Chapter 1: Prologue
“We thank you again for your attention and patronage.”
Hashimoto Date exhaled.
It didn’t matter how often he practiced his presentation, he always felt nervous delivering the last line.
“How often are you going to run that presentation?” his colleague asked.
“Until I have it just right.”, Hashimoto sat down, “I still don’t feel very comfortable with being the spokesperson for the team, it’s your project and work…”
“…and I am bad at presenting things to the higher-ups, besides we all know how conservative the community is.”
“But this can.. no, will put Japan on the map…”
“…as long as we get permission to publish and AMED approves, yes” she sighed.
Suzuki Haruka leaned back in her chair and looked at the bank of monitors showing various scientific data.
Their patrons had given them ample funds and even an area within their facility to conduct their research, it had taken them about 10 years to reach this point and the presentation tomorrow was just a formality, yet they’d been informed that they would be presenting directly to their patrons, not to the research committee to whom they normally presented their status reports.
Maybe they’d been recognized for their work in an area that, though still controversial in Japan, was ground-breaking and maybe a solution to a problem that had been a concern for the country for the better part of the last 25 years.
“Mmm?” Hashimoto looked up from his laptop.
“… think it’s personal?”
“Hmm.. maybe but not completely. They had never given us all this if it were only personal and you know their reputation? Funding cutting-edge medical research is what they do. So what if they did it for personal reasons, we were never stopped from talking about it or publish articles.”
He typed a few keys on the laptop and closed the lid.
“Not running through it again?”, Suzuki asked.
“No. It will be ok. We got this!”
“You mean you have it.”
“No, we. Everyone poured their best work into this project. We will be ok.”
“That was sudden.” Suzuki Haruka was taken slightly aback. This was a sudden turn.
“You know… I realized from our talk that if it is personal, the results will speak for themselves and if it’s not, the same. One presentation will not destroy our accomplishments. We will be ok.”
“If you say so…”
Hashimoto stood up and started to change from his lab-coat into his street clothes.
“And now I need a drink. Care to join me?”
“Not today. I’ll look over the report once more before I leave it to be copied for the presentation meeting, then I’ll head home. Don’t want to look like a wreck tomorrow.”
“I’ll leave you to it. Otsukaresama desu!”
Hashimoto left the room and walked through the corridors towards the main exit.
Suzuki Haruka looked over the title on the folder once again after finishing her read-through. It was short and to the point, but it really lacked in impact.
She hesitated, tempted to look up a few words to add to it, but in the end decided against it. She wouldn’t risk turning the work they had done into a joke by embellishing needlessly. The results and data would speak for itself.
She packed up, picked up her coat and started to walk through the corridors of the building towards the main reception area.
The night-staff, already on duty, smiled and bowed slightly as she approached.
“Can I trouble you to give this to duplication for five copies to be present in conference room 4 in the south wing by 9 am?”
“Of course, we’ll send it right away.” The nurse replied, pressing a button on the speed dial.
“Thank you very much. Otsukaresama desu.”
Haruka waved the staff good bye as she left the reception behind and stepped into the cold Tokyo night, leaving Nishikino General behind her.
Next morning the copied folders, complete with hanko of the person that had done the copy were distributed to the conference room with a small title card.
The title read: “Mono-sexual reproduction in humans”.
Chapter 2: The report
Maki receives a report that holds a possible key to a future she and Nico have been dreaming about.
Nishikino Maki, Surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital, balanced her travel mug on her briefcase as she felt the vibrations of her phone. It was past rush hour so she’d gotten a seat and had quietly been sipping her coffee, waking up little by little.
She took out her phone and looked surprised at the screen.
Papa?, she thought and opened the message. Her father usually called and left a voicemail, emailing her was very rare. He preferred the spoken word.
It read: “There is a presentation by a research team at 0930 in conference room 4 in the south wing. Please be there. I will be too. I’ve already asked Kanda-san to cover for you and Miyuki-san has cleared your schedule till 11.”
She re-read the message. It made sense, but not really. Why did she have to go to a research presentation? She was usually spared them since she tended to be bored and preferred to read the reports instead. Well, she thought, guess I have to. But why would Papa be there too?
She glanced at the wall clock as she walked up to the reception desk at Nishikino General. Miyuki walked over to her smiling.
“Good morning Maki-chan. Did you get the message from your father?”
“I was just on my way there, need to change first… but... do you know what it is about?”
“No idea. There was an entry for a report copy in the night log, but no title.”
Maki thought for a second. That Miyuki didn’t know was not unusual, most research teams never bothered to inform everyone what they did, reporting mostly to her parents directly. Ahh well.. I guess I’ll find out.
“Thanks anyway. I’ll come by later.”
“Keep up the good work Maki-chan.” Maki heard as her steps carried her to her office to change into work clothes.
As she turned the corner to the conference room, she saw a group of people in lab coats assembled in front of the opened door. She recognized the frame of her father, but none of the others registered.
Dr Nishikino turned around.
“Ahh Maki. Glad you could come.”
He turned to whom he had been talking, a nervous looking man in a slightly disheveled white coat. He looked vaguely familiar
“Hashimoto-san. I believe you have not met my daughter Maki in quite some time now. She’s a surgeon here and will be joining us at the meeting.”
“A pleasure, Nishikino-sensei”, the man bowed formerly, “I don’t think I’ve seen you in about 20 years when I was doing my internship with your father as my teacher and mentor.”
Maki searched her memory, she’d been very young then, probably in middle school, a name and an image jumped out from her memory.
“Date..-san?”, she said slowly, her head tilting slightly, “You had a DNA spiral on your tie when you visited my father.” She didn’t remember anything else, but the tie had been so outrageous it had stuck in her mind.
“Yes, you remember. Thank you for making an old man happy. I must say I see your parents’ lines in you, but I don’t dare to think of whom you resemble more.” He laughed, scratching the back of his head.
“We’re all assembled and it’s time. Shall be head in?”, her father gestured to the open door.
“Let’s!”, Hashimoto-san replied.
The projector whirred to life, displaying it’s stand-by screen as Hashimoto-san addressed the Nishikinos.
“First of all, thank you for coming to our presentation on the results of our research. Please feel free to ask questions during the presentation and I and our main researcher Suzuki-sensei will answer to the best of our abilities. There is also a printed version of the report in front of you to read later.”
He breathed in.
“I’m honored to have been asked to present our results to you for this truly ground breaking research.”
He triggered the first slide.
Mono-sexual reproduction in humans.
Something stirred in Makis' mind as she read the title.
“This is why I asked you to come.”, her father whispered to her.
She found it difficult to completely focus on the presentation as her mind kept playing through a memory of a conversation with her mother when she’d told her that she was dating Nico.
“I want grandchildren!”, her mother had said.
“So, you’re saying there is a possibility that Nico-chan and I could have a child that is ours, not just from a donated sperm cell?” Maki had asked later when she was told about the possibility to fund the research project.
“That would be the intent, yes.” her mother had replied.
Her mind raced through the scenario. It was maybe possible. Now. With Nico. With her. For them!
“Yes, Nishikino-sensei?”, a female voice said.
“Huh?”, Maki felt confused then realized her hand was raised as if to ask a question. She recovered and asked: “I apologize if I am jumping ahead of your material, but has the research advanced into the realm for real-world trails?”
“Yes.”, Hashimoto looked a bit confused, “Maybe I was not clear about this. I apologize, but that is the gist of what I was just explaining. We are indeed ready for the real thing to happen.”. He gestured at the current slide.
Viability of in-utero placement
“Thank you for clearing that up.” Maki said, her mind trying to analyse the implications of the answer.
The presentation continued about how the team had refined the CRISPR-Cas9 method to introduce random elements at selected sections in the genome and how material from the reproductive cells of either sex were used to form a full genome.
Maki was listening but wasn’t really paying attention anymore. Her mind thinking on how to convey the news to Nico. Her father probably hadn’t told Nico yet. She knew they spoke to each other at times about their respective businesses, sharing advice, though Nico was mostly on the receiving end, and discussing discussion their favourite subject: Maki. So Nico would find out, probably soon.
As the presentation concluded, Hashimoto said:
“We thank you again for your attention and patronage.”. He bowed deeply and the rest of the team quickly followed suit and exited the room, leaving the two Nishikinos’ in the now empty conference room.
“Maki?” he said softly.
No reaction. Maki eyes were glazed with a hint of a tear forming in the corner.
“Maki!” he said again with a bit more force.
Maki almost jumped out of the chair.
“Are you alright?”
“I... yes. Yes of course.. just thinking…”
“About what your mother said?”
“Yes… wait.. you know about that?”
“Your mother was never one to keep secrets very well, so when she was so adamant about the research getting any and all the resources we could provide, I had my suspicions. Shortly after she told me about you and Nico and, as you know I did have my doubts at first, she also told me that she’d talked to you about grandchildren.”
“I see… well.. yeah… the subject comes up now and then, especially since Nico is Saki’s godmother.”
“I thought it might.”, He smiled warmly at his daughter.
“That’s why I wanted you to come to hear for yourself, you have the paper in front of you. Haschimoto-sensei and Suzuki-sensei are the best in their field that Japan has to offer… and they created something that might be a miracle. Especially in these times.”
He stood up slowly and turned to leave.
“Papa?” Maki called as he was about to open the door.
“Yes?”, he turned to his daughter.
“Could you not tell Nico-chan about this? And ask Mama not to tell her or Yazawa-san either? I need… I need to figure out how to tell Nico-chan.”
Odd request he thought. Then it dawned on him.
“Are you afraid to tell her, Maki?”
“Of course I’m not!”, Maki replied, maybe a bit harsh… she softened her voice, “... well maybe. This is a big step. And I don’t know if we’re ready…” her voice trailed off, she looked lost. “.. if I’m ready…”. She looked away.
Oh Maki, he thought and walked back to her and sat down.
“Maki.”, she turned to look at him, ”In my years at this hospital, I’ve heard that questions more times than I care to count and let me tell you that you can never be ready. It is impossible. With a baby, a child you are faced with new things every day that you never planned for. It will be hard at times, you will want to just stop everything and take a breath, but you will never regret it.”
She pondered his response.
He placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Me and your mother and I’m certain Yazawa-san too... we will all support you. You’re not alone in this.”
Maki looked up in shock at her father. He had never said anything like that to her as far as she could remember. His eyes radiated experience and a fathers unconditional love for his daughter.
“Papa…” she was completely taken aback by his behavior.
“You’ll both be fine. Your relationship is strong and I’ve seen how you support one another. You, both of you, can do this… if you want to.”
As Maki returned to her office, she checked the rest of her schedule, it was devoid of any meetings or surgeries, but… she was certain she had a prep this afternoon and a meeting. She keyed the inter-hospital phone.
“Moshi moschi. This is Miyuki.”
“It’s Maki. Didn’t I have things booked this afternoon?”
“You did, but you father insisted he’d take those and let you go home early today. He said you’d be studying some research report ?!? Was that wrong?”
“Ehh… well no, but I thought I’d still do something. I can’t just leave all the work to you…”
“He said it was fine. Although, he did have a smirk on his face. Haven’t seen that on him for a while now.”
I guess he beat me, Maki thought.
“I see. I just wanted to double check. Talk to you later.” Maki disconnected the call.
No escape then, she thought, opened the folder she’d brought with her and started to read.
The report spoke of methods, how the division process was triggered, the removal and specific parts of the genome, how random elements were introduced and the risks.
Reading about risks made Maki feel cold, her normal medical detachment failing her. This could be about her or Nico, about their life.
The risks were many but mostly around the first steps where the genetic material was hacked up and rearranged before it was introduced into the body. Though the actual pregnancy itself wasn’t a cakewalk either, she didn’t notice any significant changes from what she’d learned in med school.
If they did this, they would be the first couple in Japan, maybe the world to do so, the medical community would be paying attention. They could be nothing but exemplary. That thought caused her to giggle. Trying to imagine Nico being all serious while a doctor observed her would be a sight. I wonder what they would say if she started to do her idol posing at odd times.
She closed the folder when she had finished and sorted through the information in her head.
The risks were there, but nothing too serious. They would have the full attention of the staff and the research group, the Nishikino name alone would see to that and the medical community at large would keep their eyes on them so they would more or less be guaranteed the best possible care in any case.
She made her decision. She would tell Nico over a nice dinner tonight. She won’t be able to hide it from her anyway so might as well get it out of the way. She took out her phone, opened the LINE app and scrolled to her private channel with Nico.
DrNishikino: Nico-chan, you busy?
It took a full minute until a reply popped onto the screen.
No1Idol: In a meeting with Hanayo and a new group that we look to sign.
Oh she was busy. A second message came in.
No1Idol: Hanayo is doing most of the talking, you know how she is. Aren’t you still at the hospital? Or did you want to get home early to surprise your number one Idol?
The rest was filled with smiling emoticons and hearts.
No1Idol: You love it!
DrNishikino: Can we have dinner out tonight? There is a place at Tokyu Plaza Ginza that Papa has been talking about.
No1Idol: The great Doctor Nishikino asking out her wife on a date. Whatever have I done to deserve such an honor?
Not now Nico-chan, Maki thought as she typed.
DrNishikino: I just thought it might be fun! No need to get so high and mighty.
No1Idol: You know I’m teasing you right Maki-chan?
DrNishikino: Well yes, but…
No1Idol: When do you want me to be there?
DrNishikino: 6pm ok?
No1Idol: Anything for you, my dear. Got to go, Hanayo is looking at me in this ‘important idol business’-way. Love you Maki-chan.
A repeating heart emoticon filled out the message.
DrNishikino: Love you too, Nico-chan.
Maki locked her phone and let out the breath she’d subconsciously had held.
“I’m very sorry about that. My wife doesn’t usually text during office-hours, so I was worried something was up, but it was just a minor thing.” Nico apologized to the group on the other side of the table.
“Is everything ok?” Hanayo asked next to her.
“Yes. Nothing to worry about, now… where were we?” Nico asked, only listening halfheartedly to the response and continued conversation as Hanayo took lead.
What’s going on Maki-chan? We have no anniversaries of our own or anyone else and I know for a fact that Saki is fine, Nico thought.
In fact, Eli, Nozomi and her rambunctious goddaughter had come by the office earlier to visit. Nico always enjoyed her time with little Saki. It made her feel like a real mother. Something she still dreamed of becoming one day with Maki.
Maki-chan, she thought again, what are you up to now…
She looked at her watch. It was going to be a long couple of hours until she could head to Ginza.
First: thank you for reading thus far. I appreciate any comments you might have to improve. :)
I've been trying to use correct Japanese honorifics where possible, but since I'm not a native speaker, I might have gotten it wrong. Sensei/Sensee is a valid honorific for use with doctors and medical doctors. Apparently it is also used when this groups addresses others among their number. "Chichi" is polite form of saying father, where "otosan" is the informal form.
Second: I want to make it clear that I'm no medical professional by any definition of the word so most of the medical lingo comes from research or exposure, same applies to medical research methods, though I've been lucky in having a partner that did research in the field of medicinal methods for a few years so I got very used to the types of reports and articles this generates and the language in them.
Third: The method written of here is pure speculation on what can be achieved with CRIPR, so it is fictional. Having researched quite a lot about it, I feel that this could be a natural evolution of the use of this technology.
Fourth: I put no level of ethical and/or morale in the technology I'm describing, also I will not go into any legal ramifications since I simply don't know the Japanese justice system that well. This story is about the journey, not ethical issues with genetically modified humans.
Chapter 3: The decision
Maki has an important question to ask Nico.
It started to rain as Nico climbed the stairs from the Ginza metro station to street level.
Geez, lucky I brought my umbrella she thought as she walked through the streets to her destination, Tokyu Plaza Ginza wasn’t that for from Egao Jōshō, but she was almost never in this part of town. ‘Too pricey and no idols in sight’ was her opinion and as such the area held very little interest for her. She’d been here on dinners and social events hosted by the Nishikinos and the occasional date with Maki sure, but that had always been a special occasion.
It followed that Maki had something she needed to tell Nico... but what? Another medical symposium so she’d be gone for a week? Or would she have to go abroad to speak at a conference? No real problem, she’d just come along like Maki often did when she was out on tours. Besides, something like that they’d talk about at dinner at home… so what could it be?
She arrived at street level of the Tokyu Plaza and looked around.
She was a few minutes early so she window browsed the high-end shops. Hmm that dress would look excellent on Maki, she though, but was taken aback by the price tag, maybe a bit overboard Nico.
Her phone vibrated, she took it out and opened LINE.
DrNishikino: I’ll be a minute or so late, I forgot my umbrella at the hospital so I had to get a replacement.
Please be sensible Maki-chan, not an expensive brand one for thousands of yen, Nico thought.
No1Idol: Nico always has her umbrella she got from Maki-chan with her. Maki-chan should use the one super Idol Nico gave to her.
As Maki typed she thought, that umbrella can’t even handle rain... and it’s so pink.
DrNishikino: It’s at home, it’s special to me so I want to keep it safe. Anyway I’m getting of the metro soon so I’ll be there in a minute.
No1Idol: Which restaurant are we going to? I could go up and wait there. Nico is not completely waterproof you know.
No answer. Not for several minutes.
She waited. No answer. This was not normal.
No1Idol: Maki-chan? You ok? Please answer. Nico is worried!
Nico stared at her phone. No reply. What could be going on? She started to get anxious.
