in her mother's chest like a missile seeking warmth and comfort. The reasonably cold skin under cloth vibrated with a low hum as the Ootori matriarch continued to talk. "Fuyumi-chan, Ootori men seek perfection. Your Father is no different, and your brothers are learning very quickly from him. They will not look upon anything that does not suit their preferences, their ideals of perfection. I call this an affliction of the mind, perfectionists at work..." She pauses, breathing deeply and trying to school her voice to portray no emotion—especially the tears behind her eyes. "I am not perfect, Fuyumi...Far from it."
"Mother—" she makes to get up, but Hitori's free hand tightens on her shoulders.
'Stay, Fuyumi. I have to tell you this. Always remember—men seek perfection where there is none. Stupid, heartless men will try to make you perfect, but they don't realize that no one's perfect! No one...So, a classy, socially acceptable woman must appear perfect, even if it's faked. Do you understand, Fuyumi?"
The child squirms. She doesn't, but answers as expected, "Yes, Mother."
Fuyumi is six when her father insists she learn to play the piano. The finest—latest, most expensive—model is flown in from Germany and the (family-less) family room is reorganized to accompany the musical instrument.
She's excited for a while, at least until she gets upon the bench and attempts to sound out simple pieces. She can't and the only sounds are off key notes. But the girl does not give up—perfection must be achieved—and she tries for a little over two hours, by which time Akita enters the room, rugs on one of her braids and tells he to be quite.
"You're horrible!!" he scolds, pulling so hard that Fuyumi's head is pulled backwards, followed by the rest of her body, and the plodding sounds stop as her hands cannot reach the keys anymore. "Stop trying."
Akito leaves and, the next day Fuyumi asks her father (via phone from his New York office) to hire her a teacher for the piano, and after a week of practice, she calls in her big brother and plays him a rendition of a simple Minuete.
At age seven, the female Ootori receives wonderful and crushing news within the same month. Her heart skips around happily when she learns she's to be a big sister (something she's always wanted to be, and with two older brother's it's understandable.) She sits with her mother for hours, days in succession, helping her mother pick out baby cloths, thinking of names (however weird: "Arthur!" or "Juju!") or else rubbing the still smooth midsection and placing light kisses along the skin. She's already decided that she'll share all her old toys with this baby, play the piano for it and teach it to talk, all-over being the best big sister she could be.
The blow comes in late October, and the cloud that rises from the explosion is one of doctors in white coats and a visit to the hospital, where she must sit in the smelly waiting room, alone, for the better part of the night before she's allowed in to see her mother. Hitori is shadowed, hollow, and curled into a ball the approximate size of two pillows. Her dark hair is matted with sweat, and her cheeks are still wet with tears. Still unshed droplets water behind her dulled eyes, and at first she doesn't even notice her daughter's presence; Fuyumi must clear her throat and shuffle slowly towards the bed before the Ootori matriarch looks at her. Even then, she almost starts bawling anew.
"Mother?" the girl asks, coming up short of the bed and resting her hand on her mother's shoulder. "Mother, Rei-san and Akito-san send their condolences. They're busy...mother, don't cry."
But all Hitori can do if sob quietly, eyes practically closed as more and more tears escape from under her lashes. Her head shakes side to side, mussing up her hair even more than it was before. Breaths are hitched, bard to take in and even harder to let go, and the result is harsh gasps and a violently rising chest under the pale hospital gown. And, through out this terrifying display of weakness, she wails quietly, "I'm not perfect. I'm not perfect. Fuyumi, I'm not perfect!"
Moisture stings Fuyumi's cheeks before she realizes she's crying and her hand tightens irrefutably around her mother's in a comforting gesture. "Mother, it's alright! You don't have to be perfect! You're perfect to me! Please don't cry—you are perfect!"
But it does no good, and Hitori continues to sob blindly, wetting the hand of Fuyumi's that is held to her flushed face; and there's nothing the child can do but wait and watch.
The girl is eight the first time she is kissed. Adorned in a fancy green dress, with hair in perfect, black ringlets, she's the picture of childhood innocence and a beauty without makeup. Fuyumi's been quieter since the miscarriage of last year—it's an event that's affected them all differently, and all on different levels (Rei is more reclusive, locked in his room or else their father's study. Akito's meaner, making up for the chaos of a new baby with his impulsive and usually destructive means. Hitori's sunk into a deep, dark depression—one that can only be combated by the latest and highest in medication, a dose that plays terrors on her seizures. Yoshio...he hasn't changed that much in disposition, but he's older visually and it sometimes makes all three children wonder just how old their father truly is.) She's more likely to sit quietly, waiting for her presence to be called upon and even then, she will attempt to be the perfect girl that her mother is not.
It's a social function, a dinner for high class families wishing to show off their fortunes. Her father wishes to show off all three of his children, and it seems a competition had begun, as other family officials had only brought children of the corresponding ages—eight, ten and fourteen—to mingle with adults. It's boring. All these children seem akin to puppets—acting exactly how their parents wish them to—easily, manipulatable. She can't help but criticize their outfits, posture, not-so-subtle conversation skills, and dinning etiquette, even if the commentary is only in her head. Fuyumi is indeed so distracted by her own silent musings; she almost doesn't realize when Shinichi Watanuki starts tapping on her shoulder.
"Ootori-kun," he addresses her a little too informally for a greeting between the heiress of a major doctorin and the son of an officer supply store owner. She starts, looking over at him almost curiously, and very guardedly. Watanuki just smiles. "Ootori-kun, you look bored."
"I am bored," she tells him. "It's a very grown up party—no games, only silly talk—and I am...very, very bored."
The way the boy smiles makes his eyes close and the skin around his mouth wrinkle into tiny dimples. It's irksome. It's cute. "Well, Ootori-kun, would you like to play?"
