It was one summer night at the Tateyama household. Little Tsubomi, Shuuya, and Kousuke were waiting for Ayaka and Ayano to find a storybook to read to them before tucking them in bed.
“Stop bouncing on the bed!” Tsubomi pinned her hyperactive brothers down.
They only laughed in response, still high from tonight’s dessert’s sugar.
Tsubomi huffed, sitting back up and curling her legs under her. She crossed her arms. “Ayaka-san might get really mad at us this time, you know.”
“Nope~” Shuuya grinned up at her. “That’s highly unlikely.”
“Yes,” Kousuke agreed, “Ayaka-san is a very patient person.”
“Mmhmm, because that’s how mothers usually are,” Shuuya added, eyes closing as he stretched and placed his hands behind his head. Noticing the sudden silence, he opened his eyes again to find his siblings staring at him.
They turned away when he shot them a curious look.
Shuuya then grinned once more and sat up. “Hey, what do you think of Ayaka-san? …As a mother?”
They looked back at him, blinking, before giving it a thought.
After a short moment, Tsubomi was the first to reply. “She’s a proper mother, I guess.”
Kousuke sat up to give the same deadpan expression as Shuuya's now, both clearly asking her to elaborate.
“Uh, well,” Tsubomi looked away, “for one, she’s pretty attentive. And she seems to take interest in the stuff that we do. And uh, yeah, I guess she is fairly tolerant of us. So far.”
Flashes of vicious glares and of being scolded for the simplest mistakes ran through her mind. Like most of the household, if not worse, her father’s wife had shunned her and never cared about what she does, except if they have visitors over. Tsubomi also knew no pictures, letters, nor name even, of her real mother. All she knew was that the woman had left her to live miserably with the Kido family. Both were nothing like the supportive and encouraging Ayaka.
“She offered to teach me how to cook and bake, too. That’s nice,” Tsubomi added still uneasily, then looked at her brothers. “Your turn.”
“Hm,” Kousuke tilted his head to the side, “well, Ayaka-san is really kind… and sincere.” Realizing what he just said, he frantically waved his little hands in front of him. “N-not that I doubt her or anything, I just… heard.”
The two only smiled reassuringly.
Kousuke sighed in relief and smiled back. “So far, I’ve seen that Ayaka-san only wants what’s best for us. And even if she scolds us sometimes, it’s all for a good cause.” He shrugged, “It’s my first time in a long time to have a mother, so I don’t have much to say. Just… having one is pretty nice.”
Though vaguely, Kousuke did feel the warmth of a mother’s love before. That was the only thing he could actually remember from life before the orphanage, where his only mother figures were the ever-changing orphanage volunteers. Most of them had been gentle and sweet, but could be very stern too. He never found that same warmth from them, though, unlike with Ayaka.
“Yeah, having a mother is really nice~!” Shuuya smiled widely. “In fact, it’s more than wonderful! They give you warm hugs and kisses, tuck you to bed and stay with you until the morning during cold nights, and whip up the best dishes! And no matter what you do, they will always be proud of you~”
Shuuya said that, while actually remembering all those very rare times that he had woken up to his own mother hugging him close to her, had cooked him decent meals, and had taken him out for a stroll in the park. Those peaceful days when she had smiled genuinely and lovingly at him. And the numerous tearful I’m sorry’s whenever she would hit him. She was different from the gentler Ayaka, but Shuuya knows he still loves her.
“Oi!” A slapping sound echoed in the room.
Shuuya snapped out of his thoughts as Tsubomi pressed his cheeks in even harder. “Owww…”
“Shuuya?” Kousuke drew closer to him when Tsubomi let the blonde go. “Are you okay?”
Just then, a single tear fell down his cheek, his eyes flickering back to its yellow color. “Oh,” he laughed, wiping it away, “there seems to be something in my eye – ack!” He was cut off by his siblings tackling him in a bear hug.
The trio landed on the huge pillow beneath the headboard.
“Liar.” Tsubomi nuzzled his neck.
“You knew your question would only hurt you,” Kousuke added, pulling his brother closer.
Ayaka and Ayano finally arrived a few minutes later with a storybook, cookies, and three tall glasses of milk… only to find the three children all fast asleep, little Shuuya sandwiched in between.
“What a shame.” Ayaka smiled and shook her head as she set the tray down on the nightstand. “These cookies won‘t eat themselves.”
“Looks like we took too long,” Ayano agreed, a fond smile directed at her new siblings. Then she turned back to her mother. “But I know Otousan would be glad to eat these with us.”
Ayaka giggled and patted her daughter’s head. “Now that is a good idea. Your father has been drooling ever since I put these in the oven.” She motioned for the still-open door with her head as she sat on the edge of the children’s bed. “Go and tell him, then. I’ll be in the kitchen in a moment.”
“Okay!” Ayano smiled brighter and ran back out of the room, book in arm.
Turning to the children, Ayaka leaned in to give each a kiss goodnight.
But the trio suddenly murmured almost at the same time, “Okaasan…”
The burnette stopped in surprise, for this was a first. She knew they were still adjusting to their life with a new family, so hearing them call her their mother, even if it’s just unconsciously, warmed her heart.
When they took the trio in, Kousuke was the first to warm up to Ayaka, seeming most eager to experience having a new mother. Tsubomi had a little trouble trusting her at first, but eventually started making progress. But Shuuya, even with his ever-present smile and easygoing personality, was ironically the most distant from her.
Ayaka’s knowledge about their previous family lives was limited only to what the orphanage head told her and Kenjirou. But she could sense how much pain these children had been forced to go through. She may not be the perfect mother, and may not exactly measure up to their ideals, but Ayaka promised herself she would try her best. She was determined to protect them, to fill the gaps in their hearts, to make them feel the love they’ve yearned for.
Especially you. She wiped the tear stains left on Shuuya’s cheeks away, before tenderly smoothing each child’s hair and kissing their foreheads.
More than their Eyes, Ayaka knew there was something else that drew her to them. In the face of hardships a young child normally wouldn’t experience, they managed to survive. That earned her admiration and respect, and she decided to keep nurturing every little step of bravery they would take.
“Goodnight, little heroes,” she whispered as she stood up.
But Ayaka could only stay with their new, bigger family for so long.
That, though, would be a different story.