“I’m home!”, Nico said as she stepped through the entrance of their house.
Odd , Nico though, Miyuki said she’d left early and her shoes are neatly in the entrance .
“Maki-chan? Darling?”, she called.
Still no answer.
She’s probably fallen asleep on the sofa again , she thought as she made her way into living room.
Nico quickly went over to Maki’s office: No Maki. She went back to the living room.
Where could she be? , Nico thought, she wouldn’t go to bed at this time, even if she just got off shift .
Suddenly, Nico heard a huge crash, followed by a shriek and a string of curses, some in english, coming from the top floor. The shriek sounded like Maki. Her love was in trouble, she took the closet implement she could find and made her way up the stairs, pausing in front of the room where some muttered stray curses could still be heard from. The voice was Maki’s.
“Maki-chan?”, she called out as she slowly opened the sliding door and peeked inside.
She looked into the room, blinking a few times to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating, for the sight that met her was… odd to say the least. If anyone had asked Nico what she saw she would have described it as idol treated chaos with splashes of black with a side-order of destruction and flat-packet furniture. And in all this her wife was sitting, earphones securely in her ears, muttering curses at the pile of… something that was in front of her.
“Maki-chan!”, Nico shouted to be heard over what Maki had in her earphones.
“Buwehh!”, Maki jumped up with a shriek.
A face mixed with confusion and surprise looked at Nico. Maki’s cheeks began to glow red.
“Nico-…chan???”, Maki took out her headphones.
Nico kept standing in the doorway surveying the scene and Maki, deciding on action instead of just waiting for an explanation.
“Maki-chan… what is… this?”, she waved her free hand in front of her.
Maki started to twirl a lock of hair; “Well… you know…”, and she explained, the red colour never leaving her cheeks.
“Ok Maki-chan, let me just put all this together so that Nico is sure she understands.”
They had moved back to the living room and were sitting on the sofa, Maki’s cheeks still a bit red from embarrassment. Nico took a deep breath.
“You wanted to make the training room into the nursery?”
“Yes.”, Maki’s voice was soft.
“And you decided to do it all yourself including the furnishings?”
“And you took time off work to get deliveries and to change the room?”
“And you knew it would be borderline impossible to pull it off yourself?”
“And you didn’t tell Nico?”
“Well… I was…”
“You didn’t.”, it was more a statement than a question.
“And finally you wanted to surprise me when you were done?”
“Yes…”, Maki almost fell over the syllables.
“Ok. Nico is surprised at least, you succeeded in that. But Maki-chan…”
“I’m sorry Nico-chan… I wanted to have it all ready, but there’s been too much at work so I couldn’t get time off… and putting one of those things together is really hard! The instructions make no sense.”
“Nico isn’t upset that it isn’t done. Nico is upset that you did it in secret. And that you did it alone.
Some of those…”, things was probably a good word for those piles of wood and metal , Nico thought, “things look really heavy and Nico is just concerned that Maki-chain could have gotten injured and having no one to take care or help her.”
Maki lowered her head slightly, maintaining eye contact with Nico.
“I didn’t think about that, I’m sorry. I just want to do something too. For us.”
Nico suddenly understood. Maki didn’t feel as much part of the process as she probably wanted to, casting off the extra care she lavished on Nico as something that was normal. So, she’d wanted to do something grand that she could point to as something tangible she’d done for them, for their family.
Nico leant forward and took Maki’s hands.
“Nico thinks she understands. But you’re wrong. What you think is nothing, is a whole lot to Nico. You make sure Nico’s comfortable, that Nico can focus on her work and our family. You give what time you have to us and Nico is super grateful. So don’t think that you do nothing and have to compensate by putting yourself in danger. Your sudden visits at the office lifts Nico’s spirit and keeps Nico from firing half the staff on bad days.”
She considered her next question, now when she thought about it.. the setup felt familiar.
“Maki-chan, how do you know?”
“When I’m having a bad day…”
“It’s just chance Nico-chan. Promise…”, Maki looked away in panic.
“Maki-chan… they call you, don’t they?”