Fuyumi bites her tongue, blushing a little bi and looking away from Watanuki self consciously; too shy to tell him that she doesn't really know how to play—she's never done so. Instead, she tells him knowingly, "This is a grown up party. We have to act grown up."
Watanuki pulls a face for a second before smiling again. "Even if it's boring, Ootori-kun?"
"You're cute, Ootori-kun," Watanuki tells her and Fuyumi's wandering gaze snaps back to the boy who just complimented (?) her, her cheeks a brighter pink than before and her small mouth open in disbelief. The boy smiles and leans forward, effectively meshing their noses together in the middle of their faces and mouths. It's a really quick kiss, and the only thing that assures Fuyumi that is was a kiss is the loud snapping sound that his mouth makes against hers. Watanuki is smiling again, and she almost wants to hit him. "You're really cute, Ootori-kun, even if you're a lot like a grown up."
She flushes more.
Amazingly, Fuyumi is nine before she ever spends a full day with her father. He's a busy man, she knows, one that can't be bothered with such trivial things as spending time with his children or taking a day off. The last time she spent even close to this much time with the other half of her genetic material was two years ago in that hospital, and there it had been a sorry affair.
This time also takes place in a hospital, a grand tour and a sort of singular 'bring your daughter to work' day. Yoshio strides down the hallway, and the girl follows him quietly, running a bit to keep up with his pace and watching everything with wide, observant eyes, Coughing old men dressed in rich suits, crying women with newborn children, tiny bumps and scratches on children's knees being tended to as if they were the most deadly affliction in the world. Everything seems big, everything imposing, but Fuyumi isn't scared—not frightened.
The do stops at a room with large bay windows and an actual bed the size of a four-poster, surrounded by flowers, balloons, cards and gifts in general. The room appears to be able to fit in at least seven of the smaller hospital beds, but there is only one tenant—an elderly woman who is conversing on her cell phone to what seems to be her idiot daughter. However, as soon as she notices the hospital administrator in her room, the call is ended and an overly bright smile is flashed toward the doorway. "Ootori-san," a brief pause for hacking coughs and then a polite, "Nice to see you. You look younger every time I see you."
Fuyumi guesses the two are old friends, or else business acquaintances.
"Ah, Watanuki-san. You look well," her father responds brightly, crossing the room to clasp her old and withered hands between his larger, warmer ones. "Everything well, I assume?"
She coughed again, but continued to smile. "As well as can be expected. I'm not in any pain."
"Wonderful," Yoshio removes a hand from hers and extends it toward his child, beckoning Fuyumi to the bedside. "Watanuki-san, allow me to introduce my youngest, Fuyumi. I believe she's the girl your grandson was referring to when he told you about the dinner party last year."
Watanuki—the name suddenly sounds all the more familiar.
The old woman peers at the brunette girl, who blushes at the securitization and averts her eyes in a disjointed gesture of respect for her elder. The hand that was previously clutching the Ootori patriarch's reaches up to cup Fuyumi's face, and she turns to stare blankly into old, crinkled eyes. A smile is tugging at the old Watanuki lady's face, and when her fingers release the child's cheeks she lets out a small chuckle. "Ah, yes, it must be. Well, that is, assuming there aren't any other beautiful daughters of the Ootori line." She hacks out a frame-wracking coughing fit that causes Fuyumi to tense as seemingly old spit flies everywhere, flecking her face. "You know—" coughcough "—his father is dabbling in merchandising—office supply stores nowadays. I think he'd biding his time until I die and he can muscle his sisters out of the heir spotlight. Hehe, he's pretty successful. I think he'll do well as my successor."
Yoshio raises a brow and Fuyumi loses all interest in the conversation, but still feigns as if she's listening. "Does this mean you will be naming your son heir in your will?"
Watanuki shrugs. "Might as well. Youngest or not, he's the only one who's ever run a business or married a spouse I choose—and he's happy with the American girl. He's also the only one with a son and the brightest future." Another spasm of coughs. "Oh, Ootori-san, you have no idea how lucky you are to have had sons first and then a girl."
There's a firm hand on her shoulder, and Fuyumi can practically feel the booming reverberations of her father's voice as he agrees, "Yes, I know."
And thus the day continues.
Later, in the car ride back to the Ootori estate, the back seat of the limo is silent except for the chink of ice clanking against the side of a glass of tonic water and breathing. Fuyumi stares out of the window at the hustle and bustle of the city hurrying past her, bright and lively colors made dull and bleak and gray from behind the tinted glass of the windows. her mind trails over the new people she met, all the new names and faces, and eventually comes back to the old Watanuki woman who seemed to be dying, and could talk of nothing more than her children and the grandson that the girl clearly remembered from the dinner party.
She's almost completely in a memorotical daze when Yoshio clears his throat, and Fuyumi redirects her wide eyes to her father. He's staring at her from behind the glass film of his spectacles and the brunette cannot help but feel that she's under observation. "What do you remember of Watanuki-san's grandson?" he asks her.
Fuyumi shrugs, trying to remember and forget at the same time. Shinichi Watanuki... "He's...nice," she skirts, and Yoshio seems to take this as an answer, directing his own gaze back to his glass. Before the girl can silence herself, words bubble up and spills over her lips in a tumultuous waterfall, "Father,amIperfect?"
Grey eyes flash back to Fuyumi's face and a slender eyebrow raises. "What, Fuyumi-chan?"
"Am...Am I perfect, Father?" she asks again, carefully spacing the words and emphasizing each syllable.
Another eyebrow joins the first. "Perfect?" he gives her an appraising look, evaluating her from head to toe in a way that makes Fuyumi squirms. She's almost regretting saying anything when his lips part and Yoshio replies guardedly, "You...appear to be. More so than others—" and she flinches, knowing exactly who those 'others' are "—but it remains to be seen that you stay as such...Now, what do you think of marrying Shinichi Watanuki?"