Nico turned to her left and saw a blur of red barrelling towards her. She had two options, either get knocked down by her wife rushing towards her or step out of the way and try catch her.
“I can’t stop!” Maki shouted, slipping and sliding on the wet concrete plates.
She opened her arms and let the red tornado collide with her.
“Going up. Please beware of the doors”
She rubbed her back a bit. It still hurt.
“I’m so sorry, I knew I was getting late and I didn’t want to have you standing there in the rain so I ran, but it was so slippy and I couldn’t stop…” Maki’s voice trailed off and she looked embarrassed at the floor of the elevator.
“Relax! I’m fine” lifting the other woman’s head and putting a finger on her lips, “Sure it hurt, sure it was unexpected, but I’d rather have you run into me than anyone else.”
Undeterred by the finger, Maki continued to apologize:
“But you could have been seriously hurt, and I want you to be well and not in pain...”
“Maki-chan.” She took Makis’ head in her hands. “I’m fine. No harm done.”
“But..mmrg” Maki enunciated as she was silenced by Nico’s lips. Nico felt Maki relax and deeper into the kiss when…
Maki instinctively jumped back and blushed.
Ohh Maki-chan, after all these years. Nico thought.
“Floor 10. Restaurants”
Both looked at each other, laughed and exited the elevator arm-in-arm.
They strolled through the floor, Maki leading the way, looking at the various restaurants, commenting on the displays of regional and specialities from other prefectures until they arrived at the restaurant.
By first impressions Himuka didn’t appear to be very fancy or big, just a simple entrance with fabric covering in eye height, but past that barrier a wood heavy landscape revealed itself with small and long tables and windows toward the Ginza and the greater Tokyo skyline. The air smelled of grill and warm wood.
The man behind the counter welcomed them, looking at them apologetically.
“Welcome to Himuka. I’m sorry but we are a bit full tonight. Do you have a reservation?”
“Yes, “ Maki began to speak, “We have book…” Another voice broke in.
“Nishikino-sama, how wonderful to see you again!” an elder refined man in a very expensive looking and well-fitting suit came up to them.
“Togashi-san? I thought you managed the restaurant in Roppongi Hills. What brings you here?”, Maki said confused.
“I manage this one too Nishikino-sama. Our main Maitre’d was not able to come in today, so I’m helping out. When I saw your name on the booking calendar, I was not certain if it was you or maybe your wonderful parents that would grace us with their patronage this evening.” he continued to explain, smiling happily at Maki.
“Ahh well, this evening it’s just me and my wife...”
“Yazawa-sama. Yes.”, Togashi-san said without missing a beat, “May I welcome you both to our humble establishment tonight. Allow me to guide you to your room.”, he started to turn.
Nico was a bit surprised that she’d been recognized so she asked:
“Please wait a moment Togashi-san.” The man turned to her, looking a bit anxious. “May I ask how you know of me? Nico is pretty certain we have never met and it’s been a while since I did any appearances on TV.”
“But Yazama-sama, you have done appearances that have touched people. One such was at Hibiya High School just, what was it, three weeks ago?” he stated.
Nico quickly searched her memory. Well yes, she had been at a high school with Tsubasa and Hanayo a couple of weeks ago as part of the Pro bono Idoli program, but there had been no elder gentleman present then.
“Ahh yes, but I cannot recall seeing you there”
“Well, you didn’t.”
“My granddaughter is in Hibiyas school idol group. When they visited at the weekend she could not stop talking about how gracious and helpful you had been to them. She showed me pictures too.” Togashi-san explained.
“I do not pretend to understand the idol business myself, but if it makes my granddaughter happy, then it must be good for her.” He finished with a touch of pride in his voice.
“Bringing a smile is what an idol does Togashi-san. Please extend my well wishes and congratulations on being wonderful idols to your granddaughter and the rest of the group.” Nico said proudly.
“I will, now, this way please” and he ushered them deeper into the restaurant. All the while Nico was wondering why they were here and what was so important for Maki to tell her, it had to be in a private room.
The room was simple and elegant. Tatami mats, a low table with a sunken in grill, soundproofing, privacy screens and a small control panel with buttons on the table to call the staff or open the screens.
All in all. A very private room for a very private conversation.
Maki was nervous. How would you open for such a difficult topic? It was a big step, a dream, yes, but also very scary. Would they change? Would it ruin the wonderful life they had?
Could they manage? And how would they raise it? Would they have enough time to be home? Would kind of parent would she be?
“Maki?” she felt two hands on hers. Nicos hands. Warm hands. Safe hands. It would be all right. They would be ok. They had each other. It would be ok.
“Sorry. I must have phased out.” she replied, pulling her attention back to her wife.
“You might want to take that off the grill before it’s completely burned.” Nico said with a smirk, pointing to the table grill.
“Whuaahhh!” Make exclaimed as she tried to pull the deep black charred piece of osaki beef from the grill.
“It’s… just the way I wanted it” Maki pouted. “It’s best this way!”
“Whatever you say dear.” Nico smiled her loving smile, having a piece from the grill. “Mmm, your father does not mess around, this is amazing!”
Maki nodded. I’ll just say it plain. Yes, that’s the way.. just ‘Nico, do you want to have children with me’ simple.. but noooo.. it’s way to straight forward. And what if she says no… what if…
“Maki-chan?” Nico poked her arm with a chopstick.
“Whatever you need to talk to be about... I’m right here, no one else can hear. Only your number one Idol Nico is here, or you might want to have... me?” Nico said with a wink.
Maki turned beet-red. “No, of course not… we’re in a restaurant! You’re hopeless!” She pouted.
“I’m not talking about that here…” her voice got soft “maybe later… Idiot.”
“You love me!” Nico took Maki’s hands in hers.
“Definitely!” The looked into each others eyes, their surroundings temporary forgotten.
“Now tell me. What was so important that you take me to a fancy restaurant, get a private room and panic at the sheer thought because you don’t know how to start?”
“You.. noticed?” Maki looked puzzled.
“Maki-chan dear. We’ve known each other for quite the number of years, we live together, we’re married, we know each other.” Nico breathed in, “Of course I noticed, so would you if it were me, so tell Nico.”
OK, here it goes... to the point and all.
Maki took a deep breath.
“Nico-chan… do you want to have children with me?” she asked, her voice slightly shaking.
Nico’s world blinked and stopped.
She saw herself surrounded by those she loved. Maki, her mother, Cocoro, Cocoa, Cotaro, µ’s. And there was Saki, playing with a child. A child held by Maki. Their child. It was normal, perfect, unreal. Was she dreaming? She heard Maki’s voice calling to her, but her lips didn’t move. Odd.
Reality rushed back.
“What? Where? Maki-chan?” Nico blinked.
“Are you ok Nico-chan?”
“Nico is always ok when she is with Maki-chan” came the reply, more like an automatic answer than a thought out reply. Her eyes were trying to focus on Maki.
“Yes” Nico didn’t move “Ouch!” she jumped slightly and looked at her arm where Maki had pinched her. “What was that for?”
“Just getting you back to me.” Maki said with a smirk.
“There is no reason to pinch. Nico-Nii is always present and ready to put on a smile on people’s faces”.
“You love it”
“Maybe.. but did you hear what I asked?”
“Nico-nii.. ouch!... I think I do, but I can’t remember. Could you ask me again please?”
Maki sighed, it was hard enough to ask the first time. But this was for them, so she pushed down her doubts and fears and said, locking Nicos’ eyes.
“Nico-chan. Do you want to have children...”, there was a plea mixed with panic in her voice, “with me?”
“Yes!” she said after what felt like an eternity for Maki. “Yes yes oh god yes!” she continued, building up speed for each syllable. She took Makis’ hands. “You, me.. a family.” Tears ran slowly down her cheeks. She was so happy. Maki mirrored her, tears slowly trickling on the table. She’d been so afraid of what Nico would say and had repressed any tears of happiness until she saw that her everything was happy too.
They just looked into each other’s eyes for the longest time, until practical Nico emerged with a simple question: “How? Like Nozomi?”
“No, nothing donated but from us. Only from us, no one else”
“What? But how?” Nico was confused, they, well, couldn’t. Only male and female in combination could create that miracle, not two females, or that was what she’d been taught.
“Well… this morning there was a presentation at the hospital…” Maki began, accounting for the presentation, her subsequent reading of the report and, on a layman level, how it would work. And about the attention of the medical community and probably the press too.
“But there are a few things we have to decide before we even get there.”
“Most importantly, who of us will carry?”
There was a long silence.
The table buzzer woke them from their thoughts. Maki looked at Nico, who nodded, and Maki let their booth doors open for the server.
The server served the next dish, quickly explained the various pieces of it and left, probably feeling the atmosphere in the booth.
They ate in silence for a few moments, their thoughts on the question until Nico suddenly said:
“I’ll do it!”
“No buts! I’m sure. I want this! I’ll do it!”, Nico was fired up. She had an intensity about her that Maki had never seen before. She would not back down, Maki knew.
“Nico-chan…” Maki throat felt dry.
Nico’s eyes glowed and she said calmly:
“Maki-chan. You know Nico is the right person for it. Nico can handle the media. I have an idea what to expect from how my mother was, and I’d want no one else to watch over me but you. Because I know that you will be level headed for both of us. Or should I say for all three?” a warm smile spreading across her face. “I’ll show them what Nico-Nico-Nii, number one wife in the world can do. No… what the number one couple in the world can do.”
Maki sighed: “This is serious, this will affect us both. Idiot.”
“You love me.”
“Ohh yes I do”, she tilted the raven-haired womans’ head up and kissed her. A kiss of love, promise and hope for the future.
They stayed like this for a few seconds, unwilling to break contact.
“I love you Nico-chan” Maki whispered as they finally parted
“I love you too Maki-chan”.
The remainder of the dinner was spent with conversation shifting away from the topic a silent compromise to talk about it at home.
As they arrived at their home, Nico said teasingly:
“You know… in order to have a baby there are certain things that need to be done by the to-be parents.“
“Uh? What? But the procedure is done at the hospital and there is nothing….” Maki started to reply.
Nico reached up and softly bit a certain sensitive spot on Makis’ neck.
The effect was immediate, Makis’ eyes went wide and her breathing got heavy.
“Ohh… well yes, there are some procedures that…” her voice getting hoarse.
Nico took Makis’ head and gently pulled it to her level.
“Shut up and take me to bed already…” She nibbled the top of Makis’ ear.
Maki didn’t need any further encouragement.
Thank you for reading, I appreciate any comments you might have on how I can improve.
Himuka is a located on the 10th floor at Tokyu Plaza Ginza building in Ginza, Tokyo.
Hibiya HIgh School is located in Chiyoda City, Tokyo.
Chapter 4: The procedure
Maki and Nico go in for the procedure that will start of a new chapter in their lives
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
Time-frame: Maki is a surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital and Nico is working as an idol producer at her own company. They are living together in Tokyo as a happily married couple.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
”Nishikino-san, Yazawa-san. How wonderful to see you two again.” A happy Dr Suzuki greeted them as they stepped into her office at Nishikino General.
For the past two months the couple had regular visits with the research team to do medical checks on their health and well-being in preparation for the procedure and following pregnancy.
As both Maki and Nico kept up their routines from their time as idols, well, maybe not as vigorous as then, they were in good, if not close to perfect shape and condition. Egao Jōshōs’ Pro Bona Idoli initiative certainly kept Nico in shape.
“Thank you for seeing us today.” both replied in unison with a small bow.
“I keep telling you, no need for such formality. I should be the one thanking you.” a slightly flustered Dr Suzuki responded. “Today is a major milestone. I’ll explain once again what’s going to happen in case there are any final questions.” She launched into a rehearsed speech on what was about to happen, how they would perform the procedure, what would happen next and what factors of randomness should be applied. It was all very technical and in some instances went way above Nicos understanding. She had picked up quite a lot from her visits to the hospital and from Maki, but not really enough to understand what a dedicated and very engaged scientist in a very narrow field would routinely talk about.
“So, that’s about it. Do you have any questions?”
Nico and Maki exchanged looks.
“Could we get a few minutes in private?” Maki asked. More for Nicos benefit than her own.
“Of course. I’ll step out…”
“You don’t have to...”
“It is no problem. I should talk to the others and check on the preparations anyway. Please come find me when you’re ready.”, with that she opened the door, bowed slightly and left.
As the door closed, Maki looked at Nico.
“OK, what didn’t you get? This was complicated even for me, and I read the report a few times.”
Nico breathed out, “So...” she began, “I get that they will use stuff from both of us to do this and use some fancy gene-thing...”
“CRISPR-Cas9”, Maki interjected.
“.. yes that, to edit the stuff together as to get a whole and then implant it in me. And they will take several eggs from each of us to have material to work with. Nico got it right so far?”
“Yes, somewhat simplified but accurate.”
“And that since they are editing, it is possible to ‘design’ everything in a way we want?”
“True, but they can introduce random factors for a few traits that will be known to them but not to us.”
“And we won’t awake while they extract?”
“No. They’ll put us under for the procedure. We’ll be out for a few hours.”
“Then I have one thing I want to ask.”
“Not you Maki-chan. But Suzuki-sensei”
“Well…“, Nico blushed slightly, “can we be in the same room and hold hands while it’s happening?”
Maki felt herself bushing.
“Nico, that is … so unprofessional and we won’t even be awake for most of it… but.. “, she started to twirl a few strands of her hair that can almost matched her cheeks now, “.. I’d like that too.”
“Nico knows it’s sappy but.. uh..wait.. you agree?” Nico was slightly shocked.
“Of course I do. I want to be there with you. I mean.. this is for us.” Makis' voice was soft.
“Then…”, she stood up,”let’s go!”, walking towards the office door. Maki followed.
As they approached the door Nico stopped, stepped closer to Maki and kissed her. Maki stiffened just for an instant, then relaxed. She was in her hospital after all.
“Ok, now I’m ready!” Nico said softly as they broke contact. “You?”
“Yes. I love you Nico-chan!”
“I love you too, Maki-chan”
She felt slow, like syrup had been poured into her brain.
She tilted her head to the left and looked into a face with crimson eyes. Nico smiled. She squeezed her hand.
She saw a nurse talking to Nico, but couldn’t hear what was being said, then she became aware of another nurse hovering above her. Somehow, she knew that the nurse was smiling gently beneath the surgical mask.
She squeezed the hand again and looked into those amazing eyes, blinked and turned towards the nurse.
“It’s time Maki.”, the nurse said in a soft voice. Maki recognized the voice but her mind was so sluggish she couldn’t place it. It was so familiar. Like a blanket of warmth and security.
“I want you count down from ten with me ok Maki?”
Maki nodded ever so slightly.
This was happening.
They would make it work.
She had Nico.
Nico had her.
Papa was there.
Mama was here.
She tried reach for the nurse’s hand. “Mama?”
“Three.” The nurse nodded.
Makis’ eyes fluttered; she had a hard time to keep them open.
It was getting very dark. But she felt safe.
“One. I love you Maki.”
Maki wasn’t sure if she had heard it when it all went black. Hands were still locked together.
The Nichikinos stood with Dr Hashimoto, Dr Suzuki and Nico’s mother the other side of the observation window while two female doctors were proceeding with the extraction procedure, various coverings obscuring the view for the onlookers.
Monitors on the windows sides showed Makis’ and Nicos’ faces along with their vital signs.
“Thank you again for letting me be there with her.” Yazawa-san said with a slight bow to the others.
“No need to thank us. I wouldn’t have been right if only I had been there with Maki and not you with Nico.” lady Nishikino said. “It’s an important day for them both, and we should be there to support them.”
“My dear Nico was a little scared at first, but when she realized I was here, she was no longer frightened. She smiled through it all.”, Yazawa-san said with a tear forming in the corner of her eye.
“We’ll get up to the recovery ward in a bit, will you stay with them until they get moved up dear?”
“Of course. Maki is my daughter and Nico is part of the family. I want to make certain myself that they receive the best care.”
The two women left the room, leaving Dr Nishikino to his thoughts.
The first sensation was one of taste. It was bitter, metallic and foreign.
The second was heaviness, her limbs were hard to move.
One by one her senses and body parts started to make themselves manifest. But she was still confused, where was she? What was that smell? The smell was familiar but what was it? She started to panic, she could hardly move and her eyes didn’t want to open. She put all her might into opening her eyes. And…
It was so bright, it was like needles in her eyes. She gasped for air, trying to force her eyes shut as the tears started to well up.
“It’s ok. I’m here.”
That voice, she knew it. It was warm. A blanket against the panic.
“You’re going to feel a bit disoriented but it’s all right. We’re here. We’re fine.”
She willed her head to turn away from the brightness that was starting to seep through her opening eyelids. As she opened her eyes more and got used to the sensation, she felt her other hand being moved away from her and put into another hand.
It felt.. familiar as she held it, squeezing it a bit.
Her eyes were now open, the tears protecting them slowly flowing away. She looked into another pair of eyes, warm and familiar.
“Hey you.” The voice said. It sounded drowsy, but certain.
Her brain kickstarted, it all came back, where she was, who she was, why she was here, everything.
“Maki-chan!” She turned to the voice she’d heard first. “Mom? It was you.” She moved her head again, looking into those violet irises, squeezing the hand she held, interlacing the fingers.
“We…” they started at the same time, stopped and just smiled at each other.
