At long, LONG last, we hit Book 6. Don't worry, folks: this one's only one chapter.
...I hated having to read through Mai-chan's Daily Life for this Book.
If you want to check out Lance-the-Young's Erika-verse works on Deviant-Art to get a better grasp on the characters, go ahead.
THE FOLLOWING THINGS ARE THE PROPERTIES OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS; I DO NOT OWN THEM AND MAKE NO MONEY OFF OF THIS STORY
Mahō Shōjo Lyrical Nanoha (Teana, concept of Intelligent Devices, some magic) – 7Arcs
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (Shion) – 07th Expansion and Studio Deen
Shuffle! (Kaede Fuyō) – Navel and Asread
Erika's New Perfume (Marie, Sarah, Erika, Timmy, Veronica) – DeviantArtist 'Lance the Young'
Mai-chan's Daily Life (Mai, other characters) – Waita Uziga
Star Wars (Ahsoka, Cody, Rex) – George Lucas, Lucasfilm
Halo (Forerunners, UNSC, Sangheili Alliance) – Bungie, 343 Industries
StarCraft (multiple mentions of characters, events, and devices) – Blizzard Entertainment
Naruto (techniques, abilities) – Masashi Kishimoto
Mahō Sensei Negima (spells, abilities) – Ken Akamatsu
-BOOK 6 START-
Kaede Ishiyama was nervous, not that she'd ever let it show. Over the past two weeks, the small slaver ring she was part of had been getting rapidly smaller, members & owners/buyers turning up dead with their slaves nowhere to be found. Presently she walked through her mansion/headquarters, the place empty other than her. Ever since Mai had been apparently swallowed up by a dimensional dislocation right before Kaede's eyes shortly after the incident that left Mai's newborn baby dead and Kaede's left eye gouged out, the place had been empty and quiet… too quiet for Kaede's tastes, really. It left her feeling paranoid.
Suddenly, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as a burst of static energy surged in and then immediately subsided. She quickly recognized the feeling she'd felt when the dimensional rift had swallowed up Mai. Drawing a sword that had once been used to sever Mai's limbs from time to time, she cautiously crept through the house, searching for intruders as she neared the main hall. She entered the huge room, her footsteps echoing.
She spun around, and saw a figure standing in the shadows. The short figure walked forward into the full moon's light, revealing herself, and Kaede I. stifled a gasp. The girl with shoulder-length light-brown hair and piercing green eyes had a body showing toned, lean muscle in addition to feminine curves, clad in a dark grey outfit that bore the Greek letter "Gamma" on the right chest, next to the number '6'. Where there was once a look of fearful submission and false cheer, her eyes now showed calm hatred and restrained anger.
"Mai? …Where have you been?"
"With us" Shion replied as she emerged from the shadows, standing at Mai's side. Soon, the other four members of Gamma Team emerged as well. Every one of them was glaring at her hatefully.
"Who are you girls?"
"Mai-chan and these other five found their way to me from across the realms" Teana replied. "Together we are Gamma Team, elite Spec-Ops team of and envoys for the United Nations Space Command, the dominant human government of the realm that we converged in. We've been traveling the realms, growing stronger as we… solve problems… that come our way. …You're a problem that needs to be 'solved'. You tortured a member of my team, leaving psychological scars that might never heal!"
"You did horrible things to my friend… my lover…" Shion growled, standing close to Mai.
"You're a high-ranking official in a slavery ring," Ahsoka spoke lowly, "one that we've spent the last several days tearing down."
"You've ruined the lives of innocent people for your own sick pleasures" Marie spat out angrily.
Mai stepped forward. "For Sayuri… For Kizuna… I can never forgive you, Ishiyama" Mai said the woman's surname like it were a foul curse.
"That isn't how I told you to address me, girl" Kaede I. said in a low, venomous tone.
"It's partly out of obvious disrespect and hatred," Kaede F. replied, "partly to signify her severing from you, and mainly because you and I have the same given name; it's a disassociation thing."
"Thank you for explaining it to Ishiyama, Kaede-chan" Mai said to the orange-haired girl at her side, who nodded in reply.
"Though to be fair, she and I use different kanji for our names…" Kaede F. thought aloud.
"Focus, Fuyō" Shion replied.
Kaede I. looked at the six angry teen girls staring her down. Her gaze shifted to Shion. "Your lover, you say?"
Shion let a small smile form. "For every bit of pain and sadness you've caused her, I've given her pleasure and love twice over. A delicate touch where steel once cut, a teasing kiss where needles once jabbed, a soft tongue where spikes and weapons once tore, a climax of ecstasy for every wound you ever dealt her, a warm embrace and content night to replace the agony and loneliness that you once infected her life with. Her body is mine to please and pamper and caress and love, just as mine is hers. No pain mars our time together; only the heights of pleasure and care. I don't let your specter haunt her anymore."