Maki visibly lowered her shoulders in defeat and reached for her phone. Opening LINE, she browsed to a private group channel called ‘NICO-EMERGENCY’. The messages followed a familiar pattern.
RiceQueen: Maki-chan. we need you!
KōsakaTsubasa: I’m doing what I can, but we really need you.
ByōinKasan: Maki-chan is doing her rounds so she doesn’t look at her phone much.
ByōinKasan: I’ll put in a message on her pager.
RiceQueen: Thank you. I apologise for the disruption.
KōsokaTsubasa: You’re a lifesaver.
ByōinKasan: That’s what I do. Don’t mention it.
Nico re-read the latest messages. Miyuki, you sly fox you.
“Nico thought so.” she said.
“Are you mad?”, Maki asked.
“Nico is never mad… perhaps a bit surprised at repeats.”
“Never mind. So.. what are we going to do about the… room upstairs?”
Maki, looked lost.
“Get builders in?”, she said.
Nico looked astonished.
“My wonderful Maki-chan is right in one thing. We can’t do it all ourselves, but …”
Nico took out her phone, flipping through the apps. Maki looked on. confounded by the proceedings.
“Nico-chan..?”, she got no reply as Nico was feverously tapping away at her device.
Her phone beeped mere moments after Nico looked up from her phone with a childish grin.
No1Idol: Who wants to help Nico and Maki-chan fix up the nursery? The number 1 cook in the universe will provide food.
“Maki-chan, we have the best friends in the universe. And it’s about time we have a reunion with them all, don’t you think?”
Their phones started to beep and vibrate in unison.
SonedaUmi: What assistance do you require?
РусскийМедведь: I’m at the restaurant for a bit longer, but I’ll come as soon as I can.
SpiritualMother: Can I bring Saki?
NyaCat: We’re already on our way! Nya!
ARISE1Fan: Tsubasa-chan is out of town, but mother can hold down the fort. I’ll be on my way soooooooon.
DrNishikino: We have some uncooperative furniture and painting. I have a design for the latter.
Nico looked at Maki.
“Never underestimate your wife’s ability to plan”, Maki winked at Nico.
No1Idol: Of course, Nozomi.
LIttleBirb: Honoka-chan, shall we pick you up?
SonedaUmi: Enough with the elongated words Honoka. Spell properly!
ARISE1Fan: I’m not in school anymore Umi.
RiceQueen: Do you need us to bring anything? We can pass Golden Rice on our way.
No1Idol: That would be helpful, we haven’t been shopping yet. Take as much as you think we need, but don’t overdo it.
SonedaUmi: We’ll pick you up in 14 minutes Honoka, please be ready.
ARISE1Fan: Don’t you mean 15?
SonedaUmi: No. 14 that now has turned to 13.
РусскийМедведь: Shall I get something from here?
ARISE1Fan: Ohh yes, desserts Eli. pleeeeeeaaaaaaasssseeeee.
SonedaUmi: Honoka, spelling!
РусскийМедведь: hihi, I’ll see what I can do. See you all later.
No1Idol: Thank you all.
Nico put her phone away.
“See?”, she proclaimed triumphantly, “Best friends.”
“But now…”, Nico moved towards Maki, “Nico wants some Maki-chan as appetiser.”
“Nico-chan… they’ll be here soon”, Maki stuttered as Nico’s crimson eyes bored into hers.
“I haven’t had a single kiss since I got home, and I think I’m starting to feel it’s time for my... dose , Nishikino-sensei.”
Maki caught on.
“Yes, it is important to take your medicine regularly.”, she chirped, closing the distance.
Nico’s hands cupped Maki’s cheeks and she leant in.
“Hey where does this thing go?”
“Did you even look at the plan, Honoka? You put it in the matching hole in the crossbeam.”
“Umi, where do you think this goes, nya?”
“I’m pretty certain it is not part of this piece. Kotori? Does the part Rin is holding belong to yours?”
“Let me check. Hmm… Hanayo-chan, you’re holding it upside down. Turn that page there.. ah. Rin, get part over here please.”
