I'm a Little Teapot
Shortly after the incident involving that mysterious man in black, the clouds rumbled in the sky. Dark and heavy with rain, they rolled through the once clear sky. Fat raindrops fell to the dry earth and rolled down the window planes where Hotaru was watching silently. After her father had found out that 'Mr. Jackal' visited the headquarters again for a second time he had quickly without word took Hotaru back home. He also sent the other Pre-Brats home and got the others to explore and inspect the 'playhouse' the children received. Until Heero was sure that this man was not going to come back or bring harm to anyone especially Hotaru; Hotaru much to her dismay was currently trapped in the Winner household whether she liked it or not. Hotaru hated to be locked away in the house because she didn't get to do anything. Heero hated to lock Hotaru away like this because she would always get less childish when she had time to think. He would much rather prefer her being innocent and child-like, even if she did tend to go off with strange men dressed in black as a result. Unfortunately, at the moment however it could not be helped, Hotaru was stuck.
"Like a princess in a tower," Hotaru thought as she curled up in her niche where the window was.
The thought actually amused Hotaru, the idea that she was like a princess who was locked up in a tower. She stretched like a cat after getting tired of watching fat raindrops roll down the window. Hotaru Yuy was bored, she had played her violin, done her homework and right now her toys were strewed across her floor as the result of her playing by herself. Right now, no one was but Duo was at home, seeing as someone had to stay behind and baby-sit her lest she get into some sort of trouble, or worse yet get kidnapped. Hotaru suddenly burst into a fit of giggles, no matter how serious she was, Hotaru was still a ten year old child, one that was a Pre-Brat and the 'niece' of Duo Maxwell. Trouble was abound when children were bored, foremost children like Hotaru. Jumping off her perch Hotaru scurried out of her room, paying little heed to the toys in her way.
"Uncle Duo!" Hotaru called out in a singsong voice.
The pitter-patter of little feet hurrying down the hallway could not be missed by Duo who was lightly dozing on the couch. Cracking one eye open, he wondered what on earth that kid could be up to. It was only a matter of time that Hotaru would become bored, sitting up and swinging his legs over the couch. Duo sat there, waiting for Hotaru, knowing her, she probably would want him to play dolls with her. Not that Duo minded, anything to keep the munchkin happy. She did seem pretty down when she couldn't go with Heero to Preventers anymore.
"Uncle Duooo," Hotaru called down as she peeked into the living room.
Duo grinned, "What's up kiddo?"
Hotaru pounced on him, hugging him and pretty much crawling all over the braided pilot. Somehow in the middle of all of this Duo and Hotaru got into a tickle fight, Duo especially tickled back fiercely after Hotaru yanked his braid. The two tumbled of f the couch; the loud thump attracted the attention of Shadow and Neo, Hotaru's beloved dogs. Dogs as a general rule grew fast, and these dogs being Labradors were large dogs to being with. Within middles the dogs, uncle and child were a mass of bodies on the floor, which was how Quatre found them when he walked in. The blond pilot could not help but smile at the image it made of a squealing child and barking dogs with a grown man pretending to be a, what seemed to be a 'tickle monster'.
"Uncle Quatre!" Hotaru shrieked into a fit of giggles, "Help me!"
Quatre strolled into the room, "Come now, off with you."
Quatre grabbed Duo by the shoulders and hauled him up. Duo who had held Hotaru by the waist lifted her up slinging her over his shoulder. She shrieked a bit more as her hair swung about. Her hair had grown a great deal over the past months since Heero had found her (longer than her unknown previous life). Though Hotaru kept whining she wanted it cut, which was interesting to him. Most little girls he knew would scream over getting it trimmed, or perhaps it was just his little nieces. After all, even in having Hotaru around for as long as they had, they still didn't know everything about raising a child at all. They never even had time to adjust to each age, only going from one age to another in a span of a few months. Still, Quatre figured as he 'rescued' Hotaru from Duo. No matter what, this little girl was a blessing.
"I thought you had to work today Uncle Quatre," Hotaru said curiously.
Quatre grinned as he held her, "Well, I figured I should be back here to make lunch, unless you want Uncle Duo to make your lunch."
"No!" Hotaru wrapped her arms around Quatre's neck as if to get away from some unknown figure.