Mai blushed lightly and smiled. "Shion…"
"Hmph …So what do you plan on doing with me, Mai?" Kaede I. asked. "Lecture me? Scream at me?"
"No. I'm going to kill you" Mai replied. With that, she rushed forward, thoroughly surprising her former owner. A hasty downward swing of the metal blade missed, and Mai landed a quick barrage of punishing uppercuts into Ishiyama's midsection. The older woman leapt back, stoic anger on her face.
"Leave us, girls" Mai said. "I won't need any help for this one."
"Holler if you change your mind" Ahsoka replied as she and the other four spread out to look for condemning evidence.
"Wretched brat!" Ishiyama growled. "You need to learn your place!"
"I already know my place!" Mai replied. "It is with my team, my friends!"
The ensuing kick sent Kaede I. skidding backward, as Mai picked another sword up from a cabinet nearby (this blade was the one Ishiyama liked to use to decapitate Mai back in the old days, she recognized) and charged. The two blades clashed, sparks flying and steel ringing as the swordfight commenced.
Several minutes later, Ahsoka and Marie were in a hidden computer room they'd found. The data here was a veritable mother load, listing client info (names, locations, and such) along with contacts, suppliers, and other damning evidence, including video footage of some of Mai's old "sessions" (Marie nearly threw up). Suddenly, the two girls jumped in surprise as the wall behind them was busted inward. Splayed out atop the rubble was the battered and beaten form of Kaede Ishiyama, laying still. Mai stood, panting lightly, her fist smoldering slightly. She looked around and then walked up to the primary terminal, checking it out as Marie & Ahsoka looked at the secondaries. Mai poured over the data, memorizing it as it was copied into a datapad.
As she went over it, she suddenly charged her left arm with chakra and swept backward, shattering the blade that Kaede Ishiyama, standing behind her, had raised to stab down at her with. In one fluid motion, Mai activated her plasma sword in her right hand as she spun, and rammed it through Ishiyama's chest. The woman let out a strangled gasp, a thoroughly shocked expression on her face as she tried and failed to draw breath.
"That was for Sayuri and Kizuna, you bitch" Mai growled.
The woman let out one final exhale and then collapsed as Mai pulled her plasma blade free, falling to the ground dead. Several seconds later, Teana, Shion, & Kaede F. walked into the room, observing the aftermath of Mai's revenge. Teana nodded in approval.
"ONI operatives can take care of rescuing most of the remaining enslaved" Mai said. "But there's one that I want us to rescue personally."
"Lead the way" Teana replied.
"Ma'am!" one of her two hired guards/goons shouted over the intercom. "That 'Mai' girl's back, and this time she means business! She's got buddies and they've got guns! They're on their w-AARGH!-!"
Eremo Muraki was rather nervous now. The last time the slave girl had come by, she'd been like a lost puppy begging for scraps while following the boy, and was easily handled by her two hired goons. But now she was back with lethal weapons and backup? This… could get ugly. Within several seconds, her door was flung open by her other goon, and his attempt to say something was cut off by the 0000 buckshot tearing through his chest from behind. In a flash of movement, the spoiled girl found herself slammed against and pinned to a wall, a glowing blade held to her throat and Mai in her face, green eyes glowing slightly, canine teeth a tad elongated, and a deep growl issuing from her throat.
"Where. Is. Kizuna?"
Muraki was wide-eyed and trembling with terror; she thought herself lucky that she'd just used the restroom a few minutes previously, else there would have been another sign of her fear at the moment.
"I-I-Ishiyama-san will never let you get away with this!"
"See this plasma blade?" Mai replied, holding it a centimeter from Eremo's neck. "Yesterday evening, I rammed it straight through her chest. She's dead, as are most of the slave ring's personnel, with the few remaining not long to go, and the various 'clients' – you included – are presently being hunted down and either executed or taken into custody for the rest of their God-forsaken lives. Right now, I am STRONGLY debating whether or not to place you among the former or the latter. Which choice I make may depend on your answer. Now where is he?-!"
Mai's eyes widened as she looked to the left, spotting the familiar head of golden-blond hair, brown eyes staring wide at her, the 11-year-old looking a little thin but otherwise alright.
A Bind spell snapped into place as Teana arrived on-scene, holding Muraki in place and freeing Mai to rush over and embrace Kizuna tightly and hold onto him for dear life, which he returned. After nearly a solid minute, they slowly came apart, though still resting their hands on each other's sides.
"You came back…" he said in a whispered tone. "You came back for me…"
"How could I not?" Mai replied, tears in her eyes above a warm smile. "I've lost too many loved ones; now, I've got one back."
They hugged again. At this point, Shion walked into the room, standing next to them.
"So…" she said. "Does this mean that, in addition to you and Satoshi-kun sharing me, Mai, that Kizuna-kun and I are gonna be sharing you?"