“Are you sure you run a restaurant Nozomi?”
“But Niccochi, I’m a busy mother and can’t keep up with all the new recipes.”, Nozomi replied teasingly.
“Nico swears, you’re teasing Nico just for the sake of it. By the way, do you think it is safe to leave Saki to Maki-chan?”
“Would you rather have her in the kitchen?”
“She’s gotten better. Which is to be expected as she is under the tutelage of the greatest cook in the universe. But she might put Saki on a study program to become a doctor.”
“Oh dear!”, Nozomi was fake-panicking,”That will not do. Eli-chi wants her to become a dancer.”
Nozomi thought for a second.
“Anything really. As long as she’s happy.”
“So. Idol then. She’ll have the best teachers.”
“Niccochi… do you know?”
“Boy or girl?”
“We don’t know. The researchers do, but we have requested not to be told. Maki’s parents probably know, but they won’t tell. Maki could probably find out, but she doesn’t want to.”
“We’ll see in a few months then.”
“As long as Nico has Maki, the only thing that can scare Nico is leaving Maki home alone to cook. She’ll be marvellous. Trust Nico.”
Nico paused then said:
“Sometimes yes, a little.”, she admitted quietly, "but then, thinking of Maki-chan and all the people that support and love Nico, it goes away. “
Silence spread as they continued with the dinner preparations each one in their own small bubble of thoughts
“Ok, Saki, try it again.”
She held up the item. Saki looked at it, crooking her head, eyes focusing and unfocusing at the strange contraption Maki held in her hands.
“Ma- ki aunt-ii”
“Yes, that is me, very good. But what..”, she shook the item, “is this? Aunt Maki said it earlier.”
Saki extended her arms, trying to grab it, but Maki kept it just a breath away from her. She moved it a little to the left, Saki’s eyes following it for a bit.
“Aunt Maki is going to give you a big hug if you get it. Sound good?”, Maki said in what she hoped was a pleasant voice.
“p… sko”, Saki managed to break out the syllables.
“Almost, you’re so good, sko and p . just say it like that.”
Saki thought for a moment.
“Yes, good. and…”
“Amazing. Hug from Aunt Maki?”
Saki beamed as she slowly crawled towards Maki. Then she stretched out her arms, Maki gently lifted her up and giving her a hug, patting her on the back.
“You’re such a good girl. Your mothers, Nozomi and Eli, must be so proud.”
Hearing her mothers’ names, Saki laughed and started calling: “Ma-ma.. Ma-ma…”
Nozomi, hearing Saki call her, came into the living room, looking at the scene of Maki with Saki and a stethoscope on the cushion.
“Maki-chan? Did you try to get her to become a doctor again?”
“What?”, Maki replied slightly embarrassed, “You never know, doctor is a good career. And Saki is a fast learner.” She patted Saki’s back a bit.
“Maki-chan, I wouldn’t do…”, but it was too late.
Saki hiccupped, burped and threw up. On Maki’s back and hair. The Saki gurgled happily as if nothing had happened.
Maki froze. Nozomi hurried over to them.
“What happened?” Maki asked. voice shaking.
“Just a little sick, happens sometimes when she gets shaken up a bit. We’ve checked, it’s nothing to worry about.”
Maki wasn’t moving.
“Maki-chan. It’s ok. You of all people should know it’s normal.”, Nozomi tried to comfort the panicking Maki.
“I know, I know… but… I feel…”, Maki couldn’t speak.
“Maki-chan, this will happen to your baby too. Get used to it.”
“I know.. it’s just so.. real.. and I feel so…”
“Calm down Maki-chan. Let me take her. Saki, here comes mamma. So, there.”, she held Saki on her shoulder.
“Saki, no throwing up on other people ok?”, she looked motherly at Saki. Saki giggled.
“I think I’ll take a shower… and put these in the laundry.”
“You do that.”
“Ok.” Maki stepped slowly out of the room and towards the bathroom.
Nozomi and Saki joined Nico while staying outside the kitchen for now.