"Hey!" Duo shouted indignity, "I'm not that bad am I?"
"Uncle Duo," Hotaru said with all seriousness, "Remember the time how you made boiled eggs and they turned out to be a bit green?"
"Heh… yea I remember, but they didn't taste bad…"
"Well, they wouldn't have if you didn't decide it was a good idea to try and season those boiled eggs," Quatre replied.
"Well, okay- so there was that-"
"And remember the time you tried to make that crème stuff?"
"But I'm not a bad cook!" Duo protested waving his arms.
Quatre nodded, "True, your only problem is your try to make things more difficult by making it fancy and then it turns bad."
Duo couldn't really argue with that, it wasn't that overall he was a bad cook, but the problem was he always tried to make it more difficult than it really was. The ending result then was something of a complete mess, which was why he was banned from the kitchen to even to this day. His being banned from making the main meals might explain why it was Quatre who was home to cook. Hotaru, noticing that Duo looked defeated leaned over from Quatre's arms and kissed Duo on the cheek.
"That's okay Uncle Duo," Hotaru comforted him, "I love you anyways, and you're the only one who'll make peanut butter apples for me."
"Welll…." Duo chuckled back, "Now that you put it that way, I'll make peanut butter apples just for you okay?"
"Okay! And then later we can have a royal tea party!" Hotaru exclaimed back.
Duo looked with begging eyes over to Quatre, who only had a twinkle of mischief in his. He never minded in playing with Hotaru, it was just that Quatre was better at playing tea parties with Hotaru. Even Heero was better at playing tea parties, but then again that man could indulge Hotaru in a lot of things.
"I have to head back right after lunch," Quatre replied, "So you'll have to go to the Queen's tea party instead of me Duo."
The amusement was barely kept out of Quatre's voice, as the blond pilot turned to carry Hotaru to the kitchen Duo watched him leave. Duo could imagine Quatre chuckling to himself with his back turned, not that Duo could blame him. Nearly everyone, including Trowa had been talked into at least one tea party and Relena encouraged it by teaching Hotaru the teapot song. A song that Hotaru was in fact singing as Quatre prepared sandwiches for lunch when Duo strolled in.
"Here is my handle, here is my sprout," Hotaru sang happily mimicking the movements.
For some reason Hotaru seemed to have a fascination for tea parities and royal courts. This royal court bordered along the lines of fantasy where the royalty were the Princesses and Princes of all the planets of in the solar system. Actually in truth, the court was ruled by females, now that Duo thought about it. There were only princesses destined to be queens and only one man who would marry a future queen, who was the one ruler. Sally thought Hotaru just had a healthy belief in female power.
"Tip! Me over and pour me out!" Hotaru finished jumping up and down.
Quatre turned around with a plateful of small sandwich, "All ready! Just in time huh?"
Little legs blurred as Hotaru rushed back and forth setting the table up with plates, glasses and napkins. Duo helped Quatre with the lunch, keeping themselves from tripping over the little child. Jumping on top of a chair, Hotaru waved them over. They sat down to a more or less calm manner and finished the lunch in good time. Too soon for Duo, Quatre was preparing to leave again for Prevneter's HQ.
"I already have the tea prepared," Quatre told Duo as he gathered up some papers he left in his study.
"Tea? I thought kids only pretended to use tea, not drink actual tea," Duo commented.
Quatre smiled fondly, "Well it seemed Hotaru once got into Wufei's tea and seem to be fond of it, the only thing she likes better than what Wufei drinks is green tea."
"Great…. And here I thought I could break out the soda or something," Duo was not as fond of tea as Quatre or Wufei was.
"You'll survive," Quatre grinned as he patted Duo on the back, "Good luck."
"Right…." Duo murmured sarcastically, "I'll be just fine."
"I have been just fine," Duo mocked bowed at Hotaru who was dressed up in her old Halloween costume.
"Why, that is wonderful," Hotaru replied happily, "Queen Moon will be happy to hear that, come on everyone is waiting for you to start the tea party."