The two regenerators blushed, and after a few seconds they nodded sheepishly, Kizuna nestling his head in-between Mai's breasts. In response, Shion hugged them both, pressing Kizuna between the two girls (and essentially sandwiching his head between two pairs of boobs… not that he minded, of course). As Muraki was escorted out, bound and at gunpoint, by Commander Cody who had just arrived on the scene, the other four girls of Gamma Team congregated around the three-person hug. Slowly, reluctantly, the trio disengaged, still maintaining physical contact.
"It's nice to finally meet you all in person…" Kizuna said.
"What?" Marie asked. "What do you mean?"
"…You mean you didn't know?"
"Know what?" Teana asked.
"The magically-made footage, that you girls showed the group of heroes on your last world… I saw it all too, along with "footage" of your time on that world, starting from Negi-san's first day of teaching and running all the way to the Last Precursor's destruction – flashbacks, background music, the works. I was the only one here who saw it, but… if I somehow saw it…"
"…Then others from our pasts might've as well…" Shion said, eyes wide.
"…Boss?" Marie asked, her tone carefully moderated. "How soon can the Starshot get us across the Pacific?"
"…I thought you'd be scared to face your family" Ahsoka said.
"I am. I'm terrified. But… Mai didn't run from her past… I… I shouldn't either…"
"What if… All of our 'home groups' saw everything… and are seeing this right now, too?" Kaede murmured, a slight hint of panic in her eyes.
"Well, it may not be 'right now'" Ahsoka replied. "The passage of time between realms isn't quite in perfect sync right now for some reason. But… yeah, I get what you're implying."
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it" Shion replied, her voice slightly shaky. "Right now we should make ready to hop across the ocean and deal with whatever awaits us there."
"I'm coming with you girls" Kizuna said. "And I don't just mean across the Pacific. I have no-one else to turn to and nowhere else to go, so I want to join you in your travels… and to stay with Mai."
"…You know that once you make your first dimension jump," Kaede said, "your regeneration will be supercharged like Mai-chan's, but you'll also likely no longer feel pain as pleasure, right? So if you, say, get cut open, it'll hurt like hell rather than what it… used to feel like for you."
"Yeah… And I'm okay with that."
"No guarantee he won't still like it a little rough, though" Marie smirked. To punctuate her point, she then gave Kizuna a surprise smack to the bottom, causing him to jump up and let out a rather girlish "Eeep!", his cheeks flushing.
Open hand in front of face
Kizuna and Kaede started giggling.
"Gotta remember that one" Teana simply said, a light smirk on her face. "Maybe see if I can annoy Subaru with it."
Four days later
"I… I'm not sure I can do this…"
The six girls (and Kizuna) sat in a mostly-empty park a little ways from Marie's home (Ahsoka wearing her 'Don't-Notice-My-Oddness' cloak given to her by Headmaster Konoe). They had come this far, this close to Marie's old family… but the guilt and regret of her pre-epiphany actions looked to possibly still be too much for her.
"I'm scared" Marie admitted. "Scared of what they'll do… and what I'll do…"
"You shouldn't be" Ahsoka replied. "From what you've told us, and what we've heard, they weren't even angry at you in the first place. In fact, the only reason they'd be pissed now is for you worrying them sick."
Marie flashed back to the incident that had set her on her path. By some random (and very flashy) hiccup of the space-time continuum, she'd been reverted to her original form right before the eyes of her mother, sisters, and little sister's boyfriend. At the same time, they had gotten a brain-full of conflicting memory flashes and bits of data on Marie's original-timeline state, while simultaneously Marie was blitzed by a psychic sledgehammer of every single negative thought others had of her, in both her 3- and 16-year-old iterations in the various connected timelines, all at once. Whatever ancient force had been responsible had also torn down her emotional barriers, frog-marching her to face the deep-rooted insecurities, doubts, nigh-nonexistent self-esteem, jealousies, inferiority complex, fears, loneliness, and other things that she had been hiding from for so long, with the other quartet getting hit by the "bleed-off" enough to know what Marie was being forced to face.
The teen's mind had nearly fractured, her durable and well-crafted façade that had fooled even herself for so long being blown into a million pieces. Erika had been the first of the group to recover, and had taken it upon herself to craft the explanation that she'd found a mysterious charm that she had kept in her room for safekeeping, only for Marie to find it and get blasted by its power, causing the warping of reality that only Erika and Marie remembered things were like before. …She had chosen not to tell them of how the "charm" (some enchanted perfume of some sorts) had been given to her by a massive, mysterious figure, nor of how her innocent/ignorant usage of it on herself had left her with her 'condition', or of how Sarah had once been a 3-year-old before discovering it. Thus, Marie, who had long since gotten used to the latter, remained ignorant of the former.
A quick analysis of her room after Marie's next-paragraph departure had shown that the enchanted perfume had somehow disappeared when space-time had shifted and lurched.
