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a mother's melody

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Maya likes to think human holidays mean nothing to her, that such frivolous dates mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, when a Fangire can watch the centuries turn if she lives long enough to do so. Mother’s Day meant nothing to her even when Taiga was first born; she was busy with other affairs and having Taiga was enough for her. King was never one for sentimental gestures; his first disappearance from Castle Doran occurred the day after their wedding and lasted for so long Maya was convinced he died and another King would come to take his place.

Otoya would have celebrated the day with her had he lived long enough to see it with her. Only the twist of fate that was the Door of Time allowed him to meet their son, though Wataru was an adult. Otoya died before Wataru was born, never to see the child who would grow into the man that helped him defeat King. Keeping Wataru and Taiga nearby was dangerous, and by the time Wataru was old enough to be aware of the holiday, Maya escaped into the shadows to keep his precious life safe from her kind— her former kind.

She has been a mother for twenty-two years and never celebrated the holiday, though a few conversations here and there have let her know Megumi once celebrated it with Yuri. The thought always brings a smile to Maya’s face. Yuri was, in the end, an ally she needed at her side even though Maya wronged her, who saved her life when she was vulnerable and no longer powerful enough to protect herself from the Fangire trying to hunt her down. Fitting, then, for Yuri to have a daughter who loves her and cherishes her so, even to this day.

The day could have come and gone without her noticing; Maya is intent on Castle Doran this afternoon, intent on removing every trace of the former King from its halls. The Arms Monsters, Wataru’s dear allies and Otoya’s friends, have protected it with their lives and kept it under control, but precious little has been done to remove the influence King once had over this space. If Maya is to make this castle her home once more— no longer condemned to the caves— then she wants to do so in peace with none of the memories of before.

This afternoon, Jiro helps her. Usually, the Arms Monsters give her a wide berth because even without her Fangire powers at her disposal, none of them have forgotten that her kind hunted theirs into near-extinction, that it was her husband who imprisoned the three of them after hunting them down. Maya supposes time does not quite heal all wounds and for the most part, gives them the space they clearly want. She still hasn’t forgotten the afternoon where she fought all of them, revealing her Fangire form to Yuri in the process, because they wanted to kidnap her.

King’s presence drove all of them mad, in a way, she thinks sometimes. Not just her, not just Taiga who escaped being raised by such a man and yet almost followed in his footsteps, but everyone whose lives were touched by his influence in any way. This logic, and the logic that the Arms Monsters fought alongside Wataru, is why Maya tolerates them here.

“We’re burning this.” Maya looks up at the portrait on the wall, the portrait of the Checkmate Four she was a member of. “I don’t want his face in this castle any longer.”

Jiro comes to stand beside her, sneering up at the image in a way Maya can’t imagine as anything but incredibly dog-like. “Don’t blame you, Queen. I don’t like having to look at him either.”

Maya cocks her head at him. “You could have burned it yourself. You live here.”

“I live here. It’s not my castle, though.” Jiro shrugs, tugs at the collar of his shirt, his eyes never leaving the portrait. “You ever happy with someone like that? I know it’s just a painting but you don’t look happy to be posing for it.”

“He wasn’t exactly a warm and gentle man, but I think you can gather that much from when you knew him.” Maya’s fingers twitch, curling into fists. Her most recent memories of him might have been the height of his cruelty, but they were far from the only cruel things he had ever done. “Bishop was his lapdog, for lack of a better word. Otoya might have lived if he kept his tongue in check and hadn’t informed King that there was a human man in the picture.”

Jiro’s sneer shifts into more of a snarl, and his eyes bleed momentarily black. “The fucker.”

“And I do believe you were well enough acquainted with Rook to have formed your own opinion of him without my influence.” Maya knows who was responsible for the death of the Wolfen race, except for the man standing next to her. Just because she and King left Rook to his own devices did not mean a tightening of the collar was never needed.

“I was.” Jiro rips the portrait down from the wall. “I’ll burn this myself then, Queen.”

Maya shakes her head, studying the wall where the portrait hung, the difference between the paint dulled by sunlight and left vibrant by the protection of the painting. A new portrait in its place, or a large photograph. Perhaps that is in order. “I’m not Queen anymore, you know.”

“You’re the same as you’ve ever been to me.” Jiro tucks the portrait under his arm, turning to leave the room with it.

The rest of the afternoon is a quiet affair. Maya tears down everything that once belonged to King and makes a note to have someone come in and fix the wall where the Zanbat Sword had once been lodged, more than embarrassed to see evidence of King’s tantrum still in place. Jiro helps, enthusiastically ripping down portraits and shredding books, up-ending tables and dragging pieces of furniture out of the building. Being locked up in Castle Doran for so long must have been quite boring. Having something to do might be fulfilling to him.

Suzuki Mio finds Maya sitting at the large desk in the library, digging through another pile of books Jiro has dumped on the surface for her to examine. Most of them are outdated ideas of Fangire ideology that she orders burned or shredded, no longer wanting them in the presence of her children. One particular book has an entire passage about how half-Fangire are far inferior creatures; Maya accidentally spills ink across the pages, shrugs, and tells Jiro he ought to dispose of it as well now that the pages are ruined.

So absorbed in her task, Maya doesn’t at first notice that someone else has joined them in the room, and if Jiro at all minds he doesn’t show it. Only when Mio throws her arms around Maya’s shoulders from behind and squeezes her in an embrace does Maya realize the younger woman is there and a faint smile touches her face, her hand coming to rest on top of Mio’s.

“Good afternoon, Mother. You look busy at work.” Mio leans over her shoulder to peek down at a page and then recoils, shaking her head. “Old books. I see.”

“Very old. We’re getting rid of them. How are you today?” Maya closes the book, slides it across the desk to Jiro, and then turns to properly speak to her daughter-in-law.

