I awoke with a start, finding my brother's hair tickling my nose. He must have gotten into bed with me. His face was peaceful in sleep, and I smiled sadly. I sat up, looking around for Kumajiro. He wasn't in the room.
I shrugged, then felt my throat, smiling faintly when it hurt considerably less than the day before. Sliding out of the bed, I was careful not to wake Alfred as I walked from the room to downstairs, pausing to see rain lashing at the windows.
"No outside today then..." I murmured, continuing on my way to the kitchen.
As I stepped into the small kitchen area I noticed that there was a strange scratching sound coming from the back door, and I went to it.
"Let me in!" It was Kumajiro, he must have let himself out, and then been unable to let himself in!
I hastened to open the door, my eyes growing wide with fear at the sight before me. I stumbled back, terrified of the giant beast that stood in the doorway, hunched over and miserable looking. A petrified squeak escaped from my throat, and I fell on my butt, watching as the beast entered the room, closing the door behind it and then sitting down in front of me.
"Wh-what?!" I cried, staring at the white beast. Was it Gilbert? No, the voice had been-
"Matthew, stop freaking out will you? You said yesterday my size was a problem, so I fixed it. Now I can protect you from Gilbert should he try to hurt you. I am more useful in this form." I realized with a lump in my throat that it really was him, and that I had accidentally hurt him by saying he was so small.
"Kumajiro..." I murmured, "I'm sorry... I didn't mean for my comment to hurt you..." I told him, touching a paw that was close to me.
His voice was wry when he answered, "Ah, but now I am stronger, and my size isn't an issue. I know you didn't mean it as an insult Matthew."
I furrowed my brow, "But you didn't have to..."
"But I did. For my peace of mind at least."
I nodded, then stood up carefully, my heart rate still pounding in my ears. "Would you like me to make you some tea to warm you? How long were you out there?" I asked, then swayed, suddenly dizzy.
Kumajiro steadied me, then pushed me down into a chair. "You must rest, I had to use much of your magic to get to this form. I will make you some tea, now that I am tall enough."
I nodded, my mind in a slight haze. As he turned away from me, I began to study him. He was basically the same, just bigger. A grown polar bear. Yet he seemed a little too slim, and his paws a little too nimble, for a normal polar bear.
I groaned as another wave of dizziness hit me, and I laid my head down on the table. "You...stole some of my magic?" I asked. The concept was quite foreign. How did someone's magic even get stolen?
Kumajiro nodded, "Yes, I needed it so that I could grow. I didn't think it'd take so much though." he replied, setting a kettle on the stove to boil.
I nodded slowly, "How...?"
"I'm your familiar, we're connected. You can tap into my magic, and I can tap into yours. Mine is not too useful, so I guess it's more of a one-way thing." Kumajiro shrugged, turning and sitting down next to me at the table.
"Matthew?" a voice from upstairs called.
"He's down here!" Kumajiro called back, knowing that my voice was still too painful to use.
Alfred came bounding down the stairs, grinning when he saw me sitting at the table. "Hey bro I was wondering if today you wanted to-" But he cut off, staring at Kumajiro. His eyes were wide behind his glasses, and he even took them off, absentmindedly cleaning them and putting the glass back on his nose, squinting at the large bear.
"It's all right, he just felt that he needed to grow, so he did." I explained, my voice soft.
Alfred nodded anyway, gazing at the giant.
"You were wondering...?" I prompted, a little worried.
"Oh yea!" he grinned, snapping back to his usual self. "I was wondering since it's raining today, would you like to go outside and mud wrestle?" He had crouched down, still grinning.
"Alfred..." I sighed, "I don't really want either of us to get sick, and I don't really want to strain myself quite yet..." I murmured, looking at my hands on the table. "Plus you usually beat me half to death..."
"Aww c'mon Mattie! Please? We haven't been mud wrestling for years!" Alfred begged, sitting next to me at the table.
Kuma growled softly, getting up to get the mugs and tea bags ready. The kettle started to whistle, and Kumajiro poured hot water into two mugs, placing my favorite tea in one, and a tea he liked in the other.
"There's a reason why Alfred..." I sighed, sipping the hot beverage.
"I promise I won't hurt you Mattie..." Alfred whined, pouting with his kicked puppy face.
I looked at him a second too long and groaned. "Oh fine! I'll mud wrestle with you."
He leapt up, fist pumping the air. "Yea! I'll go get my bathing suit!" he ran upstairs and I heard his door slam shut.
I hit my head on the table. "Damnit, why can't I say no to that face?" I groaned.