Makis’ mother stood up “Yazawa-san? I think I need to get something to drink, would you like to join me?”
“Of course. We’ll be back in a bit. You two rest up now.”
They left the room and walked towards the vending machines at the end of the hall.
“Maki-chan also knew that it was you?”
“She figured it out. That girl.. you know, she was scared. But not for herself, for Nico-chan. She kept looking over to her. I think Nico-chan squeezed her hand while they were going under so that Maki relaxed.”
They continued walking in silence, their steps echoing in the hallway. The patients walking in the halls recognized Dr Nishikino and nodded politely to her. One approached them.
“Excuse me Dr Nishikino, may I disturb you with a question?” he said.
“Of course, Ichimura-san” she replied having glanced quickly at his patient wristband.
“Well… do you know when the next mini-concert will be? I was in intensive care then so I could not attend, but I watched a video my room neighbor had on his phone and it looked lovely. Both your daughter and Yazawa-sama put a big smile on my face with their performance, so I was hoping to see it for myself now that I’m in the normal ward.”
“I can’t really say, but I will speak to them about it”
He adjusted his view to look at Nicos’ mother.
“I beg your most humble forgiveness, but are you Yazawa-sama? You look taller than in the video.” He asked quizzingly.
“You’re half-right Ichimura-san. I’m her mother.”
“Ohhh. Please convey my most heartfelt greetings to her. And please ask her if she can make an appearance at this ward. I’ve heard how wonderful and kind she is to all patients here.”
“That is very kind of you to say. I will convey your greetings when I see her.”
“Thank you both.” He bowed. “I’m sorry to have taken up so much of your time.”
Dr Nishikino waved no problem and Yazawa-san struck the Nico-Nii pose. “Thank you for being a friend of Nico-Nico-Nii.”
Suziki-san smiled and bowed even deeper. “May you be well.” and they continued towards the end of the hall.
“You know what Maki would say about that, don’t you?”
“All too well. And Nico loves her for it!”
They looked at each other and started to giggle.
“How are you feeling?” asked Maki, the effects of the anesthetic still lingering in her speech.
“Drowsy. Like I’m dipped in syrup. It’s hard to move.” Nico replied, slowly turning towards her wife.
There was silence for a few moments.
“It will be ok, right?”
“Of course, it will.”, Maki’s voice was confident. “You’ll have the best care the hospital and team can provide… and you’ll have me.”
Nico was silent for a moment, trying to assemble her reply.
“As long as I have you, I can do anything.” She tried to bring her arms up, but only managed to get them to her neck, “Number one idol Nico-Nii and her wonderful wife Maki-chan. Yey!”
“You love it.”
Ruby sinking into violet, they smiled and knew it would be all right.
Thank you for reading. If you have any comments on how to improve or the story in itself or the connection to the works that have inspired this feel free to leave them below.
Just think about the following:
I have only basic training in medicine and medical procedure, so descriptions of medical procedure, how certain procedures are performed and sensations after such procedures are taken from various sources on the subject I found during my research.
The method of gene manipulation/editing described, does not at the time of this writing or to my present knowledge exist. But as I am familiar with how CRISPR works through my research i definitely put it in the realm of possibility in a future time.
Also I do not take a stand on the ethical implications of such technology or how this would work in a legal sense, these topics are not relevant to the story.
Chapter 5: The announcement
As the changes start to manifest, their surroundings start to question what is going on with Nico.
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
Time-frame: Maki is a surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital and Nico is working as an idol producer at her own company. They are living together in Tokyo as a happily married couple.
This takes place about 3 months after the previous chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nico was not in a happy place, despite her attempts to think of one.
It had all started a few days ago and while making breakfast no less. She had suddenly felt very disoriented and dizzy, having a hard time to focus her vision on the pan in front of her and standing upright. Maki, nursing her mug of coffee, had almost dropped the mug as she rushed over to her wife, insistently asking if Nico was alright, catching her as she started to sway.
As Maki held on to her, Nico found some semblance of control, only for the dizziness to be replaced by another, more pressing sensation.
She needed to hurl, Bad. Now! Her body went into overdrive, the change too quick for Maki to react to as Nico bolted out her grasp and out of the kitchen to the closest bathroom, her hands covering her mouth.
Arriving in the bathroom, she lifted the toilet seat abd surrendered to the sensation. She had been sick before, she had experienced hangovers worse than the Tokyo summer heat, but this was something else entirely. This is primal and unearthly.
Maki came in a few seconds after the first expulsion. She rarely felt pity, she’d never really had to. Well, perhaps that one time, when she saw Hanayo struggling to admit to herself that she wanted to be a school idol all those years ago. This was different. This was Nico. Strong, sometimes annoying, wonderful Nico. She quickly changed into her bathroom slippers and hurried to the older womans’ side. Lifting Nicos’ hair out of the bowl, she gently squeezed her shoulders.
“How do you feel?” she asked in a voice loaded with concern and worry.
“Like crap.”, came the weak reply. “What did we eat yesterday?” Nico spit into the bowl.
Maki was silent for a moment.
“I don’t think it’s that.”
“Huh?” Nico could think of nothing else that could cause this besides heavy drinking. And the last drop she’d had had been at that restaurant in Ginza.
“Remember when we were going for a check-up two days ago?”
“Yeah, so?” She hurled again. Spitting, cursing and breathing heavily as Maki steadied her giving her some water to rinse with.
“I think what you’re experiencing is morning sickness.”
Morning sickness. She of course knew about that… but.. did that mean..?
“You think.. I mean.. am I.. .are we… ?” tears started to form in her eyes, not from the pain or discomfort but from something else.
Maki hugged her gently from behind. “It could be.”, she sobbed, her control temporary slipping.
“We’ll see tomorrow at the check-up, Suzuki-san said that these first weeks after were crucial to see that the body accepts it.”
Nico was silent for a moment, trying if she could stand.
Slowly, with Makis’ help, she got to her feet and walked over to the basin. She washed her face, rinsed her mouth and looked into the mirror, seeing herself and a worried Maki just behind her.
“I’m ok now… I think.”, she inhaled, Makis’ expression didn’t change “Don’t worry dear. I really feel better. Nothing gets the Number 1 Idol…”
“This is serious!”, Maki interrupted, maybe a bit harsher than she intended. Nico was not getting away with disregarding this she decided. “And I can’t do anything, there are no good drugs I can give you to stop it from happening again or to make you feel better or to make it less gross.”
“Let me finish Maki-chan.”, Nico said calmly. She was the picture of determination and composure, next to a skittish and almost panicky Maki. I wonder who is pregnant, me or her? she thought, judging the difference in reaction.
“Nico knows this is serious,”, she started saying in as calm a voice as she could, “don’t think for a second I’m not completely down with that. What I wanted to say is that whatever comes, Nico will deal with it head on. I have you here to support me. We have our families. We the people from the research group who concerned for my well being to the point of obscenity.” she paused, breathing in, “As long as I have you with me, Nico can handle anything. Nico might complain and gripe, but never for a second doubt that I am prepared as best as Nico can be.”
“Maki-chan. I need you to be my wonderful wife but also my cool doctor, ok?. So try not to panic all the time.” She rinsed her mouth.
“But…”, Maki started to protest.
Nico took her wifes face in her hands. “And I love you. That gives me all the strength I need.” She gently pulled Maki’s face towards her own.
Their lips met.
Nico was not in a happy place.
She was in a meeting with Tsubasa and Hanayo trying to negotiate a sponsorship deal with one of the local tv stations in Hokkaido for a school idol event held there. And they were being impossible.
She wasn’t asking for much in return, just a small segment of space on the billboard of the event and time during the commercial breaks.
And they were down arguing about centimetres and frames in those areas and Nico was having none of the fidgeting that the stations head of marketing, a Sakura Kanji was doing. She did understand his point, he didn’t want to tick off the other, more traditional, idol agencies that were also sponsoring the event, but at the same time, Egao was a special case as it not only was breaking the traditional mold of controlling all aspects of their idols life, but also that it was led by the number one idol in the universe.
When she said this in a harangue against the unreasonable counter demands they dared to make of Egao Tsubasa took note. Even Hanayo, with her razor focus on all things idol, looked at Nico somewhat confused.
She’s been way more on edge lately, Tsubasa thought, and way more moody than usual. What is going on?
She knew she had to stop the typhoon that was Nico before it was too late so she suddenly stood up.
“Excuse me” stopping all conversation with her sudden action. “I think we might need a few minutes to catch some air and reevaluate our positions. Sakura-san, would you mind waiting in the lounge area for a few minutes. Koizumi-san will get you something to drink. Nico-san, would you join me on the roof for some air?” She wasn’t asking, but she smiled kindly.
“Yes, of course.” Sakura-san stood up and bowed. “I think that would be good.”
“Thank you for your cooperation. Nico-san, let’s go.” And they left the room.
After a short elevator ride, Tsubasa and Nico stepped out onto the roof.
“Ok Nico. What’s going on?”
“What? Nothing. He’s unwilling to budge on what is a reasonable request given our sponsorship.”, Nico shrugged.
“Something is. You remember Monday?”
“You ended up crying when we interviewed that composer. The Otonotizaka-alum? The one that had been an idol herself?”
“You did!” Tsubasa stomped her foot into the ground. “You kept going on how Otonotizaka has produced wonderful composers in both classical and modern music. I know that you meant Maki-chan, but you made that woman uncomfortable by praising everything about Otonokizaka, its’ music direction and her compositions so bluntly.”
“But the material she applied with was so good.”
“You made her cry… of joy probably but still”
“And then you called her ‘Maki-chan’!”
“I don’t know, the samples she had were so close to what Maki did then…” Nico fell silent and looked down, shaking. Small drops of liquid falling on the roof tiling.
Tsubasa had not expected this, anything but a Nico that was on the verge of tears. She rapidly approached and put her hands on Nico elbows.
“Nico… “ she said softly, “Nico… what’s going on? Is something not ok with Maki-chan?”
“NO!” She looked at Tsubasa, a fire in her eyes she’d rarely seen, “She’s wonderful, supporting and everything I never deserved. She’s... perfect.” Her voice was cracking. “I... I don’t know ok? I just feel so... I … I don’t know how I feel. I’m sorry. I just don’t know…”. She was shaking.
“Ok, Nico. I won’t pry. But if it effects the company, everything we built together, I have a right to know. So does Maki.”
“I know.” Nico hung her head.
“How about I handle the negotiation? I promise I’ll get us a good deal for the sponsorship. And you try to get yourself grounded.”
Nico opened her mouth to protest but caught herself. Thinking back on it, she had been more aggressive and moody lately. Maki, bless her heart, never complained and always let her vent until she calmed down and all was ok again.
“Maybe you’re right.”, she resigned, “I’ll go and rest for a bit. Don’t sell Egao for a new set of rings.”, she was joking.
“Sure thing. At least two sets.” Tsubasa smirked and gave a wink. “Just let me know if we can help in any way. We wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t taken us with you.”
“I never had much of a choice... Nozomi saw to that.”
Tsubasa was almost at the elevator, turned to look at Nico, making a mental note to talk to Nozomi.
“I’ll let you know how it goes” and she stepped into the elevator.
Nico looked out over the city for a few more minutes until she started to head back too.
Tsubasa was suspicious. Something was not right with Nico, but she herself didn’t seem to know, or didn’t want to tell. If anyone, Nozomi would have at least an idea.
SpiritualMother: This is unusual. Another surprise for Honoka?
Tsubasa smiled. Last time she had a private LINE chat with Nozomi was to surprise Honoka with a Russian cake. She’d been too embarrassed to ask Eli directly since even after all these years the tall blonde still scared her a little.
KousakaTsubasa: Not this time. Nico talked to you?
SpiritualMother: Something up with Nicocchi?
KousakaTsubasa: well… she’s moody. Goes from Nico-angry to a small puddle of tears in a heartbeat.
KousakaTsubasa: She eats more too. I’m worried about her idol figure.
SpiritualMother: ok.. hmm.. has she started eating something new?
That was an odd question, hmm, had she? No..no.. that’s normal Nico to steal her fries… ahh.. wait.. but that? Surely not…
KousakaTsubasa: She started to go wild for those lunchpacks with anko. Like a week or so ago. Whenever we pass a Lawsom or Family Mart she runs in and gets 3 of them.
SpiritualMother: I see.
SpiritualMother: Hmmm. Just a moment
The moment turned into several minutes. Tsubasas’ patience was not infinite right now.
SpiritualMother: Have you asked Maki-chan?
KousakaTsubasa: No. Don’t think she’d tell me if there was anything wrong. She still thinks I might steal Nico away…
SpiritualMother: True, but Maki-chan can be very perceptive when it comes to Nicocchi.
SpiritualMother: Anyway.. Don’t. Please support Nicocchi as best you can at Egao. She’ll need you there.
KousakaTsubasa: What? Nozomi-chan, what’s going on? Tell me.
SpiritualMother: I have no idea, Tsubasa-chan. (￣ω￣)
SpiritualMother: got to go, I need to tell Saki something.
There was no reply and no indication the message had been read.
In another part of Tokyo, Nozomi smiled, put away her phone and looked at her tarot cards. Saki played with some wooden blocks next to her.
“Saki? Mommy wants to tell you something”.
Saki looked at her smiling while holding on the blocks. A small gurgle escaped from her open mouth.
“If I am right you might have a new friend soon. Won’t that be great?”
“I’m home!” the voice rang out from the entrance.
“Welcome home dear!” came the voice from the inside accompanied by the clanging of a frying sound.
Changing into house slippers, quick steps carried her through the house to the kitchen, arms outstretched until they found their intended target and embraced the woman cooking.
A quick peck on the cheek later. “Hi you. How was work?”
“Tsubasa had a ‘talk’ with me.”
The arms tightened an almost imperceptible amount. A giggle reverberated around the kitchen.
“Still? ”, the cook said incredulously, “The vow and the ring not good enough?” she added a bit of tease to her voice.
“My Nico-chan!” and bit Nico gently on the exposed part of her neck.
“Hey! Easy there or dinner might never get done.” she managed to get out mixed with laughter. “I’ll be done in a bit. Get something to drink and set the table?”
Nico was released and Maki started to set the table.
“I think we might have to tell them soon.”
“I have the feeling that Tsubasa suspects something is up. And Honoka won’t be able not to ask Nozomi. And you know how she is…”
Nozomi had always been in the background, cheering them on, being just annoying enough for them both to finally be able to admit to themselves what they had been feeling all the time. Even though her scheming had annoyed them to no end, it was never out of malice, always wanting to help people realize themselves fully while denying herself the same treatment. Eli and definitely their daughter Saki had changed that. But she was still a mother to all of µ’s.
“You’re lucky that no one reads the medical press except for me.”
“Well, I read it too.”
“You do?” Maki was surprised.
“I’m in it and they need to get my approval for publishing, so I get to read it first. Besides I need to save the clippings.”
Nico stepped away from the stove and started to serve up dinner.
“So.. should we?”
There was a long silence.
“Not yet I think. We want to be certain all is going well. You heard them at the check-up.”
“You remember what you father said afterwards? ‘It is a grand time of trail ahead, but with your energy and dedication you will succeed!’ He sounded like a movie trailer”.
“It’s a big deal for Papa too.” Maki protested.
“Fine. But he’s beginning to shatter my image of him. It’s... unsettling.”
“Just the way you like it.”
“Come here…” she reached over the table, guiding the other womans chin to her own and kissed her.
Tsubasa and Hanayo had kept a close watch on Nico for the past month for any new ‘episodes’, quickly ushering her away when things looked to get out of hand. Nico was surprisingly calm about it after a while, just taking it as a matter of course when her emotions started to get the better of her. They could see that she was struggling to keep the super-hornet-Nico-Nii at bay and not cause a scene, but more and more she relented and let the company run itself.
There was also the fact of Nicos’ sometimes very erratic eating patterns. She’d completely stopped buying the anko-packs and instead ordered curry-pan and macha-pan en masse and usually ate them at the same time. But then suddenly it shifted to tunamayo-riceballs overnight. This diet had an effect on her body and Nico was developing a bit on a bump. Surprisingly, Nico didn’t seem to care about it. It was all very odd.
Tsubasa had created a secret LINE group in which all of A-RISE and µ’s were present, apart from Nico and Maki. This mostly so that nothing would leak to Nico.
KousakaTsubasa: So.. what do you think?
Tsubasa had explained the situation to the others, she wanted to help Nico, but didn’t understand what was going on.
KousakaTsubasa: We’re really concerned, it’s like 1000 times worse than when Umi-chan forced me to go for runs in high-school.
SonedaUmi: That was for your own good.
ARISEfan1: It was cruel Umi-chan!
SonedaUmi: Let is go already.
LittleBirb: The issue here is Nico-chan. Let’s all think about that.
ARISEfan1: Yes. What is going on?
KousakaTsubasa: Eli-san? Nozomi? I can see that you’re following…
РусскийМедведь is typing.
A full minute passed.
РусскийМедведь: We have an idea, but it’s up to Nico and Maki.
РусскийМедведь: And stop with the honorifics Tsubasa. No need for that.
ARISEfan1: Tsubasa-chan is still scared of you Eli
KousakaTsubasa: No I’m not!!!!!!!!!!!
KousakaTsubasa: I’m just polite since I don’t know her that well.