Less than a minute after Erika had finished, a shifting rift in space-time had formed nearby – a portal, for lack of a better word. In a weak, wavering voice, Marie had essentially begun attacking herself, not giving her family the chance to interrupt her. After apologizing for everything she'd ever put them through and saying that someone as loathsome as her didn't deserve to have such a wonderful family, she'd run into the rift, the last thing she heard before being whisked away being Sarah's pleas that she stop, that she stay, that they forgave her and still loved her. Not long after, she'd come tumbling out in ONI's base in Sydney on the other Earth, right at Teana's feet, 11 days after she had returned to Earth following the Battle of Installation 00. The redhead had tended to her, helping her to her feet, listening to her story, and welcoming her; she hadn't judged her even after Marie poured her heart out in confession, and had actively stopped her from attacking herself further, holding her until she had eventually regained control of herself. Shion, Kaede, and Mai had shown up one by one within the next week, and Gamma Team had soon thereafter formed.
"I don't deserve them…" Marie whispered, looking downtrodden despite the ensuing hug from Kaede.
"They're your family" Teana replied. "Family isn't something you 'deserve'. You just… have it."
"Come on" Kaede said gently. "Let's walk".
The seven proceeded to leisurely make their way through the park, Marie subconsciously taking the lead. Conversation continued here & there, the group too absorbed in it to notice the other group heading toward them and also wrapped up in conversations, Marie's head turned to look over her shoulder as she talked to the others, just as the other group's leader was doing.
"I just can't even begin to cover what could go wrong" Marie said. "What if mom won't take me back? Or what if-OOF!"
Finally, inevitably, the two distracted leaders of the two distracted groups collided, stumbling backwards to catch their balance, their heart-rates shooting up in startled surprise; Kaede caught Marie, while the other, taller girl regained her balance without assistance. As Marie finally looked at who she'd just ran into, her eyes went wide and she froze up like a deer in headlights. A red-orange-haired woman, a short black-haired girl, a slightly-taller black-haired boy, and a tall blonde, all four of whom were staring at Marie and her group with wide eyes, the blonde taking a shaky step forward, her breath hitching in her throat.
"Marie…" Sarah whispered.
"S…" Marie could barely breathe, feeling a debilitating mixture of relief & joy at seeing her family again… and near-terror at the whole situation. "S-Sarah…"
For several seconds, no-one moved or spoke.
"I…" Marie whimpered.
(MUSIC: Naruto Shippūden OST 1 – "Homecoming" OR Mass Effect OST – "Vigil")
She was interrupted as, quick as can be, Sarah stepped forward and enveloped her in a hug, holding her close and tight like life depended on it, the shorter girl's head being held in the crook of the taller's neck by a hand that softly, gently stroked the back of her head and neck, the other one wrapped around her midsection, holding her tight. After a few moments, Marie found herself hugging her sister back, clinging to her for dear life. A choked sob escaped from her as she buried her face in her sister's shoulder.
"I'm sorry" Marie whispered/sobbed. "I'm so sorry… All that time… Everything that I… I was s-such a heartless bitch to you… to everyone… I… I couldn't face you… I couldn't bear to… after all I've… Y-You're too good to… h-have to put up with s-someone as hateful as me… I d-don't deserve you… I-I've done t-too much… I'm so sorry… Sarah…"
"Please…" Sarah whispered, her own tears falling as she nuzzled her smaller sibling. "Don't say things like that. I can't stand seeing you hurt like this. It breaks my heart to. Please stop attacking yourself. You've changed now. You realize what you did wrong. That's more than enough for me. I've missed you more than you can imagine. We all have. The… bits of memory from other timelines are still a little confusing, but… I never hated you. I could never hate you. And I'd never, ever want to. Marie… no matter what is said between us, no matter what happens… you will always be my little sister… and I will always, always love you."
At this, Marie started crying harder, such that Sarah was now pretty much holding her up as the smaller teen clung to her, letting out months of pain. At this point, their mother walked up, joining the hug. Slowly, Sarah shifted Marie around so that their mother was the one hugging her.
"M… Mama…" Marie whimpered. "I'm s-sorry… I… I've been so horrible… I've put you through so much… I…"
"Shh…" Veronica stopped her, holding her close. "The only thing you have to be sorry for is making me worry so much about you. You're my baby girl, and I don't ever want to see you suffering like you have been. …We saw the vids of everything you girls have been through. I had to see you go through such hardships… I… I had to watch you die against Pain! If he hadn't been convinced to bring everyone back in his final act…"
She hugged Marie tightly, and the girl leaned into her, instinctually seeking comfort in her mother's embrace. After a few minutes, Marie had finally calmed down to the occasional light sniffle, and Veronica had finally become ready to let go of her. Two smaller figures (well, one five inches shorter than her and the other 8 ½ inches) slowly walked up to her. She looked at the smaller one, feeling yet more guilt.
"It's okay, Marie" she interrupted. "I understand w-why you used to be like that, and I know that you're r-really sorry for it, so much that it's tearing you up inside. …I forgive you. You're my sister, and I love you."