Something marvelous happens on Fuyumi's tenth year. A new addition to the family arrives via caesarian-section, his eyes sharply shut and mouth tiny, lipless and gaping. Her baby brother is pink, wrinkled and quite, perfectly content to be swaddled and dressed in warm cloths, and only fussing if he's left unattended while hungry or wet. He eats at regular intervals, and sleeps most of the night, something Hitori aptly claims none of her other children did. All in all, Kyouya is the perfect child, and Fuyumi hates him for it.
Neither she, Akito or Rei are allowed inside the nursery that first month that their new brother is home—he's too small, they're told, too likely to get sick—but the large curiosity that gripped the children upon first arrival gradually dissipates, leaving sixteen-year-old Rei indifferent to the baby brother he felt more of an uncle to, twelve-year-old Akito competitive for the attention the new child's receiving, and the ten-year-old daughter wallowing in deep hatred and brooding, remembering the way Yoshio had praised "he's perfect" after the birth and longing to prove that he wasn't and she was.
"Fuyumi-chan, are you excited to be a new big sister?" her mother asks one day as she spots her daughter hovering at the door to Hitori's room. Two-and-a-half-week-old Kyouya is hugged to her breast, being slowly rocked to sleep while a nanny hovers near-by. The Ootori matriarch beckons her third child closer. "Come see the new baby."
Unbiddingly, curiosity tugs at her heartstrings, inviting 'go-go' and pulling her toward the bundle that is so tiny in her mother's arms that, for a second, she can't even see it. Resolve quivers and she's actually considering running to them, clambering on the bed and kissing Kyouya's wrinkled forehead. But she doesn't. "I don't like babies," Fuyumi's face pulls upward in grim disgust. "They small funny and look like raisins." and with that, she turns on her heel and marches out of the room, leaving a stunned Hitori and a sniffling baby behind her.
However, thoughts of babies—their not so horrid smell, the many cloths and diapers they need, the quiet cries that Fuyumi is sure are unique to her brother—and, by the time the sun sets and sleep is near, her own baby pictures, Rei's and Akito's drift in an out of her barely conscious mind's eye. She can't sleep in the end and sits up from plushy covers, rubbing tired eyes as a new resolve emerges from within every fiber of her being. Fuyumi slips on house slippers and her bathrobe before skillfully sneaking out of her room and down the many twisting, dark hallways that she knows leads to the new baby's room.
The nursery is...painfully plain and gender oriented. Blue wall paper and drapes, with shadows over them give off an expansive look at the over-large toys in every corner of the room seem to be the contents of a nightmare. Fuyumi pauses three steps in on the white rug and exhales, wondering if she should just return to her bedroom before she's discovered, leaving this impromptu visitation as is...But...There's a shuffling from the crib and a low, mournful cry—one that she hasn't heard before and one that strikes fear in her heart.
Quickly, her feet make no noise on the carpeted floor and she's standing on her tiptoes to see over the edge of the crib at baby Kyouya.
He's barely asleep, somehow rolled on his stomach and moving his unsquished nose into the sheets in a way that can't be comfortable. His mouth is open and every so often it will either let out a wail or else a creepily high squeak of displeasure. Remembering something about babies never being put to sleep on their stomachs, Fuyumi tentatively squeezes her hand through the bars of the crib and pokes and prods Kyouya until his limp body turns over with a flop that jerks a very loud, very distressed cry from him.
Fuyumi tenses, figuring it was her fault and unwilling to be caught in a room she isn't supposed to be in, in the first place making the baby cry. Inside the crib, a pacifier rolls around in an upper corner of the, and she snatches it, rolling the tip of the thing lighting over Kyouya's screaming mouthing until he finds it blindly and suckles on the plastic nipple contentedly. She exhales, sighing, and can't help but feel somewhat proud of herself for putting him so easily back to sleep, and once Kyouya's quite again, she takes a good, long look at him.
He's red, wrinkled and a little bit ugly. There's a sprinkling of wispy black hair adorning his head, except where it's been rubbed off by cradle cap. His head is a different shape than her own or older brother's had been, rounder and unshaped by the trials and tribulations of labor and birthing. A tender spot between the two plates of his scalp pulses with his heartbeat, moving up and down at a faster tempo than his small chest. Tiny hands with even tinier fingernails clench and unclench intermittedly, and the few eyelashes he has move as his eyeballs under the lid twitch in deep sleep.
A soft smile curves Fuyumi's mouth as she watches, thinking to herself that—despite the minor differences—he looks a lot like her as a child.
Fuyumi sleeps within the hug of a giant teddy bear that is twice her size, and jerks awake every time Kyouya sniffles or begins to cry. He's perfect, she agrees, and although she won't admit it as such yet, she loves the baby.
Kyouya turns one and Fuyumi eleven. He's already started to pull himself up on things. His big sister diligently hold his hand the first time he tries to take those tentative few steps, and she is determined to not allow him to fall.
Shortly after her twelfth birthday, Fuyumi overhears her father and mother discussing their suspicion over Kyouya, and how he hasn't started speaking yet. This makes her worry, too, and she confronts Rei about this. The new college student thinks about it, having not paid much attention to his baby brother in the last two years. He tells her that it could be a thing known as Einstein Syndrome, where the child's inner genius keeps them from speaking.
In turn, Fuyumi tells their parents, and Kyouya totters up to his big sister later that day, tugging on her dress and saying, "I want milk, please, Fuyumi-san."
her thirteenth birthday is marred by her baby brother's fever, a startlingly high 104.5 for the three-year-old, and she spends the whole day by his side, nursing his hot forehead with cool rags and concentrating on making him better. She refuses to unwrap presents or else let anyone else tend to Kyouya. She sits with him all night, and by morning, his fever has broken and his temperature is returning to normal.