РусскийМедведь: I was a bridesmaid at your wedding. Honoka still doesn’t know all that happened at the party.
ARISEfan1: Tell me tell me.
KousakaTsubasa: Eli-san noooo
HonokaTsubasa: … fine… Eli. Please don’t.
РусскийМедведь: Thank you. 😉
KousakaTsubasa: I’ll tell you Honoka. Then I see a sofa in your future.
ARISE1Fan: Nooooooooooo, anything but that.
NyaCat: Come on. Now I want to know ^._.^
SpiritualMother: The cards said that knowledge must come from the source. So we can’t tell.
NyaCat: unfair nya.
РусскийМедведь: We need to trust them both on this.
There was a round of agreement and the discussion escalated into what had happened with Tsubasa at the hen-party. Neither Eli nor Tsubasa elaborated.
Maki was sitting on their sofa, Nico’s head gently resting in her lap. Maki’s hand rested on Nico’s exposed and slightly rounded belly.
“Think it’s time…”
“Now? You do know how long this takes”, Nico immediately shot back
“Not that, silly… to tell the others.”
“Hmm, maybe. Tsubasa and Hanayo have been very.. well, guarding I think fits, with me around clients when my mood starts to get the better of me.. and I think at least Tsubasa has noticed some changes.” She looked at her belly.
“It is beginning to show…so… shall we see if everybody can come next weekend?”
“Everyone? Saki too?” There was a bit of hope in Nicos voice. She adored her goddaughter.
“She’s maybe a little to young to understand just yet.” She reached for her phone and opened the µ’s chatgroup.
DrNishikino: How is everybody for hanging out Sunday?
No1Idol: Not a reunion, just getting together.
No1Idol: Our place.
РусскийМедведь: Arisa might not be able to babysit on such short notice.
No1Idol: I won’t even pretend to try read that name Eli, but the number one goddaughter in the universe is always welcome!
“Idiot” Maki said aloud.
“You love it”
They got back to typing
DrNishikino: It means Russian bear.
DrNishikino: And of course Saki is welcome, that goes without saying.
RiceQueen: It would be wonderful to see all of you again at the same time.
CatNyan: Yes nya!
LittleBirb: We will of course be happy to see you.
ARISEfan1: Can Tsubasa-chan come?
No1Idol: Of course. I wouldn’t dream of not having my BUSINESS partner
She looked up at Maki, trying her best to look neutral. Nico gently stoked her cheek. Maki leaned in and smiled.
No1Idol: Same goes for Anju and Erena. I’ll write to them later about it.
ARISEfan1: Yey! Reunion.
DrNishikino: It won’t be any late partying. we all have work in the morning.
ARISEfan1: I know. You sound like Umi-chan.
SonedaUmi: I don’t sound like that.
ARISEfan1: You do.
SonedaUmi: I do not.
ARISEfan1: You do.
SonedaUmi: I do not.
ARISEfan1: You do.
SonedaUmi: I do not.
LittleBirb: Honoka-chan, Umi dear. Not here please.
Maki could almost see Umis’ and Honoka’s pouting faces.
SonedaUmi: I apologize, that was unbecoming.
DrNishikino: So Sunday at 2pm ok for everyone?
ARISEfan1: I’ll check with Tsubasa-chan and the others, but I think so
SonedaUmi: Kotori and I will attend.
SpiritualMother: Works for us.
RiceQueen: Rin and I will be there.
DrNishikino: See you all then.
Maki put her phone down while Nico continued to write.
“No going back now. Sure you can handle it.”
“Of course, I’m the number one.. no… “, thought it over, “we… we are the number one couple. We can do anything.”
She sat up slowly, embracing Maki and pulling her towards her so their foreheads touched.
“As long as you’re with me. I can do anything”
They sat like this for a while just looking into the reflections in those violet and ruby eyes.
Nine faces looked at them is disbelief. Two smiled. One looked confused at all the others around her.
Kotori started to cry. Umi stared blankly ahead, unable to process the information, realization coming slowly to her face as she started to smile.
Eli and Nozomi smiled, Saki looking quizzingly around at the commotion.
“You guys….” Honoka could barely keep her tears at bay.
Hanayo held on to Rin who tried to bolt at the happy couple.
Anju and Erena just looked at each other and their hosts.
Tsubasa stood up. The others lowered their voices, Kotori being held by Umi as she composed herself.
“So that’s it! You could have just said. We’ve been worried sick!”
“She really has been worried.”, Honoka, holding her hand and wiping away at her eyes with the other, “She was so worried you were really ill but didn’t want to tell anyone.”
“Honoka?!” Tsubasa tried to silence her by putting her hands on Honokas mouth. Honoka struggled free.
“She was worried you were keeping it secret from Maki too…”
“Enough…” an embarrassed Tsubasa silenced her wife in the only way she had not tried yet, kissing her. Honoka fell silent.
Rin, having calmed down, approached the hosts with Hanayo in tow.
“How.. did you…?” she turned red.
“Ahh that, “ said Maki understanding her peers unspoken question, “.. it’s something new. No donor, just us.” She put her arm around Nicos shoulder and pulled her in close. “Only us”
“From.. you.. Maki-chan?” Hanayo’s voice was trembling.
“Yes” she whispered in the gentles voice she could muster.
“Amazing!” Hanayo said blissfully, looking at Rin.
Rin, flustered, looked behind them.
“O look we’re holding everybody up, let’s move Kayo-chin” she said as she scratched the back of her neck escaping with Hanayo to the sofa.
Umi strode, she didn’t walk, towards them with arm in arm with Kotori who was wiping away her tears.
“We wish to extend our congratulations and reaffirm our promise to support you. You will both make wonderful parents.” Umi stated matter-of-factly. Kotori jumped in “What she means to say is that we are really happy for you and if there is anything you need help with let us know.”
“But that is what I said?” Umi looked confused as her fiancé led her away to make way for Eli and Nozomi who had little Saki dangling between them.
“You’re in for quite the ride Maki.” Eli told the surgeon, “Nozomi was no angel, but Nico...” she smiled, “It’s going to get wild.”
“Hey, I’m right here Eli. No need to scare the poor lady.”
Maki chuckled, “I know what I’m in for… and I wouldn’t change it for the world”
“How far?” Nozomi asked.
“Three months” Nico hands moved to the slight bump she had.
“I recommend ginger!”
“We know. Nico’s mother told us. We wanted to limit drugs.”
Saki reached up her arms to Nico. Nico bent down to her level “Mami?” she asked looking her straight in the eye.
“Yes dear, your bestest godmother is going to me a mami” she embraced Saki, a tear rolling down her cheek.
Anju stood up hitting her glass. Everyone fell silent and looked at her.
“Nico-chan. Maki-chan. We wish you all the best, and if you need ideas for names… we got ‘em!”, laughter ran out from the gathering, “but seriously... congratulations! A toast!” There was applause.
The rest of the evening passed with pleasant conversation, an impromptu concert by Maki and Nico with the other µ’s members pitching in and lots of laughs.
A big family celebrating that they would be getting a new member.
Thank you for reading. Should you have any comments on how to improve my writing or on the story in itself or the connection to the works that have inspired this feel free to leave them below.
Please bear the following in mind:
I have no first hand experience of pregnancy so my depiction of Nicos feelings are based on research and other texts. They might be correct, maybe not. I'm guessing. So if you have suggestions that can improve my descriptions in the future, be sure to mention them.
Chapter 6: Changes
As Nico and Maki's news settle in with their friends, thoughts come to the surface.
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
Time-frame: Maki is a surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital and Nico is working as an idol producer at her own company. They are living together in Tokyo as a happily married couple.
This chapter takes place about a week after "The announcement".
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“No. No. You need to stir it while it cooks.”
“But it’s bubbling, isn’t it ready then?”
“What? No! It needs to simmer for a few minutes.”
“Simmer? What’s that?”
“You let it cook on low heat”
“So, I take it off the plate?”
“No, of course not!”
“But you just said low heat.”
“On the plate…”
Sizzling could be heard.
“Take it off... not on the sink…”
“Just slide it up to the other plate…”
“But that one is hotter.”
“Why is it on?”
The orange haired girl looked up from her notes for the lesson plan spread around the living room table.
“What do you think about… children…?”
Hanyo looked disappointed.
“Rin… ”, her sigh weighed heavy
Rin put her pencil down and exhaled.
“Kayo-chin…we’ve talked about this…”
Hanyo sat down next to Rin, resting her head on her fiancés’ shoulder. Rin leaned in.
“Don’t you think it would be wonderful?” Hanayo said dreamingly.
Rin didn’t really know how to answer. She loved Hanyo more than anything and would do anything for her, but this.. this was big.. life changing big. Her spontaneity said go for it, we’ll work it out later, but her responsible side coming from a dedication she put in all she did not give her an answer.
“Hmm? Rin?” She could hear Hanayo’ voice beginning to break. A quick sideways glance told her that there was moisture on the lenses of Hanayo’s glasses.
Kayo-chin… Rin thought.
She moved her arms around the other woman, holding her close.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I mean... “, she tried to ignore the lump that was forming in her throat, “… are we really ready? Shouldn’t we wait?”
“But Nico and Maki...”
“They are not us Kayo-chin!”, she probably said that a bit too harsh, “I’m sorry… that was… I mean… “, her voice went soft and she lowered her head in shame for her outburst.
“I know.“ said Hanayo, kissing Rin’s cheek, “.. it’s ok.”
“I don’t think I’m ready… but I want to make you happy. Always!”
“You do. Every day. And this is not just for me.. this is… for us.”
Did she need to force Rin out of her comfort zone? Like at that show?
“It has to be something we both want.”, Hanayo said.
She fell silent, drying her glasses on her sleeve.
Rin was conflicted. The thought of children had always been there, but she felt she wasn’t ready. There was so much more she wanted to do together with Hanayo before that happened, but... what was stopping her from doing it a bit later? Hanayo would be happy, but she knew that her partner was right. They both had to want this. It needed to feel right. She’d understand, right? She was her Kayo-chin, her bestest and most precious person in the world. Could she handle one more?
She rotated slowly, catching Hanayo’s cheeks with her hands as she did so and looked into those mauve eyes and kissed her. Soft, full of heart.
“Give me time ok? … I’d love to have a family with you, but I need to figure this out.”
She kissed her again, sealing the promise.
Tears slowly streamed slowly down her face.
“Rin…”, said Hanayo, kissing her back and wiping away the tears. “… of course it’s ok. Together!“
She linked their fingers.
“Together! I love you!”
“I love you too.”
Hanayo gently pushed Rin down on the floor showering her with kisses.
Some time later, the notes now spread around the floor and the table upturned, they held each other until they fell asleep.
In another part of Tokyo, a two-person futon was laid out on a tatami floor. The occupants were awake, but unaware of the others lack of sleep.
Sharp, focused and unrelenting eyes looked at the ceiling. The owner thought about possibilities, choices, consequences and mitigation plans. About reference literature, internet searches, possible peers and scenarios. She wanted to leave no avenue unaccounted for.
The head of ashen brown hair that was lying on the persons shoulder stirred. Amber eyes opened, gazing at the stern features.
The stern expression softened.
“I’m sorry if I woke you, dearest.”
“It’s all right, you didn’t.”, she looked into the deep pools of Sonoda Umi’s eyes.
“What are you thinking about?”, Kotori asked.
Umi tried to smile.
“Don’t lie. You’re terrible at it.” Kotori giggled.
A sigh escaped from Umi’s lips. There was no reason not to deny it.
“I’ve been contemplating scenarios of marriage and offspring.”
Kotori gasped. “Umi…” She lifted herself up slightly and steadied herself on her arm, “Didn’t you say that such things would come naturally?”
“I did. But…”, her voice trailed off, “have you not thought it?”
“Of course I have!” Kotori proclaimed.
More often than I’ll ever tell, she thought
“There is no need to rush Umi. We have plenty of time. Maki and Nico having a baby got you thinking?”
“Mm. Maybe it is time to take the next steps in our relationship.”
“You’re not making another presentation to my mother!”
Umi leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
“I won’t. I promise.”
“Maybe a report with some charts?”, Umi threw out the bait.
“You’re hopeless.” Kotori sat up and hit Umi on the head with a pillow. “She won’t grade it, you know.”
“I know. But I would like to consult with the others.”
“Maki and Eli primarily.”
“Wouldn’t Nico-chan and Nozomi be a better choice?”
Umi sat up.
“Of course not, they are utterly shameless! They’d want all the details of our life…”
“They care, and in order to help they need to know…”
“Well yes, but still…”
Umi was blushing.
“I... I… this is private.”, she said softly.
Kotori didn’t say anything. The shaft of moonlight coming in through a slit in the curtains outlined Umis’ upper body in a way Kotori couldn’t take her eyes away from.
She shuffled closer.
“You know, you’re quite shameless too.”, she teased.
“What?”, Umi followed Kotor’s gaze and found herself looking at her bare chest. She shrieked and quickly tried to grab the covers to cover herself only to be stopped by her lovers hand.
“So shameless!”, Kotori said teasing as she leaned in, gently bit Umi’s neck and pushed her down onto the futon.
The kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off.
Pots and pans were scattered around the stove and sink, measurement cups with various congealed liquids stood on the table, there was flour and sugar on the floor crunching under their slippers and something sticky on the side of the refrigerator door.
Nico sat at the table with a plate in front of her. On it was… something. Neither shape nor colour really suggested what it might be. Maki was standing off to her left, straight as a student presenting her masterpiece.
“Well, here it goes.” Nico said as she cut off a piece and put it in her mouth.
She started to chew.
“You know what?”
Maki managed to mutter an acknowledgement.
“This is not half bad. I can’t say that we should serve this when we have guests, but if you don’t look at it, it almost tastes like a pancake.”
Almost?, Maki thought.
“But it shows you’re getting better my dear. And that is good.”
Maki looked around at the devastation.
“Just a bit more and you’ll be good enough to get a soft boiled egg right” Nico teased.
Maki pouted, earning her laughter.
“Maki-chan…”, Nico got up and hugged her wife, “It’s ok. We’ve only done this for a few days and you are improving. You just need to get more of a feel for it and not run of to do something else and forget about it when you’re cooking. Then you’ll become the second best chef in the universe after Nico.”
She took Makis’ hand and placed it on her enlarged belly. Maki instantly started to stroke it.
“We’ll need you.”, she said softly, “So don’t give up. Ok, Maki-chan?”
Maki felt herself relax. Nico was right of course. They had just started her cooking lessons in earnest. And oven though she had most of the simple recipes memorized, she just had problems turning them from theory to actual edible foodstuff. Nico had, despite her occasional mood swings, patience with her. She just needed time.
“Ok.”, she exhaled. “Can we try again?”
No1Idol: As much as it pains me… I need your help!
SpiritualMother: Nicochi. How nice of you to write.
No1Idol: You tend to know these things before I do, so can it.
SpiritualMother: True. I revise my statement then. It took you long enough. (ಸ◞౪◟ಸ)
No1Idol: Not a whole lot better, but I’ll bite.
No1Idol: I need your help!
SpiritualMother: Need to find something to wear to make Maki jump you?
No1Idol: You’re impossible!
No1Idol: And no. Maki-chan is easy like that.
No1Idol: DON’T TELL HER!
No1Idol: I need to get my mood swings under control.
SpiritualMother: Nicochi, that’s impossible. Or at least very difficult.
No1Idol: I already asked Eli. She talked about special teas you asked her to get.
No1Idol: And that you meditated more.
SpiritualMother: The teas were just to get her out of the house for some me time.
No1Idol: WHAT? You just sent her out to be alone?
SpiritualMother: I did. I sometimes needed some time for myself.
No1Idol: Please don’t tell you sent her out for that…
No1Idol: On second thought, don’t tell me at all! Nico does not want to know!
SpiritualMother: That too. (*＾წ＾*) but I needed her to stop fussing and give me time to meditate.
SpiritualMother: It might not work Nicochi. Everyone is different.
No1Idol: I’m willing to try as long as I make Maki-chans’ life easier.
No1Idol: And I can keep working without insulting our clients.
No1Idol: Question is just how? If you would teach me.
SpiritualMother: You'll most likely only be like this now and at the end.
SpiritualMother: In the middle it's smooth sailing.
SpiritualMother: We can always come visit.
No1Idol: We as in you three or you and Saki?
SpiritualMother: Me and Saki.
No1Idol: Won’t Saki be bored?
SpiritualMother: We can try when she’s asleep.
No1Idol: I really hope I don’t have to do anything weird.
SpiritualMother: Where is the trust Nicochi?
No1Idol: That disappeared when you helped me cram for tests.
No1Idol: Nico was afraid for her chastity!
SpiritualMother: You were saving it for Maki-chan?
No1Idol: I’m deleting this chat now…
SpiritualMother: Can you take a day free from work? Like the day after tomorrow?
No1Idol: Should not be a problem… Maki-chan has an evening shift then.
SpiritualMother: Don’t want her to find out?
No1Idol: NO! Don’t want her to worry.
No1Idol: Nico is doing this for her!
SpiritualMother: I’ll be there around 3pm.
SpiritualMother: It should be close to Sakis afternoon nap.
SpiritualMother: Of course Nicochi.
SpiritualMother: But know that it might not work for you, everyone is different.
No1Idol: I know.
No1Idol: See you day after tomorrow.