Marie couldn't stop a small, sad smile from forming. "T-Thanks, kiddo." She then turned to Tim. He gave a smile and a small nod, which she returned.
Finally, Sarah turned to the rest of Gamma Team (and Kizuna). She walked toward them, and she & Teana shook hands.
"Thank you so much for being there for her" she said. "All of you."
"How could we not?" Shion replied. "She's one of us."
"She gave me hope, and something to live for" Kaede said.
"And she's one of the most loyal people I've ever known" Teana added. "I'd trust my life to her without a second thought, any time and in any circumstance."
"How would you seven like to come with us to our home?" Veronica asked. "I know that Marie will… probably have to leave again with you girls not too long from now, so as to help take down whatever big threat is brewing out there, but you could relax and be normal girls – and boy – for a few days. How's that sound?"
"We'd love to" Mai replied, and the others nodded their assent.
With that settled, the group of 11 headed off, leaving the park and heading for the Swanson household.
Around half an hour later, everyone was gathered in the house's living room; the two easy chairs were occupied by Kaede and by Mai (who had Kizuna sitting in her lap), while the couch was taken up by Veronica, Sarah (holding Erika in her lap), and Marie. The rest of the group was seated on the floor, with Timmy standing off to the side of the couch. Veronica reached up, gently grabbed hold of Tim, and pulled him down to sitting in her lap, to his surprise.
"You're as much a member of this household as my daughters, Timothy" the woman said kindly, right arm around his waist to hold him in place. "The closest thing I have to a son."
"T-Thank you, ma'am" he replied shyly, as he slowly relaxed in his new position. Sarah had her right arm wrapped around Erika's waist, hand resting on her stomach, while her left was around Marie's shoulders, pulling her close, as the shorter teen found herself resting her head on Sarah's shoulder.
"So he's been visiting Erika a lot lately?" Marie asked.
"That," Sarah replied, "and his dad & big brother are out of state for a couple weeks since yesterday, so he's gonna be staying with us."
Over the next 45 minutes, they talked about various things – mostly the girls of Gamma Team describing and answering questions about their experiences and adventures. Suddenly though, Erika let out a muffled squeak, her face going red as she shifted around a bit. She looked up and behind her.
"S-Sarah?" she said softly. "Um…"
It took a second for the elder sister to get what her little sibling was trying to say, but then she gave a little grin. "Okay" she said warmly, hugging her sister and then letting her get up, standing up behind her. "Let's get you changed."
Erika's eyes went wide and her face blushed beet-red, as she looked around the room. None of the others showed any surprise, disdain, or anything like that. It was then that she remembered that Marie had already told them on their last world. She nodded and grabbed Sarah's hand, letting the blonde lead her out of the room. About three minutes later, they returned, Erika still looking a little embarrassed but also more comfortable.
"T-Thank you all for… n-not saying anything…" Erika muttered, fidgeting with nervousness.
"Kid…" Teana said softly with a smile. "Erika… We have no issue with the fact that you have to wear diapers. Hell, you could walk around skirtless, with them in full view, and it wouldn't bother any of us."
The girl in question blushed again, but a small smile also formed. "T-Thank you…"
Everyone else promptly had to suppress little squees at the adorableness.
"U-Um…" Erika murmured. "G-Gimme a sec…"
She turned to face her family and Timmy, looking her young male friend in the eye and giving him a shy smile, which he returned with a light blush. Then she reached down and gripped the waistline of her pale-blue skirt. After a few seconds to mentally brace herself, she undid the skirt and let it fall to the floor, exposing her puffy white diaper, with pale-yellow tapes and little butterflies on it, for everyone to see. Her face red, she opened her eyes and looked to Timmy while giving him a small smile, and his face lit up with a blush, cuteness threatening to overcome him as he smiled back. Marie, Sarah, and Veronica smiled to her as well. She turned around to face the girls of Gamma, who were similarly struck by the cuteness as Erika nervously brought her hand up to her face and bit lightly on a knuckle.
"How were you ever afraid that we'd tease you about being so huggably adorable?" Kaede asked.
"A l-lot of people have…" she said sadly.
"Then they're insensitive idiots" Shion replied.
Erika heard movement behind her, and turned around to see that Marie and Sarah had switched places. She climbed up, and Marie pulled her into her lap, the older girl's arms going around Erika's waist to hold her, while Veronica's left arm went around Marie's upper back and leaned her to the side so she would lay her head on her mother's shoulder. Erika looked to Timmy, seated on her mother's lap right next to her, held in place by Veronica's right arm. She looked him in the eye, nonverbally requesting his opinion.
"T-This is the first time I've seen you with them… fully exposed" he said. "Well, other than that mishap at the mall, but I averted my eyes and you were quick to pull your skirt up, so I didn't get detail like now. …You are adorable, Erika."
The girl's face went scarlet and she squeaked out a "thank you".