Duo followed Hotaru to the 'court' where all of her dolls were set up. One for every planet (or in Queen Moon's case, the moon) set up around the main queen. Well, every planet except Saturn, that planet was reserved just for Hotaru. She always seemed to have an odd fascination with the solar system. The room had not changed a whole lot, only there was a bed instead of a crib and a small play table instead of a change table. The rocking chair was still there, but along with the rocking chair was a small, low desk with a child's computer. It was a big room to begin with (as most of Quatre's rooms were) so it didn't at all look crowded even with the extra furniture around. Not even with the building blocks towers that were arranged around the room to be 'watch towers' and 'look outs' for Hotaru's kingdom.
In the middle of the room was a low table where one would have to kneel in order to use it. Surrounding the table sitting neatly along a row was the court, complete with all the queens (and one king) that Hotaru had collected in her time growing up. Flanking her little court was the black, white and grey cats that Hotaru since she was a baby. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Duo noticed that Quatre had even set out little cookies for Hotaru and him to munch on.
"Everyone is so glad you're here Lord Maxwell," Hotaru said in her most airy voice.
"Thank you Princess Hotaru," Duo grinned back.
She held up a teapot, "Would you like some tea?"
"Of course," Duo held out a teacup feeling a bit foolish and grateful no one was there to see him.
Tinny tiny tea leaves floated about in Duo's cup, clearly not strained, which wasn't unusual with Wufei's tea. Taking a sip of it, Duo tried to not grimace seeing as Hotaru also took a sip, but seemed to enjoy it enough. Who knew the kid liked her tea strong like Wufei and Quatre too? He sighed mentally, he was doing this for Hotaru, he had to remind himself.
"Would you like some cookies?" Hotaru help up a plate.
Duo nodded, "Thank you very much," he winked, "Mi'lady."
Though this wasn't really Duo's thing, he would just play along, after all kids needed to play. After all, as Quatre had reminded Duo before he left for work, a tea party only lasts as long as there was tea in the pot. Therefore speaking, she would have to end the tea party as soon as they ran out of tea. Granted, he wasn't sure what else he could do but nod his head at any dress comments Hotaru might talk about with her dolls. If he recalled correctly, little girls would talk about what kind of clothes their dolls wore and what kind of pretend 'events' or parties their dolls had gone through. At least he thought so, or at least that's what he had gotten when Quatre had played with his nieces, though he was never around when Hotaru played with Quatre. He had glimpsed Heero playing with Hotaru, but left before Heero would catch him. Duo valued his braid after all. The pale white and purple clock mounted on the wall decorated with wisteria vines, blooming with tiny flowers decorated all around. It ticked away the seconds, and minutes. Skinny hands moved tick by tick passing the minutes turning them into an hour, and then another.
Duo stared down at the empty tea cup trying to make a pattern out of the leftover tea leaves. It had been two hours since they had started and it was starting to feel like forever.
"What do you think Lord Maxwell?" Hotaru little voice piped up, "Don't you think it is better if they just open up those trade routes? After all it would improve their economy a lot."
"Yes…" Duo nodded.
Everyone knew that this child was not normal; after all she grew so fast, but never before was Duo reminded exactly how smart and unusual Hotaru was until he decided to join in on her tea party. Instead of choosing to talk about pretty dress and pretend parties, or balls or whatever normal little girls talk about Hotaru had chosen completely unusual topics and realistic ones. If Relena had really stayed on to be Queen of the Sank kingdom (though she still retained a royal title to a point) Hotaru would have completely fit in. Who knows, maybe she was trying to train herself to walk in her mother's shoes. So far in the past hour or two she had at first talked about little things like about possible boyfriends and the like, but then she began talking about those things. Trade agreements, political conflicts and hot topics which made Duo suspect that Hotaru was reading the newspaper when no one was looking. At least the current trade agreement she was talking about closely echoed the current trouble going on between two of the minor colonies. The only difference there was that she changed the names and places, and he was grateful now that he read the newspaper on a regular basis. Since it seemed like Hotaru expected him to know what was going on. What probably scared him the most was that she seemed very serious about it, and she actually knew what she was talking about compared to most university students!
"Uh oh…. We have talked for so long," Hotaru smiled, "And now all the tea and cookies are gone…"
Duo smiled, mentally relieved, "I suppose we should call it a day."
Hotaru nods, "Let's have another one soon!"