Instead of an answer, Mio thrusts a black velvet box out to her, a broad smile on her face. “Happy Mother’s Day! I heard you tell Megumi you haven’t celebrated it before and I thought that wasn’t right, so I got this for you. You’re my mother now that I’m married to Wataru.”

Maya blinks at her, then drops her gaze to the box held out to her. Slowly she takes it, running her fingers over the soft surface. Mio is right; Maya has never had the chance to celebrate it and had not been thinking about it today, though a glance at a calendar would probably confirm the date. The gesture touches her and she smiles softly at Mio before opening the box. Sunlight spilling in from the window behind her makes the pale pink diamond set into the ornate silver ring glitter prettily and Maya turns it this way and that to admire it.

“Wataru said you liked ornate rings in the past, but you don’t seem to have any anymore and I thought you should have one.” Mio clasps her hands together. “Do you like it?”

“It’s beautiful, Mio. I love it. Thank you very much.” Maya plucks the ring out of the box and slides it onto her finger, holding it up in front of her. “It fits perfectly.”

Mio’s smile widens impossibly and she nods. “I’m so glad! I wasn’t sure on the size and I second guessed myself on it but I guess I was right. Do you want some help going through books? I’m off from work this afternoon so I could help you if you wanted me to.”

“If you don’t mind. I’m sure you understand the kind of content we’re getting rid of,” Maya says.

King’s study is another matter entirely. Clearing it out for Taiga is important to Maya; removing her husband’s touch so that Taiga can lead the Fangire properly means a lot to her as protecting her oldest son was one of her priorities. There are letters, and ledgers, and reading some of them only infuriates Maya even further; she tears some of them up herself, to Jiro’s amusement, while Mio rubs her shoulder reassuringly and reminds her King is dead.

Maybe she should consider that her sons’ first Mother’s Day present to her, since the two of them plus Otoya killed King down all those years ago. And then Taiga and Wataru dealt with him a second time, because meddling is all Bishop knows how to do.

Maya is going through the last of his letters when the perfume of roses fills the room and she looks up to find Taiga striding through the door with an armful of dark red roses wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with a matching bow.

“Happy Mother’s Day.” Taiga beams at her, though his eyes are uncertain, and strides across the room to set the flowers in her arms, pressing a kiss to her cheek. “I know there’s much still for me to atone for and apologize for, but I want to start by properly appreciating the woman who brought me into this world and kept me safe for so long.”

The words make Maya’s eyes sting and she stretches up a hand, brushing Taiga’s hair back out of his eyes. “Stop that. It’s been hard for all of us. Thank you for the roses, Taiga. They’re beautiful, and I love roses. You know that.”

“Of course.” Taiga’s eyes soften before he looks around the room, at Jiro enthusiastically emptying out another bookshelf while Mio takes down the paintings in the room. “What are we doing? I can help.”

“There’s a stack of your father’s ledgers in this bottom drawer that I haven’t gotten to yet. You can go through them for me, and throw out anything you deem unnecessary.” Maya straightens up a little, running a finger over the soft rose petals in her bouquet. “I want the castle cleaned up. This is the base of operations for the Checkmate Four and though I know it hasn’t been that for quite a long time now, I want it to be, again. Just because it was his home once doesn’t mean we have to surrender it entirely to his memory.”

They stop when afternoon deepens into evening and Taiga insists on everyone relaxing while he makes tea in the kitchen the Arms Monsters have kept running. Maya finds a vase to set the roses in with some water, marveling over them for another moment longer, glancing down at the ring on her finger.

Taiga returns to the sitting room with a tray of tea and Wataru in tow, his violin case in hand. Mio rises to greet him, and Maya looks at the two of them. At the gentle way Mio touches Wataru’s face, the way he slips an arm around her waist, the way their foreheads bump together for just a moment, a shared smile that leads into a gentle kiss. The sight is enough to make her throat tight, to know that one of her sons was able to find such happiness in the world, and with someone who loves him for who he is, and now who he could be, in another lifetime.

Maya rises to greet Wataru as well and he hugs her tight, then holds his violin case up for her to see. “I wanted to play something I wrote for you. Since today is Mother’s Day. I’m not so good with picking out presents, but I know how much you loved Father’s music.”

Everyone is quiet and properly seated when Wataru steps into the middle of the room to play, and Maya thinks, not for the first time, that her gentle youngest son and his father share nothing in common. Otoya was boisterous, loud and over-confident in the face of anything and everything, trying to talk his way out of every situation. Wataru is quiet, with far more self-control and a shyness Maya watches him bloom out of a little more every day. She doesn’t know who Wataru might have become with Otoya to raise him, but she loves him for who he is, and for the beautiful and gentle spirit that brings light into the lives of everyone he meets.

What he does share with Otoya is his genius with music. The violin and bow seem an extension of his body, so that every movement is like muscle memory, confident and sure. There is no moment of hesitation, no doubt, in the elegant way he plays, the passion that seeps into his music, into the sweet and gentle melody he plays for them. Maya closes her eyes and remembers when Otoya last played for her, when she heard the depth and beauty of his music for the last time, when their souls entwined one last time.

Wataru never has to tell Maya how much he loves her. The words are there in his music, in each note he plays, the way he weaves them together into such a beautiful song. When one tear slips down her cheek, and then another, she isn’t surprised at her own reaction. Any mother would be moved by such beauty brought to her by her son as a gift like this.

The moment Wataru ceases playing, Maya is on her feet and moving across the room to embrace him, pressing her cheek against his own. “I heard it,” she tells him, and she doesn’t mean the music.

Wataru hugs her back. “I knew you would, Mother.”

Mother’s Day may not be as frivolous and pointless a holiday as Maya thought.