"Hey, I almost forgot" Marie said. "When we found out we were coming here, I had the magitech autoforges prepare a bit of a gift for you, Erika."
"R-Really?" the girl squeaked, looking up at her returned big sister. "W-What is it?"
"New diapers for you that are carefully crafted for maximum comfort, and are enchanted to block all scent from escape. I can have 'em beamed down anytime."
"Send them in" Mrs. Swanson replied before Erika could say anything, though the girl looked receptive to the idea.
"So what happens now?" Mai asked.
"You spend some time here" Sarah replied. "You let yourselves unwind, hang with us, and just be normal girls for a few days."
"I… don't think I really know how to be a 'normal' girl" Mai said with a hint of sadness.
"I haven't been a 'normal' girl since I was 10 years old" Teana said stoically; everyone knew what she meant.
Veronica Swanson smiled. "Then we'll help you."
Three Hours Later
"There we go, kiddo" Sarah said with a smile as she finished up. She looked down at her little sister, who wiggled slightly. The teen giggled. "Wow, you look really cute in them."
The new diaper looked a teensy bit bulkier/puffier. It also, while mostly still white, had a fair bit of a light, soft, pale pink to it – including the waistband and even the tapes, as well as a few little hearts on it. Erika wriggled around a bit and sat up, moving her legs and butt a little.
"It is r-really soft and comfy" she said. "W-Wow, it's… maybe the comfiest thing I've e-ever worn. I l-love it."
Sarah helped pull Erika to her feet, and the girl followed her out (with a slight waddle) to the living room. As she passed Gamma-1 and -3, the former reached out for her.
"I'm sorry, but you're just too cute" Teana said as she pulled the girl close. "I can't not hug you!"
Erika blushed a little as the redhead pulled her into her lap facing her, though she hugged back quickly. She let out a tiny 'eeep!' in response to a pat on her padded seat, but then reacted by snuggling closer, and Teana had to fight back a squee from being filled to cuteness capacity. It hadn't taken long before the girls of Gamma had quickly become endeared with the girl, especially once she started getting used to them and her mood slowly shifted from 'shy' to 'adorably cheerful'; Mai half-jokingly stated that the same mysterious power that had made all girls/women who met Negi Springfield develop either romantic or motherly/sisterly attachment to him also made people feel powerful protective motherly/sisterly feelings toward Erika. …The fact that she was, like Negi, irresistibly adorable helped. They liked picking her up and/or hugging her; fortunately, Erika was a 'cuddle-bug' who loved being hugged and snuggled, so it all worked out.
The girls of Gamma had also quickly bonded with the rest of the Swanson family (and Tim). Sarah had very quickly extended her big-sister role to encompass Kaede, Marie, Teana, Ahsoka, and (despite being half a year younger than the green-haired girl) Shion. Veronica quickly found herself mothering the girls a little, too. Right now, as she hugged Erika, Teana also found herself being hugged from behind by Sarah, the motherly blonde resting her chin on Teana's head.
"This is nice" Teana said dreamily, closing her eyes in relaxation when Sarah started stroking her hair, while Erika let out a soft, happy coo and nestled against Teana as Marie came up and started doing the same thing to her.
"It's like I've said" Sarah replied. "Erika is very relaxing. Sometimes when I've had a hectic day, I come home and I find her, and I just snuggle with her for a while. It always calms me down, makes me feel warm and safe and happy."
"Just as it does for me" Erika said happily, eyes closed as she rested her head on Teana's shoulder, against the side of her neck. "Mmm… It's like I have seven big sisters now. I'm really happy."
'Yeah' Teana thought as she came to her conclusion: 'I really like this family.'
Day after Gamma's arrival
Around 5:00 PM
What was thought impossible was seemingly happening: Tim and Erika were having what at first glance appeared to be an argument. However, neither of the 11-year-olds was actually angry. In fact, it basically boiled down to Erika's low self-esteem hitting her again, as she questioned how Tim could possibly care for her so much with how "weird" she was. Timmy, meanwhile, couldn't take much more of his favorite person in the worlds attacking herself.
"I mean… h-how can you… s-stand dealing with me… what with my… p-problem, and all… I… I'm not a 'normal' girl. Y-You couldn't really-"
"That's not true!"
Tim's sudden exclamation caused Erika to stop mid-sentence, staring at him in surprise.
"I don't care that you're not 'normal'" Tim said, walking up to her and grabbing hold of her hands. "So you're incontinent. So you're shy. So you have to wear diapers. So what?! That does not, in any way, make you any less of a wonderful girl, of a wonderful person. I don't dislike that you have to wear diapers. I could never! I don't dislike that you're shy and quiet and soft-spoken. I really like that about you. I really do! I… All this time I've spent with you, I've come to care for you a lot – a lot-lot. And besides…"
He looked her in the eyes and smiled.