Hitori watches, checking in on her two youngest children and smiling in a disconnected way. She catches a weary Fuyumi on her way out of the room where she's left a sleeping Kyouya, and gives her daughter an appraising smile. "You're good with him, Fuyumi-chan. You'd make an excellent mother."
She flushes, murmuring a 'thank you' under her breath and averting her gaze until there is a cold hand under her child and her face is redirected to meet matching grey eyes.
"Fuyumi, I want you to promise me something. Please promise me that you'll take care of him—always, and as long as you have to. I know this may be an unfair thing to ask of you at this age, but I only ask because I feel you can do it...Please, be his caregiver when I cannot." Hitori's voice is desperate, pleading almost, and Fuyumi is taken aback.
She blinks blankly at her mother before lowering her eyes again and respectfully answering, "I will always look after Kyouya-kun, especially when you can't. I will be a second mother to him." A better mother, she thinks, a perfect mother. But Fuyumi doesn't say this.
Yoshio Ootori announces his daughter's engagement to Shinichi Watanuki on her fourteenth-year, and he tells them all over the winter holidays. The whole family is within the country, home, and in the same room, an almost unheard of event. Rei and Akito play a far too serious and competitive game of chess for it to be simple brotherly fun, Hitori is curled up on an elongated fainting couch with her old books, and the two youngest are seated on the piano bench, Kyouya upon Fuyumi's lap, happily plodding away on the keys while she half-heartedly attempts to teach him 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'. Yoshio, in turn, is sitting in a secluded corner, desk separating him from the rest of his family, and phone pressed to his ear as he quietly converses.
It's quiet. Rei claims checkmate. Hitori puts her book down and massages her eyes. Kyouya squirms and Fuyumi pulls up his shirt and attacking his stomach with a ticklish raspberry. He cackles joyously for a bit before quieting, and the sound of a receiver connecting with the base echoes. All eyes turn towards the father and husband of the family as he stands, moving to Hitori's side to place a hand on her shoulder and whispering something in her ear. The woman's already pale complexion turns a shade lighter, and she stares off into space quietly, mouth slack and fingers twisting subconsciously in her lap.
"Fuyumi," Yoshio addresses, and she stills, slipping Kyouya off her lap to stand and face her father respectably.
"Yes, Father?" Part of her being knows what is coming and just doesn't want to believe it, and the other half knows that it's irrefutable either way.
"It appears that Yuuko Watanuki has just passed away," he informs indifferently. "Her son, Ichiro, has been named heir to Watanuki Pharmaceuticals. I believe you remember his son, Shinichi."
Fuyumi's heart sinks a bit and she turns her head down. "No, Father," she tells him, having flashbacks to the party, the kiss and his calling her 'Ootori-kun'.
Yoshio adjusts his glasses so that the light refracts off them. "Our family company cannot exist without the support of others. A hospital without medicine is a worthless waste of space. There is no profit to it. And so, to ensure our hospital's success, there's been an arrangement."
"A marriage," Hitori says breathily, returning from whatever planet she'd retreated to. "Shinichi-kun is your age, and the Watanuki's have agreed that it is best to wait until you are both adults at least."
"Six years," Yoshio is direct, "At the age of twenty, you are to marry him."
Silence. The toll of a clock bell somewhere in the household. The chess is abandoned and both boys watch their sister in her predicament. The Ootori parents watch her, too, one with a soft, sad smile and the other with his business face schooled into cold composure. Kyouya is messing with the pockets of his pants and the button on his shirt.
Fuyumi's eyes water in shock, disbelief, hurt, anger, but she blinks them away, ensuring that tears don't fall by rubbing her oculars with the back of her hand and passing it off as fatigue with an added yawn. "Yes, Father," she says quietly, eyes downcast and hands shaking, so she wrings them a little, turning her back on the rest of her family and scooping up Kyouya. "I'll just go put him to b—bed."
Her voice cracks at the last word and the first two tears spill from the corner of each eye. Kyouya is getting big, but not too heavy, and the Ootori female finds it easy to sweep him from the room and up the stairs. She undresses, bathes, redresses and tucks him into the over-large bed, petting his black hair for a bit before leaving to her own quarters. Once inside her rooms, Fuyumi doesn't even bother to shower or change, and collapses onto her bed fully dressed, sobbing into her pillow at the "unfair" and "stupidstupistupid!"
She falls asleep that way, and in the morning there's a smaller, warm body in her bed with her, clutching her hand in a comforting way.
Kyouya turns five before he must get glasses. One of the maids noticed his eyes cross the tiniest fraction, and reports this to Hitori.
The glasses are too big, and slip off his thin face whenever they please, making activities such as walking, reading and eating troublesome. He doesn't say anything, though, content to live through the tribulations without complaint.
One time, the spectacles slip and fall completely off his face, clattering onto the floor. He picks them up and makes to put them back on, but Fuyumi intercepts it, inspecting them. Within twenty-four hours, Kyouya Ootori has new glasses, ones that loop on the ends to wrap around his ears, and they don't fall off anymore.
"You didn't have to do that, Fuyumi-san," Kyouya tells her, his eyes wide at seeing the world clearly and comfortably for the first time. He seems a little embarrassed, but not too much so, and stares at her for a bit. Fuyumi smiles.
"It was nothing, Kyouya-kun," she takes his hand in hers and walks them both to the back terrace of the estate in the low glow of the evening.
It is the older sister who takes the younger brother to his primary school interview. It is more of a tryout, testing children early for their excellence, as only the best were admitted into the Ouran academic system.