A few seconds later, I heard heavy footsteps on the staircase, and Ivan poked his head around the door into the room. "What is Alfred so excited about?"
"I was stupid and agreed to mud wrestle with him..." I murmured, sipping some more tea.
Ivan frowned, "But... you are still unwell. I do not want to spend your remaining time here sick. Plus, Alfred is very strong, he does not know how strong he is. He might hurt you."
"I know! But he gave me the puppy look!" I moaned into my hands, "You can't even resist that look!"
Ivan shrugged, "Yes, but you have resisted before, why did you not expect him to keep at it?" he asked, walking into the room and checking the kettle to see that there was still hot water in it, before pouring himself some, and adding a tea bag.
"Because I'm stupid enough to believe that he'll grow a brain and use it to see that I really don't want to." I replied, hearing Alfred come bounding downstairs again.
He was clad in his bathing suit shorts, with a towel on his shoulders. "Hurry up and drink that Mattie! We're going as soon as you're dressed!" He exclaimed, happy.
"Good grief..." I mumbled, finishing up my cup of tea and heading upstairs. I pulled my swimsuit from my suitcase, staring at the small pair of shorts. I glanced out the window to see the downpour, wincing at the wind slashing the water against the windowpane. "Why me?" I sighed, getting undressed and then sliding the swimsuit up.
After grabbing a towel, I too, headed downstairs. Alfred was waiting at the bottom of the stairs though, and he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, a grin stretched across his face.
Kumajiro was a few feet behind him, glaring at the elder brother.
"Ready Mattie? We need to find a good hole of mud to do this in!" He crowed, running outside into the chilly rain.
I groaned, still feeling a little weak from Kuma stealing magic. "Do I have to...?" I asked myself, following my brother outside. He quickly found a 'suitable' mud hole, and dove in, yelling in triumph. I followed after him, shivering. We had left our towels near the back door, with Kumajiro guarding them.
"Alright! Are you ready Matthew? To be crushed!" Alfred yelled, running at me, sliding a little in the mud.
I crouched defensively, dodging to the right a few seconds before he would have hit me, swinging around to latch onto his back and bring him down underneath me. His chest made a smacking sound as it made contact with the mud, and he let out a pained laugh.
"Oh? Playing like that eh?" he laughed, bucking and throwing me off, sliding towards me, pinning my hands above my head.
I wrapped my legs around his midsection, bringing him down close before twisting around and trying to roll myself on top. He grinned however, and let me roll, but he kept rolling and I was under him again, he lifted me by bare shoulders, slamming down my head.
I cried out, but my cries are tiny, so he didn't hear. I struggled to stop him, by punching his shoulder, but he grabbed my hand instead, and put it above my head, putting my arm into a lock.
"I give! Alfred please stop!" I cried, struggling.
He laughed, "You won't pull that one on me Mattie!" He crowed, bending my arm farther.
I screamed, thrashing a little. He frowned, letting me go, but immediately put me in a headlock. I couldn't take it, after a few seconds I went limp in his arms, head swimming.
"Mattie!" He cried, finally letting me go. I vanished, struggling backwards away from him, coughing quietly. "Don't... don't do that!" he said, looking around desperately.
Kumajiro had come running over at this point and snarled in his face, turning around and picking me up, even though I was still invisible. "He already had said it was enough, and after almost being strangled to death, you think a headlock is the best idea? You are a fool."
I clung to Kumajiro's fur, trying to snuggle further into the warmth. I heard Alfred shouting after us, but I clenched my eyes shut. I had told him I did not want to mud wrestle, he'd deal with the consequences.
Kumajiro took me inside, setting me down near a lit fireplace. "Thank you..." I murmured as he wrapped me further into his warmth. It felt so nice to be swaddled there...
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"Mattie? You will be coming back right? You already promised you would." Gilbert sounded almost desperate.
I nodded, "I don't break my word Gilbert, I'll return as I said I would..."
"Good! Now, so that this dream isn't pointless... how... how are you?" He asked. I could only see flashes of his face, and it looked a little awkward, and strained.
"Well... my brother Alfred forced me to mud wrestle with him, even though I said I didn't want to. Now I think I'm sick. Also, I don't think I can wear a turtle neck ever again..." I replied, absently rubbing at my throat.
"What did he do?" Gilbert sounded a little more fierce this time, and the flashes of face I could see looked angry.
"Head lock, he didn't believe it when I told him I was done. Kumajiro saved me though~ he's so much bigger now." I provided a mental image, and I felt Gilbert chuckle, which was a little weird.
Where am I anyway?
Fear coursed through Gilbert, and he tried to fill up the awkward space. "Why is Kumajiro so big now?"