SpiritualMother: Yes. I’d tell you to say hello to Maki-chan, but I guess you don’t want her to know.
SpiritualMother: So civil. It will be our secret.
No1Idol: So Eli will know.
SpiritualMother: I don’t keep secrets from her.
No1Idol: Just sent her out to get odd teas.
SpiritualMother: True, but I told her afterwards
No1Idol: You are something.
SpiritualMother: I know. ( ͡°⁄ ⁄ ͜⁄ ⁄ʖ⁄ ⁄ ͡°)
Thank you for making it this far. Any comments on how to improve are always appreciated. I'm still learning.
The idea for the presentation Kotori refers to comes from NERVs " I Could Be There For You" - Chapter 7. It worth a read.
A thank you to Ryqoshay for beta-reading this chapter.
Chapter 7: Half-way point
Nico is half-way through the pregnancy and is beginning to feel the mental strain. Maki has just the right medicine for her.
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I’m home!”, Nico said to no one in particular as she entered their empty house.
Maki wouldn’t be home for several more hours, having late shift at the hospital. They’d at least been able to have lunch together after Nico’s check-up.
Everything was proceeding according to expectations medically. The baby was developing well and Nico’s discomforts, though present, had gotten more manageable as time went on. Even Maki’s cooking had improved a lot over the last month with the redhead managing to surprise Nico with her progress, and Egao Jōshō was more or less running itself with Tsubasa and Hanayo picking up what Nico couldn’t manage when her moods got the better of her and Nozomi’s techniques didn’t help to catch her in time.
Thing were moving along as well as they could, maybe even better than anyone could ever have predicted.
Then why was she feeling like.. this…? And what was ‘this’?
She took off her shoes, put on her house slippers and made her way to the living room, casually glancing at the mail she’d picked earlier. Nothing of note, just some of the facilities bills. She put them in the holder in the hallway as she entered the large room.
Something was wrong. It didn’t feel… warm. It felt cold and alien… but she lived here, Maki-chan lived here. This was their home, so why did she feel like an intruder standing here?
What is going on with me?, she thought.
A kaleidoscope of images passed through her mind, all the things she thought she’d left behind her, all the darkness, her moments of doubt, fear and loss. She felt the scar on her leg pulsating as if had opened, she felt powerless to stop the images and forgotten feelings of loathing, self-deprecation and loneliness invade her. She knew she had a good life, better than she had ever imagined, she was married to the woman of her dreams, they were going to have a child together so why was this happening. Was she really good enough for Maki? Was she driving her away with her moods? Maki deserved so much better.
It became too much. Nico sat down in the sofa and cried, holding her head in her hands.
Somewhere in the distance her phone rumbled and requested attention.
“Come on Nico-chan… answer…”, Maki said aloud holding her phone to her ear as she walked through the hospital corridors.
Frustrated, she ended the call and opened LINE.
DrNishikino: Nico-chan. Call me back when you can ok?
She closed the application, put her phone back in her pocket and continued her rounds.
“This is not good!”, Suzuki Haruka said to the room at large as she looked at the results of a blood analysis.
“What is?”, Hashimoto Date asked.
“Yazawa-sans’s blood values. We need to catch her now!”, she replied already out of her seat and reaching for her phone.
“What is going on?”, Date caught the lab result sheet as Haruka hurried out of their office room.
As Date read the values of the blood screen he started to get worried.
We have to help her now!, he thought as he hurried after Suzuki raising his phone and dialling a number he knew by heart.
“Dammit Yazawa-san… answer”, cursed Suzuki Haruka as she rushed through the corridors towards the administrative section of the hospital.
“Sorry… excuse me… make way… sorry”, she kept saying as she weaved through the normal traffic of people going about their business until she reached her goal, the office of the director to be and Yazawa-san’s wife Nishikino-sensei.
She knocked, waited for any kind of reply, knocked again and turned the door know, saying a “Excuse the intrusion” as she entered.
The office was empty. Figures, Haruka thought, she’s hopefully just doing her rounds and rushed down to the reception area.
“She’s probably doing her rounds. I’ll try to call her.” Dr Nishikino said as he ended the call and dialled Maki’s number.
The signal came through to a ring tone, but went to voice mail after a short while. Annoying be expected, after all she should focus on the patients, not her phone.
“Maki dear,”, he said to the voicemail, “please get in contact with Suzuki-sensei as soon as you can, it’s very important.” Then he hung up.
Date said that Suzuki was looking for her too, hope they find each other.
“Just call me Miyuki. I keep telling you!”
“Fine. Miyuki. Do you know where Nishikino Maki-sensei is? She wasn’t in her office.”
“She should be on her rounds. Should I tell her to get in touch?”
Haruka thought for a moment.
“No, page her. This is very important. It’s about Yazawa-san.”
“What? Why did you not go here directly, I’ll do it right now. She should contact you?”
Miyuki hurried to the microphone and activated the hospital wide pager.
“Nishikino Maki-sensei, please contact Suzuki Haruka-sensei immediately. That is Nishikino Maki-sensei…”
“…contact Suzuki Haruka-sensei immediately.”
As the echoes of the page slowly faded across the hospital, Maki was already in the corridors, sprinting towards the research wing with her phone pressed to her ear.
As the first ring came through it was picked up.
“It’s Nishikino Maki. Is there a problem?”
“There is.”, replied Haruka, “Where are you now?”
“C-2, heading towards the research wing.”
“Ok, stop where you are. I need to get in touch with Yazawa-san, better yet go and see her right now.”
“What? What is going on with Nico-chan?”
“We detected severely heightened cortisol levels in her blood work from this morning. I fear this might be the beginning of pre-natal depression. We have to help her now before it even starts!”
“I tried to reach her earlier, but no answer. I think she went home. But I need to find someone to cover for me.”
“Do whatever you have to. I’ll forward a copy to your office, but go as soon as you can.”
“I’ll check who we can call in. Thank you Suzuki-sensei.”
“Don’t mention it. Just glad I finally got hold of you.”
Maki ended the call, reversed her direction and aimed for her office. She dialled another number.
“Ahh you got my message?”
“Huh? No. Papa, I need someone to cover for me today, I need to go see Nico-chan.”
“Could it be… did Suzuki-sensei talk to you?”
“Mmh”, Maki acknowledged as she weaved through the patients.
“Date-sensei called me earlier to get hold of you, what is going on?”
“Probable pre-natal depression.”
“I see. I’ll contact Miyuki and get things arranged. You know where Nico is?”
“Probably at home. She was tired after we had lunch earlier.”
She reached her office and went inside.
“Let us know if there is any other support you need. But you are the best choice for now.”
“Ok Papa. Thank you.”
“It’s fine. Go to your wife.”
“I will!”, Maki hung up.
She quickly changed out of her work clothes to her street attire, picked up her bag, dug out her car keys and left for the garage.
“Nico-chan!”, she called as she opened the door.
She quickly changed footwear and walked into the half-lit house. Coming to the living room, she saw Nico laying on the couch, rolled up as to take the least amount of space.
“Nico-chan.” Maki said softly as she sat down next to Nico, stroking the raven hair.
Nico stirred and look up at Maki. Her eyes were red and puffed.
“Maki-chan? But you work late today.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m here now.”, she paused, “Why have you been crying?”
“Nico-Nii never cries!”, came the indignant response, “Nico-Nii is an example of hope and happiness to all her fans.”
“Nico-chan…”, she moved closer and embraced Nico, ”Don’t lie. I can tell. I’m here for you.”
As Maki held Nico and gently stroked the back of her head, she felt a sudden shudder from the older woman. Maki felt Nico encircling her as more shudders became interspaced with heaves and the occasional sob. She felt her shoulder, where Nico’s head was resting, getting damp, but that didn’t matter. Her most important person was in pain and she would brave anything to help her.
“Maki-chan…”, Nico’s voice was small,”how… can you?”
Maki stayed silent, waiting for Nico finish her piece. She’d learned when Nico had more to say, but needed the time to formulate it.
“How can you… love me?”, the question bore no anger, just surprise. Nico continued, “I’m horrible. I gripe. I complain. I embarrass you. I spend your money. I get angry. I’m vain. I… I… I’m not worthy of you. I’m not worthy to be a mother. You’re so amazing and kind. You’re everything I could never hope to be. You heal people and never ask for a thank you.”
“You deserve so much more than an old, washed out idol who can’t even stay pretty for you and never stops complaining. You deserve so much better. Better than me.”
With that the sluices opened and the tide began to flow.
Maki held on to the smaller woman, even as Nico struggled to escape the embrace.
When Nico stopped struggling, Maki lightened her hold and hunkered down to be at Nico’s eye level. Nico looked down in shame.
“Nico-chan…”, Maki said softly.
The occasional sob was all Maki heard. Nico was out of energy.
“Nico-chan… look at me.”
Those ruby eyes, now even redder still avoided looking at Maki, darting around, trying to find any escape.
“Nico-chan…”, Maki took her right hand off Nico’s shoulder and with the slightest of motions raised Nico’s chin so she could not avoid looking at Maki.
“Maki-chan?”, Nico could see the trails of tears on Maki’s cheeks.
“… you know… you’re right… but about all the wrong things.” Maki took a deep breath.
“You’re an amazing woman, Nico-chan. Kind, strong, warm, loving. You’re everything I ever could have wished for. I often wonder what I ever did to end up someone as amazing as you. If I really deserve to have you, the Nico behind the idol, only to myself.”
She cupped Nico’s face.
“I still don’t know, but I am happy for every moment we share. Thanks to you, I have a life. A wonderful life, a happy life. Sure, we argue, we get mad, but we always make up. We move forward together. I know you will be an amazing mother. I only hope I can be one too.”
She kissed Nico. Tears began to trickle down Maki’s cheeks again. Nico’s eyes went wide. Console, panic, escape, stay. She wasn’t sure anymore what was the best way. Maki tried to steady her voice.
“I get that you’re scared. But understand that you are the most beautiful woman in the world to me. You gave me something incredible, you gave me love when I didn’t believe in it. You made me better person. A person who loves you very much. Who will always be there for you. A person that will always listen and always support you. Just like you do for me. You don’t have to be afraid.”
Maki kissed Nico again, soft and gentle. Nico looked intently into Maki’s eyes. A message, a plea? Maki wasn’t sure what it was in words. But she knew what Nico needed. What she needed to feel.
“Please, Nico-chan. Talk to me. Tell me when something worries you. And…”
She kissed Nico again, this time longer, more passionate. Maki wanted to let Nico know with actions, not words, how desirable she was, how important she was to Maki.
“… let me love you.”
Maki kissed Nico, brushing her tongue against Nico’s lower lip, requesting entrance. Nico obliged hesitantly, then when they met, all doubts flew from Nicos mind. She felt young, wanted and needed. The kiss felt like the first time, when Maki had taken control and on their third ever kiss. A small moan escaped from her, she opened her eyes looking into Maki’s. An unspoken promise was exchanged, then passion took over both women, driving a force of pleasure they hadn’t felt since their journey had started.
A few hours later, lying naked and out of breath on the floor, the two women embraced. Nico rested her head on the taller woman’s shoulder.
“That was…” Nico started and couldn’t find the words.
“… amazing.” Maki finished the sentence.
They lay quiet for a while, neither wanting to break the closeness they had.
“Nico-chan. Whenever you have doubt or there is something on your mind: talk to me. I am here. I will never leave you. I love you. I’m at your side and we will make it through this, together. Never doubt that. I am here!”
Nico stayed silent for a while. Feeling all tension having drained from her, she felt happy. Happier than she’d done in quite a while. She had been chosen to live with this wonderful woman, to have a family of her own, to have the support of her friends. Only she could live this life. And only she could give this life another joy. A joy she would share with the woman she loved.
“Thank you for being you, Maki-chan.”, she replied softly.
“Anytime.”, Maki replied and kissed the top of Nico’s head.
The continued to lay on the floor, their hearts beating in-sync.
“How are you feeling?” Maki asked.
“Loved. Nothing short of wonderful.”, Nico replied.
“You know... “, despite it all Maki felt herself blush, “there are certain hormones released during sex that relieve stress and improve general happiness…”
“Of course I know that.”, a light was turning on in Nico’s head. “Wait, what?!?” she said in a slightly annoyed tone.
She raised herself so she could see Maki’s face, now beet red.
Maki was desperately trying to avoid Nico’s glare.
“I’d be willing to do it... more... but only if you want to... “, Maki managed to say.
Nico looked at her wife with a mixture of understanding and anger. Yes, Maki had with a sentence managed to ruin the moment but at the same time she’d admitted to wanting Nico, to making Nico feel desired and attractive. And Maki had also admitted that she still lusted for Nico. So for Maki standards it was a good confession. Nico was going to enjoy this.
“Ohh…“, Nico began in her sultry voice, “would you now.”
She quickly adjusted her position, so she was on top of Maki. Maki’s eyes went wide as she started to realize what was going on.
“How about right now... as punishment... ”, Nico intoned as she bent forward and started to bite Maki’s neck.
“Punishment…for… what?”, Maki gasped.
“For ruining the moment… and because Nico needs some more… ‘medicine’.” Nico replied as her bites and kisses moved south on Maki’s body.
Thank you for gifting me with your time in reading this chapter. If you have any comments, feel free to write. I'm always looking for ways to improve.
Let me also state the following:
I have basic medical training, but am not academically trained in the subject, so most of the medical lingo you read about here is taken from my research into it at specific story points.
Antenatal depression, or Prenatal depression, is a very real condition that affects between 7-20% of pregnant women. If left untreated it can develop into post natal depression which is/can be even more dangerous.
Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally present in the body, but when heightened can be a sign of stress and/or low blood sugar. Exposure of a developing lifeform to high levels of cortisol can have adverse effects as to its development because of the imuno-supressive and growth supressive effects the hormone has. (source: Wikipedia)
A thank you to Ryqoshay for beta-reading this chapter.
As I've started working again, updates will come a bit slower. Please look forward to it.
Chapter 8: Of paint and flat-packs
Maki has a secret project that is about to be revealed. Also, μ’s to the rescue
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
Time-frame: Maki is a surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital and Nico is working as an idol producer at her own company. They are living together in Tokyo as a happily married couple. Nico is more than half-way through her pregnancy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“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.
There is so much to say here... so I'll just address the elephant in the room. I'm humbly apologize for the delay in getting this chapter done. I had a clear outline, wrote it and hated it. I tried again and this one didn't do much better. The more I wrote, the worse it got, until I, following a personal experience, I decided to write something else instead. As in some AU stuff and other fics (that at time of these notes most are not finished). And when I came back to "Next steps...", I reused the basic concept I had, Maki's secret redecorating, but made it more about the power of friends coming together to help one of their own.
There is a small reference back to "How to handle a Nico, chapter 'How to Handle Withdrawal'". I was laughing at the reveal in the end, so I wanted to have a bit of a call back to it.
As vacations are over and I'm switching jobs at the end of the month, my writing schedule is getting hit too. So there will be longer breaks between updates as I need to balance all aspects of life around, but there will be more coming, not just here, but also other small one-shots. Look forward to it.
And of course, I thank you for reading!
Any comments to help me improve are always welcome. Though I do write quite a lot in my professional life, fiction is always harder and my brain tends to be one or two words ahead of my typing speed. So do forgive the occasional slipup, I'll fix them when I see them.
Chapter 9: Scientists and mothers
Some are on the outside looking in, some are in the door frame, looking around.
“Did you see the latest lab results?”, Suzuki Haruka asked.
Hashimoto Date looked up from his laptop, slightly unfocused.
“The results? ... from Nico-san?”, she gestured
“Ahh those... well no. Anything we need to address?”
“No, that’s just it. It’s too perfect. Like she edited the results to make her look the best she can.”
“You know that she can’t do that.”, after a few moments he added, “She can’t, right?”
“No, she can’t. I don’t think she would either. She’s too proud to be caught cheating. Besides, if her wife found out, she’d chew her out for sure.”, Suzuki-sensee laughed again.
“Well, “, Date-sensee said, “she has been keeping herself in shape, observing not to long working hours and regular, nutritious meals and no substance use.”, he took another breath, “and apart from that episode you discovered two months ago we have seen no abnormalities in her blood work.”
“And the fetus is doing well too, normal development. I always knew there was a risk involved, but nothing points to anything like that. It’s like a textbook pregnancy.”
“You’re unhappy it is going so well?”
“Of course not! But this is the first time we’ve done this on humans. There was bound to be some bump in the road.”
It was Date-sensee's turn to laugh.
“Always ready for the worst Haruka-san, always ready to fix anything. Well, I guess that is what makes you the top scientist here.”
“And people like Yazawa Nico. To whom being number one is not just a word.”
Maki opened the door and stepped in.
“Excuse me, pardon the intrusion.”
As she took of her shoes, she heard someone rushing up behind her.
“Lady Maki-sama, how wonderful to see you. But... this is your home, there is no need for you to excuse your entrance into it.”
“But...”, Maki looked into the friendly face of the family butler, Daisuke, “I don’t live here anymore.”
“This may no longer be your permanent dwelling but it never stopped being your home. In fact, both you and Yazawa-sama have a home here too. Your parents said so and the staff whole-heartedly agrees.”
He looked at her with warm gray eyes.
“Welcome home, Lady Maki.”
Make couldn’t help smiling and replied: “I’m home.”
“Is my mother home?”, she asked.