When the two of them arrived and checked in, they were then directed to a room full of colorful blocks, numerous toys, hundreds of pictures books and, crammed in the middle of the chaos, a fine mahogany desk. It was a little overzealous in all the excellence and both of the Ootori's stiffen at the shock of seeing such a playful room in a school. Behind the desk sits an aging man, Yuzuru Suoh, with a bright smile in his eyes and on his mouth, and an invitation on his lips, "Come in, Kyouya-kun, Fuyumi-chan."
They do, and sit in the two chairs in front of the desk, an act that seems to baffle the Suoh, for a second later he asks, "Wouldn't you like to play, Kyouya-kun?"
The boy shakes his head, declining the offer and instead staring at the picture frame on the desk. "Mindless self indulgence is the key to foolishness, even today. It destroys genius, not enhance it. The only thing that makes you smarter is work—hard work." He points at the blond boy in the picture, asking, and "Is that your son? He looks like he likes to play."
Fuyumi smiles and remains quiet until the farewells of the meeting, allowing Kyouya to answer all the evaluation questions and Suoh to create his own opinion of her little brother, and is not surprised in the least when, barely three days after that interview, Kyouya receives his acceptance letter.
Fuyumi attempts to adapt to the few simple qualities of married life, and Kyouya is her puppet. She drags him (he's quiet about it, but continues to try and wiggle out of it with subtle "Fuyumi-san, please don't...") into the kitchen and forces him to sit on the counter ("Fuyumi-san, I'm too old, he deadpans) while she maneuvers around attempting to bake cookies ("Your oatmeal bricks are crucifying; they're on fire, Fuyumi-san.")
Finally, after billows of smoke, the fire alarm going off twice and the Ootori bride-to-be burning the tips of her fingers, slightly burnt oatmeal cookies that had run together when they expanded sat on the counter top next to Kyouya. Fuyumi's forehead shone with the sweat from her effort, but she was wearing a smile, obviously proud with the fruits of her effort. "Do you want to try one, Kyouya-kun?" she asked, gripping the edge of the sheet with an over-mitted hand and attempting to pry the 'cookies' off with a spatula.
Kyouya's nose wrinkled. "You should have left that to the help," he told her, declining the darkened brick she attempted to feed him politely.
She pouted in turn, taking a bite of the threat before choking and hacking and spitting the thing out. "Oh my! What did I do wrong?"
"Well, you added too much oatmeal, switched the measurements of salt and sugar, used baking soda instead of baking powder, and you forgot the butter," Kyouya recited, slipping off of the counter as his older sister made to dump the tray into the garbage. "You also placed the oven on the wrong heat."
"Alright, you try it then, Mr. Know-it-all," Fuyumi chides sweetly, wiping the fly-away hairs from her eyes as Kyouya turns to leave the kitchen.
"No thank you," the seven year old replied, shrugging. "It's a waste of time, Fuyumi-san, and there's no need for a competition; I'm sure you'll get better."
And so merit overrode perfection.
At age eighteen, Fuyumi Ootori enters an even quieter phase than she had before, much more likely to sit and observe and be quiet and be the perfect child her father wants her to be, even if the disposition is a little late to compliment childhood innocence. She is the 'speak-when-spoken-to' child, and the only people she regularly talks to are Kyouya and her personal maid, each for entirely different reasons. This vow of silence depletes her already non-existent social life.
During this time, she notices more things. Interesting things:
Her mother and father don't touch each other as much as they had before Kyouya; no hand holding or brief kisses on the cheek or mouth. If anything, they look angry whenever close to each other, liable to lash out or sit in brooding silence.
The staff talk; a lot. Of Rei's sexual rendezvous with a common from a company of menial influence; of Akito's nights of indecent and anonymous partying in commoner's clubs; of her own silence; of Kyouya's brilliance. All while cleaning.
While her father seems to take little to no notice of his children, every moment not occupied my managing his hospitals and stocks (however many few that is) is dedicated to ensuring their futures and the survival of the Ootori line, and while he's toughest and most critical on the youngest, he is really just testing the waters that the older genes of both his and Hitori's created, tentatively.
She sees it all.
Fuyumi sees that Kyouya sees too, even if he may not understand some of what he sees. The testing is most obvious to him, and the child tries his hardest to live up to the expectations set before him. He's excelling, too, beyond Yoshio's guidelines, and the Ootori patriarch must limit him in ways he hasn't the other three—something he's proud of.
Fuyumi doesn't like that she sees this, and sets her personality back to obtrusive and motherly and the open, uncloseted perfectionist.
At nineteen, Fuyumi meets Shinichi Watanuki for the second time, and is shocked by how unlike the small child she met sum twelve years ago he is, and not at all displeased with this fact. They talk, and Fuyumi finds him of intelligence enough to keep. They eat a moderately fancy luncheon, and she decides Shinichi's manners may surpass her own, decidedly trying harder to be perfect. Then, they discuss the impending wedding, and all Fuyumi can talk about is Kyouya.
He's to be the ring bearer.
Will their children look like him? Act like him? Be as intelligent as him?
Would Shinichi mind if she still dropped in on her old residence, even after the two of them moved into a smaller Watanuki, just to see him?
Would he like to meet Kyouya?
Does he have any siblings Kyouya's age?
Oh, you will not believe how smart Kyouya is, Shinichi-kun...
And, almost as if his ears were ringing, inside the car that picks her up, the boy himself is—giving Watanuki a pointed stare from behind glasses when the older boy walks his sister to the car. 'So, you are going to be my new brother-in-law," he remarks in an imposing manner with a very pregnant pause (if the children were twins, Calculating and Shrewd). "...Welcome, I guess, Watanuki-san." And Kyouya extends a hand toward him as Fuyumi clambers into the car and buckles her seatbelt, giving Shinichi her most charming smile.