“Hey, Nico’s favourite goddaughter.”, the Idol producer smiled, “Where is Maki-chan?”
“In the bathroom. Could you give me that paper? Thanks Niccochi.”, Nozomi replied as she moistened some paper and dried around Saki’s mouth.
“Ohh.. she did?”
“She’ll be fine. I think the surprise of it did it.”
“Cotaro was bad, he had these spontaneous ones almost till he was three. Nico had to launder a lot after him.”, she looked past Nozomi towards the living room.
“She’s fine. She’s a doctor she sees worse than this.”
“Ok… Nico is just about done, rice is still warm too. Help Nico set the table?”
Nozomi fired of a smile: “We’re on it.”
They set the table, Nico kissed Maki as she came out of the bathroom with a fresh set of clothes and Nozomi called the others to come down. Just as people were getting ready, there was a “Excuse the intrusion.” from the hallway.
“Come in darling.” Nozomi shouted and a few seconds later Eli came into the room carrying a few boxes.
“Anyone order desert?”
“Ma-mi” Saki shouted reaching towards Eli.
Eli swept up her daughter, speaking a few words in Russian, then switching back to Japanese:
“My wonderful little bear.” as she hugged and kissed her. Saki, all smiles, kept giggling.
The rest of μ’s greeted Eli with waves and hugs, where possible then all sat down to eat, the conversation going from the hell of flat-pack furniture to complementing Nico and Nozomi on the food and Eli for the deserts, with Honoka trying to stealthily take a second one. Umi’s hand came down hard on her head.
“We’re finished with the furniture by the way.”, said Kotori, “From the splotches of colour I really couldn’t tell what the design on the walls should be.”
They were sitting around the living room table; Saki was asleep on the sofa under a blanket.
“I thought something like this.”, said Maki, passing the sketch around the table.
“Ohh, that’s pretty”, said Hanayo.
“Elegant lines.”, said Eli, Nozomi nodded.
“Isn’t it too.. garish?”, asked Umi.
“Nico thinks it’s perfect.”, reaffirmed Nico.
“This is amazing, Maki-chan. Would you mind if I used this as basis for a print design someday?”,
Kotori asked, the designer’s eyes glowing.
“Ehh… it’s nothing special, do as you like.”, Maki retorted, her embarrassed streak of denial jumping out for a moment.
“You did that and got all the right colours mixed? Wow!”, Honoka chimed.
Umi stood up.
“Let’s go and get it done. Ehm, some of you are excused.”, she looked at Nico and Nozomi.
They looked at each other.
“Nico will stay here with her goddaughter. We’ll join you later when she wakes up. Deal?”, she looked at Umi.
“Let’s go.”, was the simple reply and the rest of group went upstairs.
“You know…”, said Honoka when they were finished, “I just figured it out.”
“And what is that?”, asked Maki.
Honoka waved her hand at the walls.
“This… all this… is you.”, moving her other hand towards Maki and Nico who stood, fingers linked, next to each other.
“Of course it is.”, Maki fired off, realizing her somewhat aggressive tone, and quickly adding more warm, “I mean… well.. yes. I wanted it to be something that spoke from and about us both.”
The walls were decorated in a soft flow of pink and red, black musical notation creating waves and ever brighter colour tones leading to a picture of a stage where two silhouetted figures, one on a piano, the other with a microphone, were visible.
As the group took in the walls, only the low hum of a fan was heard as it proved extra ventilation in the small and humid room.
“Thank you.”, said Maki getting a slight blush, a tear forming in her eye.
“Hey... Maki-chan, are you crying?”, Nico teased.
“I’m not. It’s nothing.. just a speck of dust! Don’t say such things!”, Maki rebuked, getting redder.
“You’re welcome”, the others said in chorus, Saki trying to say the words. Maki smiled shyly.
“Nico also thanks you. Now shall we go down and open up the bottles for everyone that doesn’t drive or is pregnant? You are welcome to stay over if you like, of course.”
An almost instant ‘Yey!’ erupted from the rest of μ’s.