“Yes, she’s in the study. I’ll get you both some tea.”, and he turned and left towards the kitchen.
Maki walked through the hallways, heading towards the study. Arriving she opened the door.
Her mother, startled by the unexpected voice, looked up from her book.
“Maki dear! I didn’t expect to see you. Come in. Sit.”, she pointed at the other chair. Maki sat down.
“Needed to get a few breaths away from Nico?”, she laughed.
“What? No... of course not. I... I...”, Maki hesitated.
Her mother waited patiently for Maki to get over her embarrassment. Maki collected herself.
“I wanted to ask: How did you handle it when you were pregnant?”
“Me? I didn’t have much to say in the matter, your father was the one fuzzing over me. You haven't asked him?”
“No.”, she looked down, “I didn’t dare.”
“You probably did the right thing, your father is a loving husband but when I was pregnant, he was a mess.”, she giggled, “He tried so hard to do everything himself. We’d recently moved here, our butler had retired and we were looking for a new one.”
She looked at Maki.
“And your father, the lovable, stubborn man that he is, wanted to do everything himself. I’d stopped working since it wasn’t practical with carrying you around. Besides, he didn’t let me.”
“So there I was, confined to the house, your father interviewing people for the position and then...”
“What? He left you alone?”, Maki was shocked.
“Indeed he did, but he kept running back and forth during the interviews, checking on me instead of having me sit in.”
“I thought he would have insisted that you go to grand-mother for the last bit.”
Maki’s mother thought for a while.
“Now that you mention it, him being a traditionalist, that would have been expected. But I guess his pride put a stop to that, we wanted you to be born at our hospital. Silly man.
Anyway, he was interviewing Daisuke-san when I suddenly started to feel really bad, so I got up and staggered to the dining room where he was doing the interviews. I must have missed him somehow because when I got there he was nowhere to be seen. Daisuke-san greeted me and asked me what was wrong, then your father came in from another room. I told him that it was time and well... he froze up. I didn’t know what was happening so Daisuke-san got him back to his senses and then drove us to the hospital.”
Maki was still for a moment.
“What is it, dear?”
“I always thought that he’d planned every last detail so nothing went wrong.”
Her mother crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“No, no. I didn’t mean it like that. Our father had planned it all, but my point is that you can prepare all you want, but never rely on it to turn out that way.”, she relaxed, “Maki, you’ve seen the to-be parents that come in. Just think of when Eli-chan and Nozomi-chan came in. I don’t think Eli-chan meant to have her face covered in blood when they arrived.”
Maki recalled the incident. She’d told the attending doctor that the couple were friends of the family and that no expense should be spared. He’d gone a bit pale, probably assuming that if he messed up, he’d be fired with a ruined reputation, by the look Maki had given him.
“Eli can be intense, but no, she hadn’t planned for that to happen.”
“You see,”, she got up and walked over to Maki and knelt down. Taking her daughters hands she said:
“in the end, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is to be there for Nico. Listen to her, talk to her. She’ll be nervous and maybe even frightened. Show her that you feel that too, make sure she knows she isn’t alone.”
“After you were born and the euphoria had worn off, I berated your father for leaving me alone and cutting me out of the proceedings like that. He apologized. And you know how rarely that happens.
But in the end, it all worked out.
So, my advice is: be there for and with Nico.”
She stood up., still holding Maki’s hands.
“And I know you are. Just seeing you two together makes me proud of the person you’ve become.”
There was a slight tap at the door.
“Ladies Nishikino-sama. Your tea.”, Daisuke came in with a tray and served.
“Daisuke?”, Maki asked.
“Yes, Lady Maki-sama?”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, Lady Maki-sama. Anything.”
“The day you came to us...”
The kissaten was quiet. Large windows gazed on the busy street outside, but inside only the quiet tones of some melodic background Jazz could be heard. In the large mug in front of her, green tea rippled slightly when a heavy lorry passed outside.
Nico loved the craziness and beat of her company, but sometimes it was nice to be able just to look out at the world and enjoy a few moments of relative quiet. She was barely aware of her surroundings instead focusing her attention below to the bump that kept her at arm's length from the table.
“Sorry I’m late Nico, there was a delay on the line.”
The other voice woke her from her reverie.
“Mama! It’s fine. It’s fine. No worries.”
“Been here long?”
“Nico is always perfectly on time”
“Yes, yes. Now, you said it was important? Is something wrong?”
Nico exhaled, trying to relax.
“Nothing, it’s all fine. No, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Excuse me, your coffee, extra cream with Hokkaido milk.”, the server put delicately down the cup in from of Nico’s mother.
“Well, I need your advice.”
Nico’s mother took a sip from the coffee and regarded those red eyes. You've grown so much Nico , she thought, what can I still teach you?
Nico made a few false starts, then her mother intervened:
“Ok, what is it? I’ve never seen you tongue tied like this.”
“Well, as you know I’m only two months away now,”, her mother nodded, “and all is going well so no need to worry there...”, her mother nodded again,”well... is there anything I should know? Some tips for the mother of your grand-child?”
Nico’s mother quickly put down the cup, stared at Nico, and laughed.
“ MAMA! ” Nico whined.
Her mother alternating between laughing and giggling and tried to steady herself, at last, with considerable effort she calmed down.
“You want me to give you advice on being pregnant? Granted I had you and your siblings, no mean feat I can tell you, but Nico...”, she took Nico’s hands, “I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. And anything that Maki-chan doesn’t know. You have some of the brightest minds in the country caring for you, you have a smart and quite resourceful wife and you have friends that have been where you are.”
She put a finger to her chin and looked thoughtful.
“If there is one thing, but you probably know this:", she continued, "be patient, especially with Maki. From what her mother tells me, she is nervous and worries about you too. But as long as the both of you keep talking, it will be fine.”
She squeezed Nico’s hands.
“It will be fine!”
Crimson looked into crimson, a passing of the torch of sorts, both women knowing what the other was thinking.
“Thank you, mama!”, said Nico, a tear forming in her right eye.
Her mother wiped it away.
Nico looked at the table.
“The cake here is really good, and I’m starving!”
“Didn’t you eat lunch just two hours ago?”
How did she know that... ohh right, the shared calendar.
“Yes, but Nico can always eat more.”
The walked over to the counter, selecting from the delicious wares on offer.
This one took forever, a couple of rewrites caused by the changes in the previous chapter kept this one from coming together. So intead of skipping over it, it's a short chapter. My prep for a course I'm teaching in december also takes up a lot of time.
There is not much time left now, just two months. What will happen in that time I wonder.
Suggestions on how to improve are always welcome.
And lastly: say hello to the family butler of the Nishikinos, Daisuke (non-canon). I figured they ought to have one. We do know that Maki has a personal chef, so that could also be the butler.
Chapter 10: A ‘forced’ getaway
With less than two months left, Maki and Nico are forced to change their scenery
A breeze took hold of her hair. Accelerated through the mountains and through the valleys it grabbed hold, moving the black hair in its’ sway as the mist formed small vortices over the water. The wind wasn’t warm, but welcome none the less, for Yazawa Nico was hot despite not being submerged in the steaming water. At an arms lenght, Nishikino Maki sat submerged in the water, a towel holding her red hair up.
Nico sat on a small stool, usually reserved for washing, and dipped her legs into the warm, soothing water. She looked over at Maki, the water glistening on her wife’s body when even she raised herself out of the water to reposition herself in the pool. She looked like a lake princess from some old European story.
Nico would have given a lot to be able to cuddle up next to Maki in this onsen, but she knew that having her legs in, was all she could do right now. Heating up the baby was not something that was recommended, so she thought about next time instead.
Apart from the wind, the only sound to be heard was the slow trickling of water as it came out of a cut bamboo and flowed into the pool. The wind wasn’t powerful enough to move the bushes around the stone pool.
It was still, far removed from the hectic and sometimes dual-nature of Tokyo where two streets could mean the difference between busy traffic and the stillness of a shrine. Here, resting like a nest between the mountains, the stillness was total. Occasionally, the engine of a small van could be heard, but no voices. It was a slice of nowhere, even their cell phones had difficulty to get reception. For two women, where busy was an almost constant state, it was a calm before a typhoon they knew would come. And they wouldn’t change it for the world.
They had been in this small family-owned inn for two days and had two more days before it was time to head back to reality. And best of all, everything had been arranged for them. The chef knew their requirements and the kaiseki was served accordingly. There was no program to follow and with the room in traditional style with floor chairs and tatami, there were very few distractions. Walking around in the ryokan area in in a yukata was freeing. Everyone looked good in one and was anonymous.
It’s the perfect hideaway , Nico had thought after some time had passed.
Two days ago, as both Nico and Maki were home, the Nishikino chauffeur had called at the door, and, after explaining that all information was contained within, given them an envelope with a letter.
You are hereby going on vacation for a few days for some well-deserved rest and not to be distracted by the world.
Maki, all is arranged at the hospital.
Nico, Hanayo and Tsubasa send their best.
It had been signed by their mothers.
Nico and Maki had looked at each other, not really grasping the situation until the driver said:
“There is no need to pack, Ladies Yazawa and Nishikino have arranged your luggage on arrival and we have about 40 minutes to get you to the station and onto your train. Gran-class of course.”
Still a bit dazed, he had ushered them to the hallway and out to the car. Maki had been the first to speak:
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“Is so far as to where the train will take you yes, Lady Maki-sama. You’re going to Kumamoto.”
“Kumamoto? But that’s...”
“Far. Maki-chan”, Nico had interjected, getting more and more curious.
“Will you be ok, Nico-chan? I mean, you’re due...”
“... in a little less than two months, yes. It will be fine, Maki-chan. Haruka said they saw nothing out of the ordinary when I came in day before yesterday. It’s ok.”
“Haruka? You’re on first name basis with Suzuki-sensee? She still refuses to call me Maki! Not that I care.”, Maki had pouted.
A giggle had escaped from Nico.
“You’re her boss, besides, it makes it all less stressful and less stress for Nico...”, Nico had led her.
“...is less stress for the baby.”, Maki had replied, dead panning the delivery, she had then smiled, “Don’t ever change.”
“Where did that come from?”, Nico had asked.
Maki had realized, she was more or less in public, with the driver being in earshot, turning red Maki had started to twirl her hair: “It’s nothing special.”
The thought of teasing Maki had shot through Nico’s mind, but she didn’t want Maki to panic, so she let it go.
The rest of the ride had been uneventful as the driver expertly navigated the Tokyo traffic until, car safely parked, he had walked with them through the station, and surprisingly, past the barriers and onto the platform with the driver in tow.
“Perfect time.”, he had confirmed, glancing at his watch, “Your train should be here in 3 minutes. Here are your tickets and reservations.”
He had handed them another envelope. To Nico it had been too thick to hold just their tickets and reservations so she had opened it and looked inside.
“Excuse me, but are you sure you gave us the right envelope? There are way too many papers in here.”, Nico had asked.
“Yes, I am quite certain. I don’t have any others to give you.”
“But then why...”
“Lady Yazawa-sama, Master Nishikino-sama was most insistent that the both of you have an undisturbed trip. I can imagine what he meant, but I don’t open the master's envelopes just because I ‘m curious. That would be wrong.”
“I didn’t mean to offend. You’re a credit to your profession.”, Nico had quickly replied to restore the balance.
The train had slowly glided in to the platform and stopped.
“Oh, one last thing. You will be picked up at the station. Lady Maki, you’ll be getting the call 5 minutes after you have arrived. And with that I wish the both of you a great trip.” He had bowed, turned on his heal and had left them to enter the train.
As they had entered the train car, they had been surprised by how empty it was. It was just them, no one else.
The attendant had come up to them and asked:
“Ladies Nishikino and Yazawa?”
“Yes?”, the reply had come in unison.
“Have a seat anywhere you like. The entire car is yours.”
“Huh?”, Maki had been stunned.
“Nishikino-sama bought the entire car and talked to me personally to ask to provide you with the best service we can provide, no expenses spared. Which is our pleasure to provide.”, the attendant had explained.
Nico and Maki had looked at each other, sighed, sat down and the train had started to accelerate to their destination.
“I need to have a talk with your father.”, Nico had said as they had gotten comfortable.
“Why? I would have done the same.” had been Maki’s reply, “anything for you, my love.”
Nico had not been able to argue against that, she might have done the same, but at a smaller scale.
“I love you too, Maki-chan"
The inn was situated in the Aso mountains, quite a decent way in. The driver, that had met them at the train station, had taken almost two hours to reach it, winding on small mountain roads, depositing them at the entrance.
After the staff had verified the new guests, they’d been taken to a small building by the side of the entrance and had been presented with a gorgeous two room suite with a personal onsen connected to it. Both agreed that it was a small personal paradise.
Finding luggage stowed and checking the contents, they had started to explore the inn and the room, finding both to be most peaceful and serine. They hated to admit it, but this was something they needed: Time for themselves and each other.
They found the nearby village to be tranquil and cosy. The rushing of water was everywhere, the smell of sulphur abundant and the network of bridges connection the town on both sides of the stream catered to the limited traffic and walking paths. To Nico’s delight, benches were abundant, the former Idol getting out of breath quite quickly in the nice weather. The matcha ice-cream topped with local honey probably also gave them energy and kept the smiles steady as they walked hand in hand through the narrow streets.
Maki was still gasping for air as her hands slowly unclenched from the futon. Nico slowly crawled up and put her head on Maki’s naked chest, the covers sliding off her body.
“Mm?”, came the exhausted response.
“Will we be ok?”
Maki was silent for a moment as her brain slowly drained itself from endorphins.
“We will. I’m sure of it.”
Nico cuddled closer.
“Are you scared?”
Was she? Was she, Yazawa Nico, the number 1 in the universe afraid? Nico searched herself and found her answer.
“I am. Nico is scared. Scared she won’t be a good mom, that something will go wrong, that...”
“Nico-chan”, Maki interrupted, “It will be ok.”, then in a more mild voice, ”I’m scared too. But together we’ll manage anything.”
“You’re scared?”, Nico was surprised.
“Of course. This is something new and I worry about you... and I know you’re going to be the number 1 mother in the universe.”, Maki attempted to sound like Nico.
Nico propped herself up, looking into the violet depths of Maki’s eyes.
“I don’t sound like that... and you sure that you’re being honest... not just wanting some more?”, she said with a wink.
“Well I...”, Maki tried to avert her gaze from Nico, “... it’s just how I fell. No big deal.”
Nico caught Maki’s chin and kissed her. Once, twice and several more times while she let her hand glide down from Maki’s chin, nails tracing over Maki’s neck and downwards. Maki’s breath hitched, telling Nico all she needed to know.
“Don’t move!”, she ordered as she lifted the covers above her head and progressed down for round two.
The end of their vacation came too early for both of them. As they entered the main building for breakfast on the final day, the receptionist gestured them over to tell them that a car was on its way to take them to Kumamoto station and would be arriving an hour after breakfast. The ryokan would take care of the luggage as long as they packed it and everything else was taken care of.
Breakfast passed with conversation about the best experiences from the stay and what gifts to get before they boarded the train, as long as they would have time for it.
Sipped her tea, Nico glanced around their small private dining area.
“We have to come back here.”
“But we’re both working and you’re due soon.”
Nico extended her arm and put her hand on Maki’s.
“Maki-chan, let me finish.”
“We have to come back here... all three of us.”
Maki’s eyes widened. She smiled.
“I’d like that.”, she thought for a bit, “maybe invite our parents too?”
Nico stiffened: “Why?”
Maki rotated the hand Nico was holding and started to draw circles in Nico’s palm with her finger. Nico blushed.
“Ehhm... excellent idea, they might want to spend time with their grandchild.”, Nico stumbled across her sentence, “for a few hours every now and then.”
“Excellent idea, Nico-chan.”, Maki replied teasingly, her gaze predatorial.
“Maybe... we... should try out one of the private baths.”, Nico’s words were unsteady, “Yes, that’s it.”
“You read my mind”, smiled Maki and stood up.
The ryokan I'm describing I had the pleasure to spend a few days in a few years ago. The room is also the room me and my partner stayed in. We had problems with cell reception, the bus ride was not too comfortable, as the bus naturally is fitted for the smaller Japanese builds of person.
Just as for Nico and Maki, the place is somewhere I'd like to return to.
Chapter 11: Final lap
With just weeks left before the expected date, it's time for Nico to make arrangements. Also, Suzuki-sensee has meeting with a mysterious woman.
“You know, Nico… you only have a few weeks left at most, so as your doctor I would recommend you stop working.”, Suzuki Haruka said to a mildly phone distracted Nico, sitting on a medical bench.
“Huh? Yes, yes of course, Nico-Nii!”, Nico hands came up before she even said the words.
“Nico… I’m serious. Just think of that you’d want to be able to appreciate all the time you have.”
Nico’s shoulders slumped a little: “I know you’re right, but… I built up the company from having my dream taken away. It’s special to me.”
“I know.”, Haruka sighed, “Look, just don’t overwork. No late evenings, no crazy trips, just keep close. We want you all safe, so that everything goes smoothly. Ok?”
Nico thought for a second, then straightened up.
“Nico promises, and Nico never goes back on a promise. I’ll be good.”
“And between us, keep Nishikino-sensee out of trouble.”, Haruka concluded with a wink.
“Oh, you have no idea.”
She got up, unsteadily from the bench.
“Ahh right. Haruka, about what I asked earlier...”