"Uh," Shinichi stutters a bit, flushing before smoothing the front of his dress shirt and extending a hand back, shaking the proffered greeting almost gingerly. "Nice to meet you, too, Ootori..." Here he struggles for the proper suffix to add after his name and fails. "Uh...Thank you."
"Isn't he wonderful?" Fuyumi gushes, folding her hands in her lap and beaming between her brother and fiancée.
"Certainly not what I expected," Shinichi confessed, giving a smile.
"I never am what people expect," Kyouya tells his sister as the door is closed, windows rolled up and wheels of the cars grind down the driveway. Fuyumi smiles and sips an iced bottle of mineral water from the limo's built in compartment bar.
"Well, not everyone can accept perfection, Kyouya-kun."
On the twentieth year, Fuyumi Ootori becomes Fuyumi Watanuki, the newly wed wife of Shinichi Watanuki and the partial heiress to Watanuki Pharmaceuticals. It is a grand event, thrown by the bride's side as tradition dictates, and the reception party is treated as more of a business meeting rather than a casual, friendly culmination to a wedding. Fuyumi dresses in a pure white kimono, Shinichi in a traditional black tux with the faintest ting of blue, and the rest of the congregation in similar attire (many of the newly budding Hitachiin industry). The ceremony is perfect, beautiful and goes down without a hitch. The food served to the guests is perfectly cut and frosted and mixed and cooked and baked and laid out to be picked at by finicky women on diets and men with low metabolisms.
Several children of influential families run through the legs of adults at the after party, squealing brightly in a delight that Fuyumi could emphasis with, and she smiled at them from her spot at the elongated table that overlooked the dance floor as two twin girls dressed in ruffled dresses tossed soiled napkins at the Haninozuka heir, who looks more angered at the mess rebounding into his food than the actual taunting. She thinks that they are cute, and turns to smile at Kyouya, fantasizing how she would occasionally wish that her little brother was more carefree and more fun-loving, and Kyouya is concentrated on the mass of bodies undulating and socializing. Fuyumi can almost see his eyes switching from face to face, internal gears attempting to match face to name, age, power position, and company.
She feels her heart flutter a bit, almost sadly, and as Shinichi receives congratulations from his slightly intoxicated aunt, Fuyumi stands gracefully, walking past the chairs of her father, mother, Rei and Akito to directly behind Kyouya's, placing a hand on his shoulder sweetly. "Kyouya-kun, come dance with me."
He seems perplexed. "Now, Fuyumi-san? You haven't danced with your husband yet."
The newly wed shrugs, ignoring that fact and tugging at his hand. "Would you deny the bride a request on her wedding day? Now, come on—dance with me before tonight is over and I am no longer your sister in every respectable aspect of the word." Honestly, Fuyumi doesn't believe Kyouya can catch the slight edge of nervousness and hysteria in her voice at the prospect of loosing everything maiden—name, innocence, etc.—but he stands without further complaint and follows his older sister toward the dance floor.
It starts as a slow waltz, her practiced feet (a requirement for the wedding) shuffling against his quick learning feet to heard them into place in time with the music, and the two hold hands. Kyouya is tall for a ten year old, and Fuyumi short for twenty—she's sure that her little brother's height will surpass her own in a couple years and a few growth spurts. The two dance around the other couples, earning disapproving glances from some and bemused chuckles from other, but the two don't care; having eyes only for each other in a platonic, almost sad stare that speaks in folds of 'goodbye'. Soon, both their heartbeats are synced, his head to her chest as small tears gather in her eyes, and neither realize when the music has changed, or even when the guests begin to depart.
It is only when the clock strikes one a.m., and Hitori deems it is time for Kyouya (her only real baby left) to go to bed that the brother and sister detach, Fuyumi with half a mind to tell her mother to let him stay, if only for another five minutes. She'd spent the last ten years, half her life, raising the family she was born into, and is not quite ready to repeat that on different territory for a family she married into. The orchestra is packing up the instruments and Kyouya squirms, extricating himself from Fuyumi's grasp and looking into her face.
"Fuyumi-san, you're crying," he notes, and her hands fly to her cheeks, touching the smearing eyeliner and mascara in false good cheer.
"Tears of joy," she offers back, sniffing lightly and running a hand through his perfectly parted black hair. "Aren't I allowed to be emotional on my special day?"
"I suppose," Kyouya replies, and slips toward the door, following the retreating backs of their mother and father as Shinichi bids farewell to his own parents and makes arrangements for a car to take them to the airport.
Just as Kyouya reaches the door, he turns and offers her a small wave. "See you after your honeymoon, Fuyumi-san."
And she waves back. "Yeah...See you, Kyouya-kun." Something inside her dies a little to see him leave—something that has never happened this permanently before—and is sure, by the end of the newly-wed vacation to the tropics (during which time she spends at least an hour daily talking to her little brother via cell phone, shops for no one else but him, talks about him during their couple's massages and keeps pictures of him in her suitcase) that her new husband thins her insane and slightly obsessive.
After a year of married life, Fuyumi finally adjusts to the change of setting, exploring her new estate until she knows it like the back of her hand and has memorized the Watanuki family tree to the nil. She's finally gotten used to throwing fancy lunches, high class business dinners, sharing her bed, and otherwise completing the transformation from being the pampered wife instead of the pampered and spoiled daughter.
One thing that the twenty-one-year-old cannot get used to is not having to wake up at the sound of a squeaking floor board that signaled someone hovering in her doorway after a nightmare, or the lazy days with no one for company but the help, and no one to tell her off when she tries to do things the 'house-wife-way', or tell her she's being immature or stupid.
At age twenty-two, Fuyumi Watanuki and her husband broach the topic of children—how many, what gender when—and find each other in complete disagreement.