"I made a comment about how small he was, and so he decided to fix it. I'm laying in... his arms... right now..." I was pausing slightly, trying to tell where I was. I wasn't in Kumajiro's arms, that was for sure. But I was in... I was in Gilbert's arms.
"No! Mattie please don't go-" Gilbert's thought was cut off, and I was wrenched back into the real world, where Kumajiro was holding me, and a fire was burning low.
I looked up at Kumajiro's face, and he was staring down at me with a serious expression on his face.
"So, he can contact you through your dreams after all. You have said nothing to anger him right?" Kumajiro asked quietly, rocking me slightly.
I struggled against the soothing sensation, trying to right myself. "Kumajiro, I need a bath, I'm all muddy..." I complained, "And no, I did not anger him, he seemed upset when I realized where I was. Do you think that snaps the connection?" I asked, standing on my own and shivering slightly.
"It probably does, but alright, I'll get you a bath." Kumajiro stood, heading towards the stairs with me in tow. I followed my bear to the bathroom, and insisted that I could wash myself, running the hot water and stepping in the shower to rinse out all the gunk and mud.
"How long was I asleep?" I called, hoping he had stayed on the other side of the door.
"About three hours. Your brother tried to wake you up, but I scared him away. I knew you would have preferred to having your sleep undisturbed." My bear replied right next to the shower curtain.
I jumped slightly, but shook my head, running my hands through my hair. "Thank you Kuma." I said, my voice soft. "I missed lunch though huh?"
"Just a little while ago." He replied.
I nodded to myself, shampooing it up, almost purring at how nice it felt to have my hair all frothy with the shampoo. After finishing with washing my hair I turned off the water and grabbed my towel as I stepped out, drying off my blonde hair.
Alfred was always weirded out with my hair, but I always liked it long. I guess it's the past life thing...
I shrugged on my clothes for the day, going downstairs and snarfing down a sandwich or two before settling on the couch with Ivan and Alfred already watching a movie. I sat down in between my brother and step-father, leaning against Ivan for more comfort.
Kumajiro lay at my feet, keeping my toes warm.
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As the second week passed, Alfred's temper got worse and worse. I had to shut myself in my room most of the time so that he wouldn't blow up and throw something.
"Matthew?" Ivan's voice was tired on the other side of the door. "Would you like to go to market with me? We only need enough food for the next meal, tomorrow was our scheduled day to leave... and we can't really..." He sounded strained and searching.
I sighed, opening my door and nodding. "Sure, I'll go with you to market Ivan." I slipped on my shoes, and I got on Alfred's broom, since mine had been broken on that day.
We flew together to the market, looking around in the different booths.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lili and her brother at their booth. Afraid, I dragged Ivan as far away from them as possible.
"Matthew, we need to go see a friend of mine. She was the one who... she informed me of what happened..." Ivan said, dragging me back in the direction we came from.
"No! I don't want to see if they'd force me back now!" I exclaimed, backing away from the booth that had the phantom hunter and his descendant.
"Hello Matthew... it's been a while." Lili was standing next to the booth, hanging up some dried herbs. "Are you doing alright?"
I shook my head, trying to hide behind Ivan.
"Lili, it is nice to see you again, when is that baby due?" Ivan asked politely, walking forward to inspect her food stuffs.
"Any day now this baby should be coming. Don't tell Vash that I'm here, he's probably looking for me right now. Master Beilschmidt's doctor put me on bed rest, but I had a feeling that today I should be here." Lili smiled gently, holding out her hand to me.
I took it and she hugged me as tight as she could around her giant belly.
"I'm not here to steal you away. And I really am sorry about your mother... he wasn't himself when it happened. The Darkness still had it's grip on him." She whispered into my ear, pulling back and then smiling softly.
I nodded slowly, "You should be in bed though Lili... Vash would be very mad indeed if he found you out here." my voice was quiet, and my smile small, but she giggled anyway.
"Then don't tell him, I don't want him to think I can't do this." She smiled and waddled back to where Ivan was picking out some fruit for a fruit salad. She helped him with his purchase and waved us off, smiling.
"Thank you Lili!" I called over my shoulder, mounting the broom and rising into the sky.
A sharp cry however, made me turn around to see her bent over her table, eyes wide and afraid. All around the hem of her maroon dress it looked as if the ground was soaked through.
"Oh no," I murmured, diving down to her. "Get on, we'll take you to a hospital." I said, grasping a wrist.
She shook her head, "No, I can't go to a hospital, I had planned out a home birth...!" Lili looked back at Ivan whom was hovering just behind me.