Haruka turned in her chair, listening intently.
“Hmm, I’ll have to run I by Date-sensee, but I think it should be possible. All depends on how it goes for you though. That ok with you?”
“Sure. Nico knows who will be world first.”, Nico smiled.
Nico broke the news over dinner.
“Didn’t I tell you? You should listen to your doctor.”, Maki winked.
Nico seemed to consider this.
“But you’re not. And that’s good, for then we won’t be able to do this.”, with some difficulty Nico leaned over and kissed Maki on the cheek.
Maki caught Nico’s hand.
“You know what I mean…”, she pouted.
“Nico knows. So, she will cut down being the number one idol producer for a bit.”
“A bit?!? Nico-chan…”, Maki started to protest.
“Maki-chan. Relax. I talked it over with Haruka, and I know what I’m doing. Besides… I’ll never forgive myself if something happens, anyway from now on, I’ll be mostly home.
So, expect to find your wife sleeping in the sofa when you get home with dinner ready.”
“I’ll try to be home more too. Medically speaking, it can happen any time now. And… I don’t want to miss it.”
“And Nico is already prepared. Hospital bag, extra, always charged, phone and quick dials to you, the hospital, Haruka, Miyuki and same as ECI.”
Maki silently exhaled.
It’s going to be alright. This is Nico-chan we’re talking about.
No1Idol: Umi, can we meet at the kissaten by Akiba station? You know the small rustic one?
SonodaUmi: The one next to the local specialities shop?
SonodaUmi: Of course. At what time?
No1Idol: Around 4pm?
SonodaUmi: I can be there around 18 past 4. Is that satisfactory?
No1Idol: Excellent. See you then.
Umi put down her phone on her desk.
“I’m sorry. Certain things cannot wait. Family, you understand.”, she said plainly to her guest.
“I certainly do. Family is what keeps our businesses together and at great terms.”, the business man visibly relaxed, “Now as I was saying, the Kitsuru-group would like to extend an offer…”
Umi continued to listen, making mental notes as her brain ticked through the particulars of the proposal and, more importantly, on what Nico might want. Umi had an idea what it might be.
In difference to the one near her office, this kissaten was anything but elegant and posh. The spartan use of concrete and dark hard wood, gave the impression of an unfinished building, but the coffee and tea selection were second to none within Akihabara. Being close to both the station and a Japanese food specialty shop brought in visitors both domestic and international, so signs were in dual languages.
Nico tried her best to read the English menu, having a hard time with the food technical terms, despite her being quite good at speaking and understanding the language, a benefit from the trips abroad. She muttered into the menu.
“It is pronounced availability.”, came a familiar voice to her rescue.
Umi smiled: “Nice to see that you still practise your english, Nico-sempai.”
“Oh, stop that. I know you’re just teasing Nico.”
“True, but it never hurts to be polite.”, she sat down opposite Nico, “So, you wanted to see me?”
“Yes. I want you to be my backup.”
Umi didn’t know what Nico was talking about. Backup for what?
“I don’t think I quite understand. Backup for what?”
“In case Nico needs to get to the hospital when Maki isn’t home or away, I want you to act has her backup. You live the closest. And I know I can depend on you.”
“But Nico… would you not be more comfortable with Eli or Nozomi? I mean, you lived with them?”
“Don’t remind me… but seriously, they live too far away, and I don’t want to put Saki in danger.”
Nico placed her hands on the table’s surface and bowed.
“Please Umi. It has to be you.”, Nico’s nose touched the table.
Umi was genuinely shocked at what she saw. Her upperclassmen, well former, was begging her for help. How could she turn this down?
“Fine. I accept. But you’ll have to keep me informed of your condition and give me a key to your home.”
Nico came up, extending her right hand. In it, was a house key.
“How did you…?”
“I glued it there when I got here. Be gentle when you peel it off.”
“Ever the show with you…”
“And that is why you love Nico-Nii!”, Nico did her signature pose.
“Come to think of it, you’re not skipping work now, are you?”
“Nope. I’m officially on leave, well, I hardly work. Doctor’s orders. Stress is bad and all that. And it’s boring.”
“Good to hear Maki is as reliable as ever.”
“It wasn’t her. Had she her way I’d been home from the day we confirmed it. But she can’t technically be my doctor, not in her position. It’s the head of the research group.”
Nico stopped, mouth open. Should she tell? Nah, better not.
“What?”, asked Umi.
“Ehh? Ohh, nothing. Just thought of something. Sorry.”
“Fine. Now, explain, in detail, what you will need from me.”
“Nico will explain everything so keep notes. I might autograph the list later.”
Umi sighed again, Nico was Nico.
In a meeting room at Nishikino General Hospital.
“Looking at your results...” Suzuki Haruka said, eying the file, “it looks good and you would defiantly be a valid candidate going forward.”
Putting down the file, she looked seriously at the woman sitting in the other chair.
“But, as you know, this is highly experimental. The entire gene modification procedure is a minefield, both practically and ethically. With Yazawa-san and Nishikino-san we did as little as possible, just making sure that nature was able to work with what we had. But it took us a few tries to get it right.”
“I didn’t know that. What happened to the earlier attempts, if I may ask?”
“Nothing at all, it was all just a mass of organic material, it never started to bond. I’m speaking in non-technical terms here, of course.”
“Of course. But the risk to us at that time is none?”
“True, apart from maybe psychological. But we can provide help. Both Yazawa-san and Nishikino-san knew what was involved, and they managed fine.”
Haruka folded her hand on the table.
“I just want you to know, that this is not failproof yet. So that you can set your expectations if we are allowed to proceed accordingly.”, she said.
The other woman replied in a cheery voice: “I know. It will be fine. I have faith in you and your team.”
Haruka couldn’t help to chuckle.
“I wish I had your disposition; I worry about everything. But that way I’m ready to help when needed.”
The other woman nodded.
“If you don’t mind me asking, you said your partner doesn’t know you’re here. May I know why?”, Haruka asked.
The other woman thought for a moment.
“Well, you see. I wanted to be certain that it would be a possibility before talking to her. She is quite set in her ways sometimes.”
Has to be quite the woman if she can handle this free spirit, Haruka thought.
Both the kissaten and the shop mentioned exist in Akihabara, but are further apart than stated here. The coffee is amazing, and they do indeed have an english menu. Something that helped my meagre japanese in orderring it.
The shop carries specialities from all over japan, and if you're into food and are not going around the country worth a visit.
“It will be adorable, trust me”, Kotori said, holding up the garment.
Nico looked sceptically at it. Sure it would work, but only in one situation.
“Look Kotori, we don’t know it will be a boy… or a girl for that matter”, Nico replied.
“Umi… what do you think?”, Kotori inquired.
Umi eyed the garment. It was black, with something that looked like metal plates running down the chest to one side, sweeping over the left leg. It looked more like a figure skating costume than a baby’s one-piece.
“It looks… stylish?”, came the hesitant answer.
“It does, doesn’t it? hihi”, Kotori smiled, “You should get it.”. She held out the garment in Nico’s direction.
Nico waved it away.
“Afterwards ok? Nico doesn’t want to buy things that will probably not be used.”
“Hmm… maybe we should Umi? You know… for the future.”, Kotori suggested,”Mmm?”
Umi turned a bit red, probably at the thought and her eyes were rapidly looking around, trying to find something to calm her down.
“How about… yes… let’s go to that coffeeshop over there. Nico must be tired. Right Nico?”, Umi’s eyes pleaded with Nico.
“Ohh.. ohh yes, of course. We’ve been walking so long, that Nico is tired and parched. Walking around with two is no easy feat, even for Nico”, Nico piped up, gesticulating wildly with her arms, pointing at the nearby coffee place, “I could certainly use a good drink. So, ... let’s go!”
Visibly relieved, Umi strode towards the shop. Kotori waited for a bit, looked at the item again, sighed and followed Nico, who walked with uneasy steps towards the door.
They chatted about the selection of pastries and cakes, when Nico’s phone began to vibrate.
Maki-chan indicated the display.
“Excuse me, I have to take this.”, Nico said, receiving the understanding nods from Umi and Kotori.
“Moshi, moshi”, said Nico as she answered.
“Nico-chan, it’s me.”, Maki’s voice came clear through the earpiece.
“Look,”, she continued, “I’m going into a surgery in a few minutes, but it might take a while, so I won’t be able to come home in time as I promised. This just came in and you know how Saturday afternoons are.
Nico could hear the regret on the other side of the line. The news still made her a bit sad.
“It’s ok darling Maki-chan. It’s not your fault and you are the best there is. I’ll be ok, I have Kotori and Umi with me. Save lives.”
“I’m sorry Nico-chan, I’ll make it up to you.”, after a few silent moments, “I need to go, I’ll be done as soon as I can. Love you, Nico-chan.”
“Love you too, Maki-chan.”, and the call disconnected.
Nico sat still for a few moments, gathering herself not to get emotional over the call.
Damn these swings, she thought.
Kotori and Umi sat silently, waiting for Nico to exit her inner world.
“Is everything alright?”, Umi asked.
Nico stifled, unsuccessfully, a sniffle.
“Maki-chan has to do an unplanned surgery. So she won’t get home until late probably.”
“You know she didn’t mean to.”, Kotori said.
“I know.”, Nico sighed, “And it shouldn’t get to me like this, but with what is going on…
It’s hard to keep my cool, you know?”
“We know.”, Kotori said, putting her hand on Nico’s shaking hand, “We’re here for you.”
“You can always count on our support and assistance.”, Umi confirmed.
Nico dried her eyes that had misted up.
“Thanks. Really.”, Nico smiled.
“Now, “, Kotori said, “where to next?”
Umi’s phone rang.
There was a grunt and a strained voice almost screamed from the earpiece.
Umi bolted to a standing position at the restaurant table.
“I’m sending Kotori to you. I’ll get the car.”
Kotori looked up in surprise.
“Dearest, it’s time. Go help Nico. I’ll deal with the bill and get the car. I’ll be back here in 4 minutes.”, said Umi as she in the same motion looked over the bill and put appropriate money down to pay it.
Kotori jumped to her feet and headed down to the bathrooms.
“Excuse me, “ Umi said to the confounded waitress, “my friend is having a baby. Please have the bathroom seen to and offer any assistance you can. I’ll be back in four minutes to pick them up. Don’t let anyone park in front of the doors.”, and she rushed out.
The look in Umi’s eyes had been one of complete control, and the waitress felt more or less compelled to obey. She didn’t know why.
As Umi sprinted to her car, she quick-dialed the hospital on a special number Nico’d given her.
“Moshi, Moshi. This is Miyuki.”
“This is Sonoda Umi. Yazawa Nico-san is due. I’m getting my car to drive her to the hospital. Could you inform Nishkino Maki-sensee?”
“Maki-chan is in surgery right now and won’t be out for a few hours. But don’t threat. She’ll be there when Nico-chan arrives. Just trust me. Where are you now?”
Umi had heard of the ‘head’ of the Hospital before, a woman who knew the hospital and the Nishikinos probaby better than anyone. She felt as thought she could put her trust in her. She gave their location.
“I look forward to meeting you in person as we arrive, Miyuki-san. We should be there in 15 minutes, traffic permitting.”
“Keep in contact and let me know a few minutes before you arrive so I can direct the staff to you.”
“Good.”, Umi tapped on her headset, ending the call.
She sprinted around the corner, opened the car remotely and jumped in. The displays lit up as she pressed the starter and she silently accelerated out of the parking spot towards the restaurant.
Miyuki dialed a number she knew from memory. After a few tones it connected.
“Moshi. Moshi. Is something up?”
“It’s Nico. I need you to come in and take over for Maki-chan in surgery.”
There was a few moments of delay.
“Nishkino!”, Miyuki almost shouted into the phone.
The voice sounded slightly unnatural.
“I’ve put you on speaker, I was grabbing some clothes. Can you send me the details of the surgery and I’ll read them on my way in.”
“You shouldn’t read them while driving.”
“I won’t. The driver will take me so I can read up. Just the short version. I’m sure the others can fill me in.”
“OK. I’ll should be there soon. How is Nico-chan?”
“I just got the call from Sonoda-san that they were just leaving. She gave me a 15 minute estimate.”
“Since it’s Umi-chan, we can hold her to it. I’ll get Maki out of there.”
”Stop with the formalities already. Talk to you soon.”, and the call disconnected.
She sent a message to the operation theatre, although she knew that Maki wouldn’t see it.
Nishikino-sama is taking over for Nishikino Maki-sensee. It’s time for Nico-Nii. Be ready and don’t tell her.
The message acknowledged quickly
She quickly typed out a new message and sent it to Suzuki and Date.
Nico was not in a happy place.
The embarrassment from the restaurant had long since passed, but she was in so much pain she that she ought to have passed out by now. Kotori was with her in the backseat, trying her best to calm her and to make her comfortable. Umi had, very accurately, arrived back at the restaurant 4 minutes later with the car, the waitress from earlier, almost denying her access to the space before she saw it was. Umi had extended the back seat so that Nico could either lean forward or recline, depending on her needs, and put out towels and pillows for decency and comfort. Now, Umi had to focus on driving through the, thankfully calm, Tokyo traffic in order to reach the hospital. Miyuki was on the car’s handsfree, trying to instruct Kotori and calm Nico through video-link. Miyuki was obviously moving as her background, though blurred, kept changing.
“We should be there in a few minutes!”, Umi shouted over the commotion from the backseat.
“We’re ready for you.”, came the reply through the car's loudspeakers.
Umi steered the car confidently through the last turns and came to a soft stop at the emergency entrance. Miyuki, Suzuki-sensee and a nurse stood ready with a wheelchair. The second Nico saw it she screamed:
“I’m not going to be driven around like an invalid, I’m going to the number one mother in the universe, I can walk.”
She tried to stand, her legs buckled and Umi caught her effortlessly.
“Nico. These people are here to help you be that mother. Let them.”
There was a sense of command in Umi’s voice and it was either that or the look Nico received that made her wave the chair towards her.
Maki’s mother stepped with practiced ease through the operating theatre. A few nurses turned their heads in surprise, apparently not had gotten the message. She continued forward, waiting for a good opportunity to take over. Looking at Maki’s work she thought:
I’m so proud of you Maki.
She saw her moment and gently tapped Maki on the shoulder.
“What?”, came the annoyed answer as Maki turned to meet the disturbance.
“Mama?”, Maki’s voice expressed shock.
“Maki dear. It’s time.”
“Nico-chan is here. Go. I’ll take over.”, her mother said in a soft voice.
Maki stood transfixed. Nico-chan? Here? Why?
Sensing her daughters hesitation, her mother said:
“It’s time for you both to become parents! Go. Miyuki has the sent you the room number.”, she urged Maki on.
Nico-chan. Is. Here. I have to go to her. Now.
Maki nodded to her mother, she received a wink and a nod with the head to the door.
Maki nearly sprinted out of the operating theatre, pulling off her scrubs as she got outside and quickly cleaned herself up and changed clothes. Checking her phone, she saw the message with the room number and started running.
A nurse approached Maki’s mother.
“Something happen, sensee?”
She smiled under her mask:
“Yes. Something amazing. Now, shall we finish up here and help this person?”
She heard the loud voice before she even got close to the door. An upset Nico-chan, could be heard across the universe, no doubt.
“I’m telling you! It hurts, Nico is in pain and I DON’T LIKE IT!”
She yanked open the door.
“Maki-chan! How are you here?”, Nico let out a grunt.
Maki rushed over to Nico and took her hand.
“You think I’d miss this? How did you get here?”
Nico huffed: “Umi.”
I need to thank her later, thought Maki. She looked at the nurse.
“How is she?”
“She’s increasing at a steady rate, point seven it seems like. It’s going fast. Suzuki-sensee is on her way.”
“Ok.”, Maki turned to Nico who was huffing and doing her best not to scream, “You’re doing fine Nico-chan. It’s going very well. I’m here.”
Maki reached for a towel to dry of Nico’s forehead.
“Maki…-chan”, Nico said between breaths, “if this is what it’s like, then I won’t let you do it.”, huff, “and I know this is not the worst yet.”, Nico managed a strained smile. Maki bent over and kissed her. It didn’t matter that a member of her staff saw it, this was for Nico.
“We’ll be the best mothers in the universe, you’ll see”, Nico managed to say.
“Idiot.”, Maki smiled at Nico.
“You love me”, was the strained reply.
“Maybe... heck of course I do.”
Their hands held on stronger to each other. The crimson fire never leaving the peace of the violet ocean.
Umi and Kotori sat in the waiting room. They’d seen Maki rush past, but hadn’t reacted fast enough to stop her, besides, they knew that Nico was the only thing on her mind.
“Did you have to tell the others?”, Umi asked.
“Of course, I had to. This a new member of our family we’re welcoming. Maki informed us all when it was time for Nozomi, didn’t she?”
“True. But should we not have consulted with them first?”
“They will be happy to have their friends here. I mean… if something were to happen with us, I’d want them to be here and support us.”
Umi resigned, she knew when she had lost.
Kotori glanced over at Umi, hoping to get a sign of realization of what she’d said, but she saw nothing.
Sometimes I almost think you’re thick on purpose, she thought.
“She’s at 10. Now it starts. Yazawa-san, I need you to start breathing and pushing.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past hour”, Nico protested, a grown forming in her throat.