"Right now… you, in that little pink shirt that lets your tummy show… wearing that soft, puffy diaper of yours with the baby-pink trim and the little hearts on the front… with your big, wide, pretty green eyes and that big, pink blush on your face… right now, you are… the cutest, most adorable thing I have ever seen and will ever see in my whole, entire life…"
Erika couldn't speak, giving off a shuddering gasp as her blush deepened and her eyes watered.
"And… because you're so irresistibly, undeniably adorable… and because you're so sweet and kind and gentle, and because you… you spend time with me, listen to me, hold my hand, talk with me, play with me, make me feel happy and warm and cared for… I…"
He swallowed nervously, and then looked her in the eyes and gave her the warmest, kindest most heartfelt and welcoming smile she'd ever seen.
"I love you, Erika."
Again, Erika couldn't form words. But she didn't need to. The tears of joy and the adorable, quivering smile that slowly formed on her face said plenty. A slow, light embrace quickly became a warm, tight hug, her arms wrapping around Timmy's neck and his torso while one of his hands began gently rubbing her back while the other arm rested around her waist, the hand softly brushing along the small of her back, absent-mindedly fiddling with the waistband of her diaper.
She pulled her face out of his shoulder after a few minutes, using a hand to wipe her happy-tears away. She gave him a warm, loving smile, softly placing a hand on his cheek. And then she closed her eyes and kissed him. And he closed his eyes and kissed back. She let out a happy moan/coo as he held her close, their lips locked, loving each other. They kissed for at least a few minutes, staying like this. Finally, Erika let out a squeak, her face going a little pink, as she pulled away. She didn't say anything, but Timmy reached down and rested a hand against her diaper.
"Warm…" he murmured. "Should we go find Sarah or your mom?"
Erika thought for a bit. "Not yet" she answered. "I can stand being in a wet diapie for a bit if it means staying like this with you for a while" she said with love. "Again, please…"
He obliged, kissing her again, and she let out a happy sigh as he held her close.
That night, and every night after, the two slept in the same bed, cuddled in each other's arms.
Teana moved about the kitchen, helping and being taught by Veronica, who was helping the teen learn how to cook better, offering praise when she got things right and gentle corrections when she made any mistakes (which quickly became few & far between). As the two neared the end of preparations, the woman noticed as Teana froze up a little, head down and hand held to her chest. Despite the girl's best efforts, a light sob escaped.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Veronica asked, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Swanson" Teana whispered. "It's just…" she raised her head up, showing unshed tears. "This… all of this… is… I barely r-remember my mother… She & dad were murdered when I was four, as you recall. But… doing this… you doing this for me, and how you've treated me since I got here…" she gave a tearful smile. "I'm wondering if this is… w-what it's like to have a mom…"
She let in a slightly ragged breath as her emotions continued to roil within her.
"I'm sorry. I'm being so selfish. I just… I…"
Anything more was cut off as Veronica hugged her, stroking her hair and holding her close.
"It's alright, sweetie. I don't mind at all. You've suffered through a lot of loneliness in your life, so I understand. And… I wouldn't mind being a mom for you whenever you want. We may not be related by blood, but… getting to know you, and after all you've done for my Marie, I'd be happy to treat you as a daughter."
Teana sniffled. "T-Thank you…" she whispered.
"Plus," Veronica said, "Erika's already coming to look up to you, Shion, Kaede, Ahsoka, and Mai as big sisters, and Sarah's pretty much taken you five in as little sisters… even though Shion's five months older…"
They stayed like that for a few minutes, Teana letting herself feel the long-missed comfort of a mother's embrace.
Meanwhile, in Sarah's room, Sarah and Tim were having their own little conversation, as she worked to persuade him into something (and was slowly but surely succeeding).
"Come on~, Timmy" she said in a slightly sing-song tone. "You've said you want to be closer to Erika, and that you've occasionally wondered what it's like for her. It'll only be for, like, three or four days… unless you end up wanting to go a couple more. Besides… you'll look so cute~. I promise nobody outside this household will find out about it. And Erika will be so touched that you'd do this for her sake, to be closer to her by going through what she does together with her, even if only for a little while."
"…I don't know… D-Do you at least have some gender-neutral ones?"
"That's what these are."
"…But they're Erika's before she got her new ones, and they h-have flowers and bunnies and butterflies and stuff on 'em."
"And… they're meant for boys and girls, and yet have the girly design?"
"…Your mom's okay with this?"
"I already talked about it with her. She says 'go for it, if he's okay with it. I wanna help'."
"…You promise that this won't become known outside the house?"
"Of course. You have my word."
"…And the others? Teana and her squad? And Marie?"
"I'm positive they won't give you grief about it at all. I'm pretty sure they'll find you adorable. So will Erika, I'm certain."
After several seconds, Timmy blushed and then nodded. "Okay. I… I guess wearing 'em and letting myself be taken care of by you & your mom could be… kinda nice. …I'll do it. I place myself in your care, Sarah."
"Mom and I will take good care of you. And I promise that we'll make sure you enjoy it. Now come over here and lay down while I get the supplies out."