I turned and looked at him too. His face was contemplative, and I moved out of his way as he scooped Lili into his arms, soaring off towards our rented house. I shot after them, trying to keep up with Ivan's frenzied pace.
"We can't leave you there." Was all I was able to catch before his words were snatched away by the wind. We made it back to the house in record time and Ivan didn't even get off his broom before he was through the door and taking Lili to the closest bathroom with a bathtub.
"Thank... you..." She panted, her face screwed up in pain.
I trailed behind. "What do you need?" I asked, nervous.
"Come here, and hold... my hand." She gasped, reaching out. "I wish Vash were here!" She cried out.
"What the hell is- whoa! Why the hell is this pregnant- you're the lady from before! You work for that demon-! You're giving birth here?!" Alfred chose that time to arrive on the scene and began to freak out.
Ivan turned to him calmly, "If you do not shut your mouth, I will throw you out the window da?" His face went scary and he seemed to tower over my big brother, who for once in his life shrank back and nodded.
"O... okay." He said softly, backing from the room.
My attention was brought painfully back to Lili as she tried to break my hand from the force of her fingers. I squeaked a little, but endured mostly.
"Breathe Lili," Ivan commanded calmly, showing her and watching as she copied his actions. "Now count how many breaths there are before you feel pain da?" He asked, taking her other hand.
She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut as she counted. "F-five." She groaned, her head falling back a little. I caught her head in my left hand awkwardly before it hit the wall and I exhaled with her, getting her to breathe with me so Ivan could concentrate.
"Okay... so that means you've been in labor since yesterday, and no one in your house knew?" Ivan asked, rubbing his brow.
"Maybe that's why Mr. Honda ordered that I was to have bedrest..." Lili breathed out, tensing up again as another wave of pain washed through her. "I guess I'm lucky to have found another doctor who knows what he's doing." Her smile was faint.
Ivan grimaced, "But I am not a doctor. I am trying to remember, however when my own children were born, what the doctor told my first wife."
I blinked at him. He had other children? His head snapped up to give me a warning look, and I didn't say anything. We would talk later.
"Well, at least you sound reasonable..." she was breathing shallowly.
"Lili? Come on breathe with me. Watch me." I said, a little concerned. She struggled to look at and breathe with me.
Ivan looked even more stressed, "Lili? Do you mind if I...?" He was a little pink in the face, and gestured at her crotch. "The baby needs a way to come out..." He murmured, looking a little awkward.
She nodded, blushing as well, and spread her legs enough so Ivan could slip off her panties, and push up her skirt and petticoats.
I glanced over and saw that they were soaking wet, blood seeping from between her legs as well. I grimaced, looking away as she screamed in pain.
"It hurts!" she cried, tears leaking down her face.
"Alfred! I need you to look up birthing information!" Ivan ordered, fear in his eyes. "The baby isn't supposed to be coming right now. Something is wrong..." he murmured to himself.
In a few seconds I heard Alfred shouting out instructions from the other room, still too afraid of Ivan to come back. "She's supposed to push when she's 10 centimeters dilated!" he called.
Ivan measured her quickly. "Only 8? Why is the baby coming then?"
"Ah!" She screamed, body arching a little.
I held her hand tighter, waiting to hear what Alfred would say.
"It might be a miscarriage, but at this late in the pregnancy, it could kill her!" Alfred called, running into the room.
"No!" Lili was crying, "Someone, please get Vash! I need him here with me!" She cried, screaming in pain again as her body kept trying to reject the baby too quickly for her.
"I'll go, I'm the hero!" Alfred said, rushing outside. "All I have to do is go to the castle right? I'll find him don't you worry!" And with that Alfred was gone, racing away on his broom.
A/N: Really what is wrong with me? This is the second cliff-hanger chapter I've posted today!
Next time: We'll see who the father of the baby is, Ivan might explain his mysterious past, and Lili will give birth! Will she die in the process? Will Alfred be able to get Vash in time? What about Matthew's deadline? Why does no one use magic?
Thank you to my wonderful reviewers!
Beth500: And given it is!
Steampunk Marionette: 3 I feel loved~
RosemaryBagels: Enough Kumajiro awesomeness for you? Oh yeah~
ShinigamiSeniade: Love the icon btw, and thank you~
Themidnightvampress: He still has some tricks up his sleeve~
Fitzzy: Happy ending? Let's just hope Matthew survives. XD
TobiTheNinjaKitten: Well after his dreams I would think he would.
The Y Effect
TinkanaiT32: I had to check my pulse after reading all those reviews! I thought I had died and gone to author heaven!