“Nico-chan. I’m here, I’m here. Push darling… PUSH!”
“I think… this.. is.. the.. first time… you… called me… darling.”, Nico managed to between pushes, sweat running down her forehead.
“You don’t like it?”
“I do… I want to hear it more”
“Anything you want. Don’t stop. Push!”
Nozomi had been the first to arrive with Saki at the hospital. Umi and Kotori quickly briefed her. After a few hours more of µ's had arrived, and even Maki’s mother had stopped by. She’d told them that the delivery had begun in earnest and that now it was just a question of time. Sometimes it could take minutes, sometime hours. All they could do was to be patient.
When Honoka, Tsubasa and Hanayo later arrived, Rin had come almost immediately when the notice had been sent, they had brought food for everyone, expecting that no one had thought about leaving.
Now they sat in a big group and talked silently among themselves. Miyuki sent them updates as she got them. Everything was going well according to her, all they could do was wait.
So they waited.
“Just one more.”, the nurse shouted over Nico’s huffing.
“Almost done, just one more Nico-chan. You can do this.”
“Maki-chan… I… I…”
Nico felt cold, tired and utterly drained. She pushed with all her might, feeling a sensation of relief.
“It’s a girl!”
Maki quickly looked from Nico to the bundle of life, smeared with blood that the nurse held.
“She’s here… Nico-chan… she’s here!!!”
Silence was her reply.
Maki looked up at Nico as her trembling voice said Nico’s name. Nico’s eyes were closed, her arm hung limp from the bench. The hand Maki held offered no resistance as she squeezed it. There was no visible breath.
Time stopped for Maki.
This was a hard one to write. Thank you for reading. We have some chapters left.
Suggestions on how to improve are always welcome.
Chapter 13: A moment frozen in time
As time stops for Maki.
We need you.
I need you.
Don’t leave us.
Don’t leave me alone.
and next... the conclusion.
Chapter 14: From a different point of view
On the inside, looking out.
She heard something.
She needs you.
“We need you.
I need you.”
I’m always with you.
I love you.
First of all, I'm sorry. I thought I would conclude in this chapter, but I just couldn't, sorry for dragging things out even more. next chapter will be the conclusion. Promise.
A scream reverberated through the room.
There was a sharp intake of breath and Nico’s eyes shot open.
“What… where... Papa?... Maki-chan… what happenmph…”, she was suddenly in a tight hug by Maki. Maki was crying.
“You were… I was so scared… that you…”, Maki sobbed.
Another scream caught their attention. The nurse stepped up to Nico, the umbilical cord still pulsating.
“It’s a beautiful baby girl.”, and placed her on Nico’s chest.
Nico and Maki looked at the little person, not sure what to do next. Nico recovered first.
“Hi there little one. I’m your mama. And this,”, she pulled Maki’s hand to the child until contact was made, ”is your mama too.”
Nico breathed deep breaths of relief. Maki wiped off her tears.
“We did it Maki-chan. She’s here. She’s really here. And it’s a girl. And… and…”
“She is beautiful.”, Maki finished the sentence looking at the small face, the terror she had felt ebbing away.
“Shall we clean her up and cut the cord? It looks ok now.”, said the nurse.
Maki unwillingly tore her eyes from the baby.
“Of course. I’ll do it.”, she reached for the presented scalpel and cut the cord after clamping it.
The nurse gave Nico a slightly wet towel.
“Be very gentle on her and we’ll get her cleaned up, nice and neat. I put a warm, dry blanket over there.”, the nurse pointed.
Nico gently moved the wet towel of the baby’s skin, feeling bliss washing over her.
“Thank you.”, she said to the nurse, “and… sorry if I was impossible earlier.”
“I’ve met worse, trust me. You were great.”, the nurse smiled, “I’ll leave you alone for a bit. Just press that button,”, she pointed at a button near the side-table,” and I’ll come back earlier.”
She left the room, leaving the new parents to marvel at the little person that was making gurgling sounds on Nico’s chest.
“I think she has your face; I can almost see the scowl.”, Nico joked.
“I don’t have a scowl.”, Maki protested, presenting a scowl.
“You do, Maki-chan.”, Nico chuckled.
“Well, she’s got your eyes.”
“And your hair”, Nico touched the tufts of red hair that had dried.
“She’s amazing.”, Maki said in reverie.
For a while they didn’t speak. They just looked at the baby and each other, intertwining their hands and establishing contact with the new life resting on Nico’s chest.
“Got a name?”, Nico suddenly asked.
“A name, for her.”
Maki thought for a while.
“Not right now. My mind is still a bit fuzzy.”
“I have one.”, Nico stated.
“Oh? What is it?
Maki thought for a moment.
“It’s perfect”, she nodded.
Maki started to gently stroke Nico’s hair.
“Mmh?”, Nico looked at Maki.
“Oh nothing. I don’t think you’ve ever been more beautiful.”
Nico chuckled and spoke softly:
“Hear that Akane? Mama Maki-chan thinks mama Nico is the most beautiful now. Imagine how mama Nico will look when she puts her mind to it.”
“Idiot”, Maki said under her breath.
“Maybe”, Nico replied.
“May… hey… wait.”, Maki protested.
When she calmed down, she looked at Akane again.
“Maki-chan, could you give me my phone?”
“Huh? For what?”
“Our first picture together. And I think our friends have waited long enough.”
Maki retrieved the device just as there was a knock on the door and the nurse came back in.
No1IdolMother: We’re all fine.
No1IdolMother: Picture attached
A collective aww came from the gathering.
No1IdolMother: Say hello to Akane.
No1IdolMother: we’ll let you know when we’re ready. Nico needs to rest a bit and freshen up before she can have visitors.
NishkinoMaki: It shouldn’t be long. And Umi, thank you. ⊂( ◜◒◝ )⊃
Umi looked at her phone. Did Maki just send her a hug?
SonodaUmi: Think nothing of it.
[No1IdolMother] has signed off.
[NishkinoMaki] has signed off.
Kotori was the first to speak.
“She’s beautiful. And Akane is perfect. Don’t you think Umi?”
Umi turned her attention from her phone to Kotori. Her eyes were slightly glazed.
“It is. Just like you.” Umi’s hand moved to her coat-pocket.
“It matches…”, Kotori caught herself. What had Umi said?
“Umi, I…”, she began.
Umi suddenly stood up.
“Everyone, please be my witnesses.”
Everyone’s heads turned, regarding them. Umi knelt in front of Kotori, whose hands shot up to her face. Umi produced a small box and opened it, holding it out to Kotori.
“Please, do me the honour of letting me call you my wife. Be mine.”
The was a knock on the door.
The door opened to reveal Maki’s parents and Nico’s mother.
“Can we come in and say hello?”, Maki’s mother asked.
Maki looked at Nico, who nodded.
“But be quiet. She’s just fallen asleep.”, Nico hushed, pointing at the small crib-on-wheels next to her.
The company entered, stepping carefully in their slippers. As the approached the crib, the mothers tiptoed while Maki’s father walked normally.
Suddenly there was a cooing and movement in the crib and small cries were heard. Maki quickly gathered up the bundle, as she was sitting in the way for Nico to pick her up. Akane opened her eyes and stopped to whine. Relatively large eyes looked at the group that filled her vision. A small arm reached out, waving unsteadily.
“Akane, these are your grandparents... That is mama Nico-chan’s mother and those are mama Maki’s mother and father.”
The group looked on as the eyes tried to focus.
“She’s beautiful. Akane?”, Nico’s mother asked.
“Yeah,”, Nico said, “It fits perfectly.”
“I’ll say.”, replied Maki’s mother.
“Maki-chan. Want me to tell them?”
Maki hesitated. They’d talked about this since the nurse had left the second time. Now all were here.
“Please.”, she smiled meekly at Nico.
Nico cleared her throat. Akane looked in the direction of the new sound.
“Everyone. May I present: “, her hands supported Akane, who looked very confused now but she stayed silent.
Nico took a deep breath.
The group gasped.
Maki saw the tears rolling down her father’s face. He was smiling his warm smile, reserved for private moments. She’d only seen this once before in her life: on her wedding day.
[NishkinoMaki] has signed on.
NishkinoMaki: We’re in room 451. But please come in in pairs. We don’t want to stress her with too many people.
Five minutes later there was a light tap on the door.
Behind Umi and Kotori they could see the others, waving wildly, pointing at Umi and Kotori.
Umi closed the door behind them and audibly exhaled.
As they got closer Maki could see that Kotori’s eyes were red.
“Kotori, you ok?”
“I’m fine. Awesome even.”
Maki moved aside, revealing Nico feeding Akane, a towel draped over them.
“We can come back, if we are interrupting.”, Umi said directly and only Kotori’s hold on her arm prevented her from turning.
“It’s fine, there will be lots more of this.”, said Nico, “Akane, these are Umi and Kotori. They helped us to get here.”
Akane totally ignored them and continued to feed.
Kotori, holding on to Umi’s hand, gently stroked Akane’s arm.
“She feels… so alive.”
“She’s amazing.”, Umi concurred after her fingers touched the soft skin.
“Now, “, Nico said, “tell us.”
“Huh?”, Umi coughed.
“Yes, tell us already.”, Maki agreed.
Umi and Kotori looked at each other, and after nodding to each other, Kotori extended her left hand. A simple, but elegant white band ring adorned her ring-finger. Umi had turned away, the redness in her face obvious.
“Aww, congratulations.”, Maki and Nico said in chorus.
“She did it in front of everyone in the waiting room after you sent the picture of little Akane. I’ll have to thank her someday.”, Kotori said, planting a kiss on the deep red cheek of Umi.
“Ohh!”, Maki and Nico whooped.
For a while, four pairs of eyes just gazed at little Akane.
“We should let her meet the others Kotori.”, Umi said after a while.
“Mm, you’re right dear.”
“You have to tell Nico all about it later.”, Nico grinned.
“I think Rin and Honoka managed to film it.”
“I’ll kill them.”, Umi was only half-joking.
Kotori put her hand on Umi’s cheek:
“Let’s go. And no killing anyone.”
They opened the door and signalled for the next couple to come in.
Some time after the last of their friends had left, there was another knock on the door.
“Come in”, Maki called and Suzuki-sensee entered.
“How are you feeling?”, was her first question.
“Fine. Very tired though. She hardly lets me sleep.”
“That’s normal. The first few days are a feeding fest, all those anti-bodies and proteins that need to go in. It will stabilize soon into a steady rhythm with the milk.”
There was a moment of silence, no one knowing how to ask.
“Is…”, Maki started.
“Yes, Nishikino-sensee. Your little girl is fine, in fact: she is amazing. We knew what to expect from the gene-work, but to see her here… that is something else.”
“Maki. Please. I’ll call you Haruka too if you like. You’re… to thank for our family. We can never repay you for what you’ve made it possible for us to be.”
Suzuki Haruka, thought for a bit.
“Maki-san then. There is no need to thank me, you’ve done something… no one has done before. And you’ve helped me validate my work. Your little girl is… a miracle.”
She looked at Akane. Warmth radiating from her. Nico and Maki noticed it.
“Haruka, you ok?”, Nico asked.
“Huh? Yeah, I’m fine Nico.
Try to get some rest. Maki-san, you should get some rest too. You’re both in this together.”
“Maki-chan? If I scoot over a bit there is space her for you here.”, Nico patted on the bed.
“Nico-chan, I can’t. What if someone sees me?”
“You’re a new parent, sharing a bed to rest with your wife to be close to her and your child. It will be ok.”
“Fine. But only for a little bit.”
Nico made space and Maki climbed in. The bed creaked slightly at the added weight. The warmth made Maki sleepy. She moved her arm around Nico.
“See, it’s fine. And I have Akane right here next to me, so I can feed her when she gets hungry.”
Maki’s eyes were already beginning to flutter closed.
“Nico…-chan… I.. lov… family…”
Maki’s eyes closed, sleep taking her.
Nico smiled to herself.
“Me too Maki-chan.”, she said softly, kissing the hand that held on to her.
This concludes "Next steps..."
There are a few loose ends to wrap up, but I'll get to those a bit later. I might write some for relaxing. I'll start teaching, or more accurately, instructing, a class on Monday and I'm super nervous. It's completely new experience. Here you can only "teach" professionally with a license that takes years to get. And I don't have one.
A thank you all that followed me on this journey. I hope that you enjoyed yourself and found it a worthwhile use of your time.
Any comments you may have that will help me improve in the future are always welcome.
Chapter 16: Epilogue - "Hi Dad"
Nico and Maki visit Nico's father.
Primary pairing: Maki/Nico
Time-frame: Maki is a surgeon at Nishikino General Hospital and Nico is working as an idol producer at her own company. They are living together in Tokyo as a happily married couple and have a daughter named Akane. It is now a some months after Akane's birth.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A warm wind blew through the open walls, picking up a few yellowed leaves. Autumn had brought rain and the occasional storm or typhon their way, but today, the breeze was light. Rays of afternoon sunlight shone through the scattered clouds. In the distance, the skyline of Tokyo rose above them.
The walked silently among rows of stone, the occasional leaf or stone creaking under their boots.
“Is it really ok that I’m here?”, the taller one asked in hushed tones.
“Of course it is, it’s not like you’ve never been here before.”, the shorter one replied. She was carrying a small child in her arms. Tufts of red hair had escaped the hood on her jacket. The taller woman, with the same colour hair, gently pushed the tufts back into the hood. The child made a chuckling sound and smiled, eyes with a slight shade of red looking at her.
The continued silently, their location not really inviting casual conversation, until they arrived at their destination, a simple stone pillar on top a slightly larger stone platform. There were flowers in a jar next to the pillar. A glass of what one would assume was rainwater stood next to it. By the side was a small roll, covered with plastic. The taller woman took it out of the plastic and put it in front of the grave. The name on it read Yazawa.
They both knelt, their knees on the roll, closed their eyes and put their hands together in Shinto prayer. The child looked with big eyes at the stone monument.
“Hi Dad, it’s Nico.
Sorry it’s been a while; life has been busy and something amazing has happened. You remember that Maki-chan and I came to tell you that I was pregnant. Well… this is the result.”
Nico opened her eyes and held the child in front of her.
“This is Akane, Maki-chan’s and my child. Your grandchild. Akane, this is where mama Nico’s daddy is. We think she’ll have my eyes. And Maki’s hair. I still can’t believe it: I’m a mom. And I have a child with the one person I love the most. And get this, she’s ours and ours only. Nothing donated apart from me and Maki-chan. I wish I could explain it all, Maki-chan probably can, but I don’t want to bore you. Point is: she’s ours, made from us.”
Nico elbowed Maki slightly in the side and whispered:
“Come on… say something?”
“Yes!”, Nico hissed.
Maki took a deep breath.
“Hello Yazawa-sama, it’s Maki.”, she bowed slightly, ”Thank you for looking out for Nico-chan.”, she raised herself again, ”She’s an amazing mother. At any odd time that Akane wants something she’s always there providing for her. She involves me in as much as possible, so we share the experiences. She’s so kind and patient with me and Akane. I’m fortunate to be with her… and to be a mother with her. It’s... beyond words.”
Maki stopped and looked at Nico. Nico nodded.
“You probably know this already Dad, but I want to tell you anyway. We named her Akane Nishikino, not Yazawa. I know this might disappointed you but hear me out. We talked a lot about this, trying to reason what last name she would have since both Maki-chan and I kept them as they are.
But ultimately, we just felt that she was a Nishikino. It’s hard to put into words. It’s like with Akane, it just felt right.”
Nico paused. What more was there to say?
Maki suddenly bowed again, hands extended, creating a wedge in front of her.
“And Yazawa-sama, thank you for bringing Nico-chan back to me. Thank you.”
Nico looked on in awe, surprised to see Maki this way. They had talked about those dreadful seconds, what Maki had felt and what Nico had experienced, if that was even the proper way to frame it. She bowed slightly too, balancing Akane so she wouldn’t drop her.
“Yeah, thanks for pushing me back to Maki-chan, Dad.”
They stayed like this for some seconds, then slowly straightened up again.
“There is one more thing we wanted to tell you before we have to go. The procedure we went through Akane, it’s gotten a lot of attention, so they had to make a waiting list since they want to be able to provide the best possible circumstances for all and don’t want to compromise on care. And we’re on it.”
Maki spoke up.
“This time it’ll be a Yazawa, a name-cousin for the girls and Cotaro. And… I’ll be the birth mother.”, she proclaimed.
They stood up. Nico gently put her free hand on the stone. It felt warm to the touch. Akane mimicked the motion and Nico moved her closer so she hopefully could feel it too.
“Please continue to watch over us. I’ll be back soon. Love you Dad.”
A few weeks ago as I was writing the main story end of 'Next steps...' I came across a NicoMaki-fic that had her visit her father's grave and talking to him. It left a deep impression on me and a view into an aspect of her character that I had not really considered. Since there is so little canon material on Nico's father but there are indications on a strong bond that existed, I wanted to include him somehow, first in the story, then using the graveyard location. Together with Ryqoshay, we discussed how the character in the head-canon would work/behave so the universe that I'm 'inhabiting' for lack of a better term, would be consistent across "How to handle a Nico" and "Next steps..." and this was the way forward.
There is another epilogue coming to tie up some loose ends I left, but it might not be done for a few weeks or even this year, but please look forward to it.
As always, any suggestions on improvement are highly welcome.