As Duo pretended to wave good bye to Hotaru, he secretly hoped that soon wouldn't be too soon. Maybe he should pawn off the next tea party on Quatre, this seemed to be more his thing. Did Quatre or Heero know about the stuff Hotaru talked about? Maybe, Duo figured that Quatre had encouraged such talk to get Hotaru to learn. After all it was kind of hard to teach a little kid about world issues without a bit of help. Then again it would have been Relena, since Relena wanted Hotaru to learn manners that she might need. He mused about this for a while as he stretched himself out on the couch. Who knew where Hotaru learned all that stuff, she probably did read the newspaper when no one was looking. Closing his eyes, Duo was sure he could trust Hotaru to keep out of trouble for at least a few minutes. Complete silence, with only the small padding of little feet and the clicking of dog claws in the hallway. That was the nice thing about looking after Hotaru was that unlike other kids he had heard of she was pretty quite and kept herself busy well enough. She never made a fuss, which was good since the others wouldn't be back till very late. Quatre, Trowa, Heero and Relena had some kind of charity ball or another to go to tonight. Wufei was going to be taking care of security that night as well, the only reason why he was not going was because they figured at least one person should stay behind to look after Hotaru. They would have gotten Millardo or Noin to go instead, but they were also needed, mainly to be at the ball to represent the Preventers with Lady Une.
"Uncle Duo," a small voice woke him.
Turning his head Duo opened his eyes to see Hotaru standing there with her dogs panting happily behind her. She was still in her princess costume and in her hands she held her special little teapot. Hotaru gave his this cute little smile that seemed to be nearly mischievous, or if one had watched too many horror movies creepy. How could one not think it was a bit creepy? No matter how many times or for how long Heero or Relena took Hotaru out to play she never tanned. Her skin never darken, it remained pale as the day Heero found her. Her dark purple hair, her wide dark eyes and dark rich purple dress only emphasised her pale skin. The fact the sun behind Duo was setting, casting is rosy glow on her painting her pale skin an orange-red colour. Her growing hair swayed a bit as Hotaru looked at Duo with a growing smile.
"Let's have a tea party."
"Uhm… Uncle Duo is kind of tired right now," Duo told her, "How about later?"
"Okay," Hotaru continued to smile and walked away.
He couldn't help but shiver a bit, that was just plain creepy, though he couldn't really put his finger on it. It was a good thing it wasn't Halloween, otherwise he would have been even more creep out. Had Duo been paying attention he would have heard Hotaru giggling from behind a wall, this was so amusing. Hotaru giggled again as she rushed off to get some cookies. Not able to go and doze off again Duo hauled himself up, figuring that getting a drink would wake him up a bit. Padding his way towards the kitchen Duo yawned, scratching his head as he reached up to grab a cup. Turning around, Duo jumped out of his skin when he found Hotaru standing right behind him holding out a plate of cookies.
"Shall we have a tea party now?"
She smiled up innocently at him, holding out what looked like to be misshapen cookies. Now off the top of Duo's head he couldn't figure out where the cookies come from, but since they looked like lumps of black gunk. The fact that the bubbles on the surface popped and collapsed making some of those 'cookies' look pox marked did not reassure Duo the least bit.
"Uhm… well, I… was actually going to get something to drink," Duo murmured.
Hotaru smiled even wider, "Oh that's okay Uncle Duo. We have tea."
"Tea? But I thought we finished the te-"
A shrieking whistle pierced the air, startling Duo as he turned to attack the intruder. The intruder, as it turned out was a kettle pot that was ready to boil over. He didn't recall putting the kettle on, especially since he wasn't fond of tea. Hotaru could have, but she was too young to be messing with the stove, Heero would freak.
"Hotaru, you didn't-" he turned to ask, only to find that she had disappeared, cookies and all, "I'm starting to regret teaching her how to sneak around," Duo muttered under his breath.
The kettle shrieked louder if possible as Duo tried to figure out where Hotaru went to, in fact it was beginning to boil over. The braided pilot had to do a double take, as it boiled over what looked to be black bubbly liquid. He stared at the kettle for a second or two before taking it off the stove, holding it out imagining that it probably smelt as bad as it looked. Well, he didn't know if it smelt bad, but he wasn't going to take the chance that it did. Pouring out the bubbly substance into the sink, hot steam rose up in a cloud as it hissed against the cool metal bottom. Chucks of something splattered upon the steel surface of the sink, and Duo didn't feel like studying them too closely, since he was trying to empty the kettle of its contents.