"I want two girls," Shinichi tells his wife over a personal dinner to celebrate his return from a business trip. "Yuuko and Ayame, preferably with four years between them, and with your looks."
Fuyumi stops eating, ignoring the compliment and favoring her father with a semi-sour stare. "I don't want girls. I don't understand why you would either, seeing as females play a menial role in family bloodlines."
Shinichi seems perplexed, and raises an eyebrow. "Wha—"
"I want one boy—no fighting among siblings for affection or approval, nor the right as heir—and I don't want children at all yet." Once said, one hand reaches for the bottle of red wine and tops off both their glasses to seal the point. The children were the one big thing she could control in their relationship, and plus, Fuyumi hadn't even finished the remedial job of raising Kyouya; far too off from her goal with him to even think about having a child of her own.
"Only one?" her husband echoes watching s Fuyumi sips her drink. "And a boy?" By now, it seems, he's catching on. "And what would you name him?"
A name quivers on the tip of Fuyumi's tongue, but she bites it back, drowning it in another mouthful of liquor before shrugging and picking up her fork again. "I don't know." Because mother's don't usually name their children after people who aren't dead yet. She wants to say, but doesn't.
At twenty-nine, Rei and a pretty girl from a respectable trading company are married, and twenty-three-year-old Fuyumi is reunited with her entire family for the first time since her own wedding. She'd seem them all occasionally—Kyouya most—but there was something just different about seeing them all together. She pecks her mother's cheek, shakes Akito's hand and exchanges a kind greeting with her father before preparing to drop to her knees and hug Kyouya for all her worth...Only...
"Oh, my," she exclaims softly. "You've gotten so big, Kyouya." And it's true—the thirteen-year-old is taller than their father, something that their brothers had achieved long before, but something that Fuyumi was used to with them. At her meager 5'6", she stood a full inch under her father and exactly the same as their mother, where as Kyouya must have then stood at 5'7.5", a height to be proud of and one to look down on people from.
"Thank you, Fuyumi-san," he replies indifferently.
"Where has the time gone?" she muses out loud with the fluttery facade of normalcy and publicly appropriate affection. She didn't really want to divert her attention away from the so-changed child before her eyes, but Rei and Matsuki Ito are coming their way to greet her and Fuyumi turns her face to say hello to her oldest brother and his wife-to-be.
They sit together throughout the ceremony, and then must part to take separate limos to the reception. The gathering turns out to be a lot like her own, the same sea of faces with the addition of a couple new ones as well. There are fewer children, as well, and the food is different, but the scene awakens a sense of fond and bittersweet remembrance within Fuyumi, and she unhooks herself from Shinichi's arm to tap Kyouya on the shoulder.
"Dance with me, Kyouya-kun?" she requests, smiling.
He smiles back at her reservedly, and opens his mouth on the brink of speech before Yoshio Ootori places a hand on Kyouya's other shoulder, steering him away from his sister and toward the dolled-up daughter of some influential family around his age. Fuyumi is shocked for a moment before sinking into an unethical pout with a sour disposition that lasted until Hitori noticed her child's funk and drew her aside with a maternal air.
"Fuyumi-chan," the older woman says sweetly, and the Ootori-turned-Watanuki notices, for the first time, just how grey her mother's hair has turned. "Fuyumi-chan, your father is shaping Kyouya for success. He was breed for achievement, after all."
"Mother, he's the third son!" Fuyumi exclaims in a whispered flourish. "You and I both know that Father has no intention of giving him anything that remotely qualifies as 'success'. He shouldn't be using him like that."
Hitori sighs as the band strikes up a slow tune, and watches as her thirteen-year-old son dances with random girls without a complaint. "Do not be so opinionated, Fuyumi. Kyouya understands this, so try to do so, too," the matriarch snaps with frayed nerves. "Now, go dance with your husband and stop sitting around and pinning after your little brother."
At twenty-four, Fuyumi must watch as a blond half-breed barges into Kyouya's life, demanding the two be friends. She folds Kyouya's cloths haphazardly while her little brother rants about the chairman of Ouran's illegitimate son. His shirts are littered everywhere, thanks to her insane need to rummage and familiarize herself with everything new about him. For some reason, as soon as Fuyumi mentions the Hokkaido brochure that was thrown in with all his homework, he flies off the handle, snapping his pen in a single hand. It was shocking, really, seeing as it was the first time he had openly objected to a task set about by their father, and over stimulating as the boy started violently pacing, rambling and clenching his fists.
"He is such a total dumbass! I hate him! I really hate him!"
And it makes her smile as she watches her younger brother assault the back of his couch.
I was going to tell him that if it's something he really hates, he shouldn't bother with it, Fuyumi thinks, leaning softly on the door frame to his bedroom quarters. But...I've never seen him so passionate about something.
And instantly she feels jealous.
When Fuyumi turns twenty-five, she screams at both her parents for the first time, shouting and ranting as hot tears ran down her cheeks. "How could you, Father!?!?!? You hit him!! You've never done that before!! What...what the fuck were you thinking?!?!?"
Hitori and Yoshio take the insults quietly and don't even flinch when their daughter swears. Their eyes are downcast, and he holds a neatly folded square of paper between his fingers, flipping it over and over as Fuyumi paces in his study. Her grey eyes are alight, menacing and brimming with unspeakable anger; her lips pressed in a thin line if not flapping with rants and swear words.
"Just because Grand Tonnerre ripped your company out from under you doesn't give you the right to take out you anger on him!"
"Fuyumi," Hitori attempts to appease.
"No, Mother. He's horrible! Can't you see that!?!" the brunette's hands have joined the fray; jumping everywhere in wild gestures, and her neatly compiled bun is slipping from atop her head in wavy whips. "Father," her gaze has snapped back to Yoshio, "If you don't do something—anything—to rectify this and make it up to Kyouya, I will never forgive you."