Later That Day
Erika was in the zone. Timmy watched with rapt attention as she nailed note after note, her fingers a blur on the guitar-controller and her face an expression of raw, intense focus. He watched, transfixed, his forest-green eyes wide open, his padded bottom seated in the couch (as expected, Erika had been happy and touched that he'd do this with/for her, while Veronica & the girls found him adorable and couldn't stop themselves from coddling and cuddling him; Sarah was trying to convince him to let her take some pictures, and had successfully convinced Mai to pull off a basic spell that removed his "control" of certain functions for the duration of his time doing this) as he watched his girlfriend work her magic. Kaede and Marie were seated to either side of him.
LEGO Rock band. "The Final Countdown" on Expert-level guitar. And she was acing it.
And then she really went to town, as the guitar solo started. Her eyes were glued to the screen as her fingers practically became a blur. Soon, the solo came to its end, accompanied by a sound effect and a display that popped up along the bottom of the screen:
"Achievement Unlocked: The Final Countdown for 40G"
Three jaws dropped in unison. They watched for the next few minutes as Erika finished the song, ending with a 100% score, Erika finishing with a pose, holding the guitar high by the neck, middle & ring fingers grasping it while index & pinky threw the horns.
"Holy crap…" Tim whispered.
"W-Why didn't you tell me your little sister was so amazing at rhythm games?" a shocked Kaede said, remembering the plethora of Achievements the little girl had on the family's Rock Band 3 and LEGO Rock Band.
"I didn't know either" an equally shocked Marie muttered.
"I see you three have discovered Erika's special talent" Sarah said, now leaning over the couch from behind it.
"No kidding…" Marie said, still a little in awe.
"Yeah," Timmy said, running a hand through his black hair, "I knew she was good at this, but I…" his eyes widened a bit and a light blush formed on his face. "I… I… Um… S-Sarah?"
The girl in question grinned. "I gotcha" she said as she helped him to his feet, starting to lead him out of the room. "C'mon, kiddo; I'll take care of it."
Two Days Later
Veronica moved about the house, trying to find her daughters and/or Timmy. She looked at the picture she had absent-mindedly carried about with her, and smiled; yesterday, she'd found Teana and Erika curled up together on the couch, napping, and had taken a picture because of how cute it was. She entered Sarah's room, and paused at the sight.
Sarah was lying on her bed. Marie was cuddled up to her on her right, while Erika hugged onto her from the left, Tim holding Erika close from behind. The four appeared to be asleep, though Sarah then cracked an eye open, looked at her mother, and smiled, a smile she couldn't help returning. A minute later, she came back with her camera and took a few snapshots of the cute scene.
Four Days after Gamma's arrival
"We're gonna have to leave tomorrow" Marie said sadly. "I… I don't want to… I really, really don't want to. I've finally patched things up with my family. To leave again…"
"That won't be an issue" Veronica said as she walked in, surprising the girls of Gamma. Erika, Sarah, and Tim walked in with her.
"What do you mean, ma'am?" Teana asked.
"The past few days," Sarah explained, "we've been busy. Talking with Colonel Holland, contacting my dad and Timmy's dad & brother – giving them proof, of course –, ironing out other affairs, and…"
"W-We're gonna come with you guys" Erika finished.
The girls were shocked, especially Marie. "S-Seriously?" she whispered, eyes wide and showing hope.
"We've ironed it all out with Mr. Holland's help" Timmy said. "We managed to convince my dad and my big bro, so long as I keep in contact with them, which I will."
"I've grown too attached to you girls to just let you leave" Sarah said.
"And you could use the influence of a mother" Veronica added.
"Timmy & I don't have m-much in the way of friends in this world, anyway" Erika said. "M-Maybe we can rectify that elsewhere… with you girls…" 'Plus I really like those diapers you guys have…' she thought.
"And that odd phenomenon with your ship will most likely implant the necessary knowledge and baseline skills into our heads once we jump dimensions" Sarah said. "Like what it did to you girls when you went to the Phoenix League's universe."
"Are you all sure about this?" Shion asked. "We're likely gonna encounter a lot of dangerous situations."
"We're sure" Sarah replied. "We've talked about this, with Holland & Arum and with each other, in great detail. We've made our decision. We won't let you girls face what's coming without us. …And we don't want to be apart from you again."
"…I guess…" Teana said. "All I can say is…" she smiled. "Welcome to the crew of the Starshot."
Two Days Later
The Starshot made its way away from this realm's Earth, cloaked from sensors by its sophisticated stealth-tech. Aboard, the five new additions were quickly getting settled in. Kaede Fuyō was quite nervous; after all, her Earth was the next stop. Marie and Teana walked in on her trembling, and they both hugged her, helping to calm her down. The ship's slipspace drive surged into action, cutting a fine slit in the fabric of multidimensional space-time that the 1600-meter vessel than slipped through, departing the realm.
-BOOK 6 END-