"Tip me over and pour me out…." Hotaru's voice sang from the top of the stairs.
"Hotaru, stay there!" Duo shouted over his shoulder as he shook the kettle of its last drops.
Dumping it into the sink he rushed towards the stairs, wiping his hands on his pants. They were black anyways; it wouldn't have matter if he wiped the black stuff on his pants. Skidding to a stop, the same marble stairs where Duo first met Hotaru loomed over him. The sun's last dying rays hitting the white marble drenched it in red colour. Hotaru was not there, only darkness where the light did not reach. Rubbing the back of his neck, Duo looked around him; he forgot how the sun tended to set nearly now that it was fall. He really wished one of the guys was there with him. Call hi ma chicken, but being alone in Quatre's house, and it was a huge ass house, was kind of creepy at night alone. Granted, he was not alone by any means, but a little girl who could make herself disappear did not help matters.
"Hotaru?" Duo called up those empty stairs.
Not a sound, nor peep that Duo could hear. Footsteps echoed in the hallway to his right, Duo whirled around scanning the room for any sign of life. His heart nearly stopped dead, there was nothing, no sound. Duo mentally kicked himself.
"Stupid, there is more than one way to get down from the first floor," he scolded himself.
The house, Quatre had explained was created not by his father but by some family member who was a tad eccentric. There were many passages in this house and the more obscured ones did not lead anywhere specific. Fun, when Duo himself wanted to play a prank on someone, not fun when he was stuck in a very large house in the dark. Again with that thought about being in the dark, Duo hit himself on the head again as he turned to switch on the lights. Lights flickered on as the hallways and the stairs brighten up, now looking less intimidating. Making his way up the stairs Duo's senses were heighten as each step he took echoed in his ears. In his mind, Duo kept telling himself it was silly, no, it was stupid to be freaked out by the mischievous nature of a little girl. He paused. A flip of the switch and the hallway leading to the bedrooms lit up.
"I'm a little teapot…"
That song again drifted through the house, only this time Duo was sure it was coming from the main floor instead from the upper floor. He rushed back, searching every room for Hotaru. This was really, really creeping him out and the sooner he found the little monster the better off he would be. Checking the clock, Duo noticed it was seven o'clock.
"Hotaru? You know kid it's dinner time, so if you come up we could have pizza or something," Duo called out.
"Short and snout…"
He poked his head into the living room, sure that this is where the kid was. Did she learn how to throw her voice or something? Somehow it wouldn't surprise Duo at all.
"Here is my handle, here is my spout…"
"Hotaru, this isn't funny anymore!"
He kicked open doors, looked back and forth as he shuffled down the hallways of the large manor. Duo swore under his breath, he was so going to ask Quatre for a smaller place when everyone got back. He was also going to ground Hotaru when he got his hands on her.
"Hear me shout…"
He got it, he knew exactly where Hotaru was, her most favourite place in the house. Dashing down one random hallway, Duo threw the doors of the library open. Stalking into the dark library Duo peered down each corridor until he made his way to the heart of the library. There sitting in the centre of the library with the curtains of the large windows thrown open. The rising moon's light slowly began to filter down upon Hotaru and the little people surrounding her.
"Tip me over and pour me out…" Hotaru sang softly as she poured a dark purple liquid into a tiny tea cup.
Moonlight danced upon her head like a strange halo. In the slight light Duo could make out the little people as the dolls of her court. All were wearing black instead of their usual colourful royal dresses. Hotaru's own dress looked more black than purple, or was it his imagination. Shadow and Neo were flanking the little court, or was it? Shadow was there, Duo was sure, but the other dog was as black as Shadow. She looked up at Duo and gave him her strange smile.
"Good evening Lord Maxwell, won't you join us for tea?" she asked so innocently.
Quatre sighed as he turned the key in the lock, letting others in. It had be an awfully long day for everyone and with people endlessly bothering Relena with pointless things. Heero looked like he was at the end of his patience, which was saying a lot since there were times he didn't have any. Wufei was grumbling about injustice and Trowa's eyes seemed to be a more tired than usual.
"Hotaru! Duo! We're home!" Relena called out.