Fuyumi's hands were curling subconsciously into fists, and as soon as she realized this, she forced them to relax. Her eyes are fixed on the glassy film that that covers Yoshio's eyes, and she considers using the position she has in the Watanuki family as leverage, and recklessly opens her mouth to speak.
"I didn't loose my company," the older man says quietly, and his daughter freezes.
"I didn't loose my company, Fuyumi," Yoshio repeated. "A student investor bought the branch before Grand Tonnerre, and then returned it to me. So, Fuyumi, while I may have lost the branch for a day or two, it is still in my power."
Her mood brightened visibly, but Fuyumi forced herself to look pissed off and sour. "The company you were considering handing over to Kyouya? Then your assured intentions to give it to him can serve as your apology." Both arms folded securely under her breasts, ruffling the designer business suit she wore.
Yoshio shook his head. "No."
"Kyouya doesn't want the company. The investor was anonymous—the only calling card we have to go on are the initials 'K.O.'" Fuyumi's eyebrows shoot upwards into her fringe. "And it doesn't take a genius to figure out who that is, Kyouya threw the company right back into my face, an act I consider as his declaration of not wanting the branch at all."
"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Fuyumi erupted into laughter, throwing her hand back and allowing the last strand of hair to fall out of the bun. "Ohhh! I knew it!! I knew it!!" Triumphantly, she pointed directly at her father and fought down the laughter. "Oh, he's brilliant. He's a protégée, that one! Oh, I knew it from the beginning he was special—different. My, my god! Oh, it's almost as if this family doesn't deserve him."
And she exits her father's study, cackling still and clutching her stomach. It takes hours for Fuyumi's laughter to vacate the Ootori estate.
Twenty-six-years-old, Fuyumi has barricaded herself in the upper bathroom of the Watanuki estate. The water is flowing freely from the tap, hot and steaming and thick layers of bubbles send fruity aromas into the air. She sits, legs crossed on the closed toilet seats, wither her elbows on her knees and chin cradled in both upturned palms. On the bathroom counter lays three objects, all in a neatly arranged row: a silver rimmed cell phone, flipped open to reveal the illuminated number dials, a small, rectangular cardboard box with loopy writing and tiny, cramped medical risks and directions for its contents, and next to it, a pregnancy test.
She watches all three intently, almost as if they were talking to her, and exhales, already knowing what she had to do, and what she was going to do. She had also read the back of the box so many times that, by now, the directions had been ingrained into her mind's eye, or at least the important part. One line, blue, neutral. Two lines parallel, blue, not pregnant. Two lines, crossed, red, pregnant. She sighed and reached for the cell phone, pressing the number five and holding it down until the speed dial kicked in and the blocky lettering that spelled 'Kyouya Ootori' appeared above his number on the screen.
The cell rang once, twice mechanically before the sound of the call being accepted beeped and a semi-distracted and casual, "Hello? Kyouya Ootori speaking," sounded.
And Fuyumi couldn't help but grin and chuckle shakily. "Hey, Kyouya-san." She can't remember when she started thinking of her little brother as 'Kyouya-san' instead of 'Kyouya-kun' (but it's possible that the date she learned about Kyouya's little stunt with the medical company coincide) but even now she can't help but call him that, and the boy doesn't seem to mind.
A pause, during which time she can hear what sounds like Tamaki Suoh wailing and the insane cackling of the Hitachin twins in the background. "Oh, hello, Fuyumi. What are you doing? Any particular reason for your call?" No matter how impersonal the words themselves are, Fuyumi has mastered reading between her sibling's covert moods and vocalizations.
"Ah, no, Kyouya-san," she replies, relaxing into the feeling of normalcy that she gets from talking to him. "Just to say hi. Are you too busy?"
"No, not incredibly. Besides, these idiots can wait." In the background, again, Tamaki's wailing increases and something crashes. "Just to say hi?"
"Yeah," Fuyumi shrugs even though he cannot see her and glances over at the bathtub and then towards the counter. "I just wanted to—I'm pregnant."
Silence. Even the stupid blond King of the Host Club's ranting seemed dulled. She can practically hear the 'shing' of light refracting off glasses pushed up the bridge of his nose, and shivers, scrambling to grab the test and double check the results. Sure enough. One red cross.
"Congratulations, Fuyumi. That's wonderful." And this time, she can't quite discern the emotion behind his words. "Have you told father or mother yet?"
The bubbles in the tub managed to reach the lip of the deep bath, and the woman stood to turn off the water knob, tugging her fluffy bathrobe around herself more securely. "No. I haven't even told Shinichi yet. I don't know how he'll react..."
"Why did you call me first? Shouldn't you have told him?"
"He's in Egypt for a month," her voice quavered, and Fuyumi gulped, attempting to steady her breathing and nerves. "I...I don't want to disturb him."
There's silence and it doesn't even sound like Kyouya is in the Host Club room anymore. "Fuyumi, are you alright with this? No one is forcing you to have this baby."
The woman forces a laugh that must sound mechanical before sighing and placing the white stick back onto the counter. "Kyouya-san...Do you think I did a good job...helping with you?"
More silence, a heavily pregnant pause (no pun intended). "I think you'd make an excellent mother, Fuyumi. You have that kind of instinct and I believe you will make just as good a mother as our mother, and an even better mother than a sister. Your child is very lucky."
She snorted, resisting the urge to laugh out loud or cry about that and she chewed her lower lip to resist doing either. Her hands twisted guiltily in her lap and Fuyumi closed her eyes. "No I won't," she said quietly, immediately continuing so there was no room for Kyouya to comment. "I'm going to be a better mother, Kyouya-san. I'm going to be a perfect mother."