No little feet sounded of coming towards them, and no loud annoying greeting of Duo. Where were they? Heero frowned, had Duo taken Hotaru out for dinner? He checked his watch, it was eight at night, that shouldn't' be the case. Hotaru should at least be getting ready for bed. Putting a finger to his lips, Heero motioned to the others to stay quiet. Trowa tugged Wufei's sleeve and motioned that they would take the upstairs. Heero, taking Relena's arm led the way towards the kitchen with Quatre. Most of the lights were on, which saved them from pausing. The kitchen was abandoned, with an empty mug on the counter top and an upturned kettle in the sink. Relena peered into the sink to see black/blue clumps and liquid. Quatre searched around, and saw a small box stuffed clumsily into a corner, curious, he reached out for it. Heero immediately checked the patio door for intruders that might have came from the backyard. Opening the door, his foot hit something with a soft clink. The worried pilot looked down to see one of Quatre's small china plate full of brown or black cookies. Kneeling down to take a better look, Heero found that those cookies were nothing but lumps of mud. He shrugged, seeing nothing wrong with it, he had heard of children who made mud pies before. There was nothing unusual about mud cookies.
"Found anything," Heero asked as he headed back into the kitchen.
"I think the kettle had baking soda and something that looks like black and blue water," Relena founded, wiping a bit of it up with her finger.
"It's food colouring," Quatre held up a box, "Looks like someone was playing a prank."
"Duo?" Heero thought immediately, it would be like Duo to do that while they were gone.
"Don't think so…" Trowa murmured as he and Wufei came into the kitchen, "We found Duo."
"And?" Heero raised a brow.
"More spooked than a skittish colt," Wufei supplied.
Indeed it he was, for as Trowa and Wufei searched each room one by one to see any sign of any one of the two occupants. Wufei was trying Duo's door only to find it lock. He got Trowa's attention and pointed at the door. Nodding, Trowa shuffled around in his pockets for his lock picks. It took only a minute before Trowa heard the satisfying sound of the lock clicking. Standing on each side of the door, Trowa carefully pushed open with the door. Peering around the corner, they saw Duo, huddled on his bed.
"She's scary… she's scary…"
"And that's how we found him," Wufei finished, "It looks like whatever Hotaru did, she freaked him quite out of his skin."
"Fun…" Heero rolled his eyes, "I think I know what happened," he looked over his shoulder toward the mess in the sink.
"Duo said that Hotaru was camping out in the library, but she seemed to have been terrorizing him all evening," Trowa added.
Duo was indeed right, for there, in the centre of the library, with all the lights on most importantly. Hotaru was on the phone, giggling mischievously with her dolls strewed around her, dressed in what looked like black kerchiefs. Shadow was laying down watching its mistress with boredom. Neo was trying to shake off black mud from its fur coat.
"It was excellent Zack," Hotaru giggled, "You have the most wonderful ideas. Yes… I didn't think he would be so creeped out. Am I that scary?"
Heero cleared his throat.
Hotaru looked up, "I have to go Zack, busted… Hi Daddy…"
Squatting down Heero looked into her tea cup, bringing it up to his nose, "Grape juice?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Hotaru answered pitifully.
Heero shook his head and sighed, "What am I going to do?"
"Go say sorry to Uncle Duo, and next time, try not scaring him too badly?"
Now this is a filler, and right in time for Halloween! Granted the whole event takes place in November technically speaking, but oh well… it's scary. I swear… Hotaru would look so scary dressing as a Goth, which with her dark clothes… actually I've seen some very nice Goth clothes… she would look very pretty in them. Anyhow… moving on…
This will be the final filler before things start moving along. If I'm good it'll be done by December, however that is to trust me to keep writing and the fact I did all of this in class, while listening to my professor at the same time (meaning I have no notes for those classes whatsoever) isn't very promising. Oh and don't worry about class… its English stuff and I don't tend to write unless I really don't understand the concept. Trust me if I wasn't doing this… pen and paper… I think the last time I took that to class I had more doodles than notes. Point is though… my lecture time… well the few I have where I can pull that off is the only time I have to really and truly write. Not only did this get finished Friday, but on the weekend two essays were finished. Don't' ask me why, they thought it was a good idea to make them both due on Halloween… odd… Anyhow I have research papers, so sit tight. I'll see what I can come up with.